diglloyd Mac Performance Guide
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Analysis of the Oct 2012 iMac

Apple’s new (October 2012) iMac addresses key shortcomings of previous models, namely high speed disk I/O expansion:

  • Four USB 3.0 ports. This is a critical improvement; it allows connecting high-speed peripherals, such as backup drives. USB 3.0 is especially valuable for hyper-fast SSD-based external drives, but also high capacity external hard drives.
  • Dual Thunderbolt ports, handy for (for example) ultra high speed PCIe SSD support, such as the Mercury Helios.
  • Fast quad-core CPUs up to 3.2 GHz.
  • Improved display.

Other features are “interesting” but of lesser interest:

  • The hybrid (“Fusion”) dual-drive flash/hard drive approach increases complexity and would seem to lower reliability (failure of either either drive means downtime). Given past drive failures in iMacs and the difficulty of replacing a drive in an iMac, I recommend one large SSD and one large hard drive, each assigned to its own functionality. It’s unclear if one of each can be ordered.
  • 32GB max memory— just fine for most everyone, but not for me.
  • SDXC card slot (in awkward rear location!).

I’ll have more to say after further study, and the new models won’t actually arrive until December (“Coming in December” according to Apple).

21.5" model

The 21.5" iMac apparently has no user-upgradeable memory. This sets an appalling new low for form over function in an iMac. As per the Apple marketing page:

The 21.5-inch iMac comes with 8GB of memory and can be configured online with 16GB.

On the 27-inch iMac, 8GB of memory comes standard, and you can upgrade to 16GB or 32GB. Configure and buy your iMac at the Apple Online Store and it will arrive with the memory already installed. Or add more memory to the 27-inch model yourself by popping open the easy-to-access memory panel on the back

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