Apple Upgrades iMacs, Slashes Prices

Apple shocked insiders Wednesday, announcing its rumored iMac upgrade nearly a full week earlier than thought. While the upgrade to Core 2 Duo processors and the addition of a larger widescreen model was expected, the price drop on the entry-level iMac was not.

The Cupertino company cut prices on its cheapest model by $300 to $999 USD for a 17-inch widescreen 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo with a 160GB hard drive and 512MB of SDRAM. Another 17-inch model with a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo with 160GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM will retail for $1,199 USD.

One 20-inch iMac model would be made available, featuring a 2.16 GHz Core Duo processor, 250GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM priced at $1,499 USD. Joining these would be a new 24-inch iMac retailing for $1,999 USD, which would carry similar specifications to the 20-inch model save a better video card.

"Every iMac-from the $999 model up through the new dazzling 24-inch widescreen model now features blazing Core 2 Duo performance," Apple's marketing senior vice president Philip Schiller said in the announcement. "And the new 24-inch widescreen iMac is the fastest, biggest and brightest iMac we've ever made."

The new iMacs are up to 50 percent faster than their predecessors, Apple says. All models except for the entry-level iMac include SuperDrives and wireless keyboard, Mighty Mouse and Apple Remote. The $999 USD model includes a regular DVD drive with wired Mighty Mouse and keyboard.

All new iMacs include built-in iSight cameras, Front Row and iLife '06. Users would also be able to customize most of their iMac's internal specifications, a fairly new concept for Apple, which prior to the Intel transition allowed for only minimal changes to the base model.

Along with the upgrade to the iMac line, Apple has silently begun to offer faster Mac Minis at the same cost as prior models. The $599 USD Mini has been bumped from a 1.5 GHz Core Duo to a 1.66 GHz Core Duo, and the $799 USD model increased from a 1.66GHz to 1.83 GHz Core Duo processor.

Insiders had previously believed that Apple's upcoming September 12 event would contain the announcement of the company's upgraded signature desktop line. However, it now appears that the event will focus on iPod and iTunes upgrades instead.

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