Computers / Hands-on Review

Supercharge Yourself with the New Thunderbolt-Equipped Quad-Core iMac


In the age of tablet computers and intelligent telephones, you may not think a refresh to a line of desktop machines would create much buzz, but to the power users that you find at B&H, the new Thunderbolt-equipped quad-core Apple iMacs are electrifying. You can't bust one out on an airplane and consume high-def video on your folding tray table, but back at your workspace you can use one to produce high-end content like never before.

The obvious additions to the new iMac line are enough to whet the appetite of any serious creative production enthusiast. Quad-core processors are now standard across the board, and the power of their AMD Radeon HD graphics cards has tripled. However, it's the inclusion of Thunderbolt technology that really stands out as a game changer for those who create intensive video and audio productions.

Why are Thunderbolt ports important to filmmakers and musicians? They allow you to expand your computer rig to suit specific needs with numerous bandwidth consumptive peripherals; such as high-speed external drives, audio and video interfaces, high-definition monitors and DSP accelerators. Just one year ago most Apple users only had a single FireWire port to work with. They were limited to using a single data-hungry device with their computer, and forced to come up with a workaround with their remaining USB 2.0 ports.

Those days are over. The new 21" Apple iMacs feature four USB 2.0 ports, a single FireWire 800 port and a single Thunderbolt port. The new 27" iMacs come with all of that connectivity, but they make it a double with two Thunderbolt ports. Either way you go, you're going to have lots of options for how you'd like to set up your production workstation. Don't be bummed out by the lack of USB 3.0 ports. A single Thunderbolt port can act as several of them and it's twice as fast.

Thunderbolt ports are daisy-chain friendly, meaning that you can string together a monitor, several hard drives and other various devices all on a single port. This makes both new models attractive not only to power users, but to anyone. A Thunderbolt port can be anything you want it to be. Want to connect your computer to a flat screen TV? No problem. With a simple adapter a Thunderbolt port becomes a fully functional HDMI port. Got an older HD monitor which only has a DVI connector? No problem. A DVI to Thunderbolt adapter makes it 100% compatible.

There's a lot more to love on these new machines besides their supercharged connectivity. They've all got the new HD FaceTime camera (similar to the one you find on the latest MacBook Pros). This makes it possible to chat in 720p high-definition video, and make your goofy PhotoBooth sessions more rich and detailed.

Many of the awesome features from the previous iMac generation have remained intact. You'll be able to keep your work area tidy with the included Wireless Keyboard and Magic Mouse. The backlit LED display immediately powers up to full brightness without lagging, and alongside the built-in optical SuperDrive, you get a built-in SDHC card slot. Sure, this is an accessory that you can add to any computer for $5, but I personally find having an integrated SD card reader incredibly useful.

Whether you're looking for an everyday-use desktop computer for surfing the Internet, running standard applications like Microsoft Office and Photoshop or watching movies and Web videos, you still can't beat the iMac's space-saving design and attractive visual presence. If media production is your thing, the space-saving design is really something to consider.

Heavy duty video post production work has traditionally required a beefy desktop tower. However, with the addition of Thunderbolt and the latest powerful Intel quad-core processors, that old hardware paradigm may be unnecessary for many users. A requirement that isn't likely to go away anytime soon is the need for a large, high-resolution monitor. The new iMacs provide you with one of the best displays you'll find anywhere, with the guts of the computer integrated behind it. This will enable video production people to do away with their bulky towers, and still be able to configure their workstation to suit their needs with additional displays, RAID arrays, and any other digital tools they may need.

The new iMacs are available for preorder today from B&H! We've got a slew of different configurations to offer you, all of which come loaded with a production-friendly 7200 rpm internal drive. Take your pick from these 21.5" models: 2.5 GHz i5, 4GB RAM, 500GB, 2.7 GHz i5, 4GB RAM, 1TB, 2.8 GHz i7, 4GB RAM, 1TB, 2.8 GHz i7, 4GB RAM, 2TB, 2.8 GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 1TB.

Or step it up to one of these 27" models that feature two Thunderbolt ports: 2.7 GHz i5, 4GB RAM, 1TB, 3.1 GHz i5, 4GB RAM, 1TB, 3.4 GHz i7, 4GB RAM, 1TB, 3.1 GHz i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB, 3.4 GHz i7, 4GB RAM, 1TB, 3.4 GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 1TB, 3.4 GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 1TB, 2GB GPU, 3.4 GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 2TB, 3.4 GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 1TB, 256GB SSD.

Thanks for checking out this B&H Insights article! If you have any questions at all about the new Apple iMac computers, Thunderbolt ports or five dollar card readers, we'd love to hear about it in the Comments section below!