Analysing 2012 iMac refresh expectations

By Jamie Pert - Feb 20, 2012

In May of last year Apple revealed a new line of iMac models with refreshed technical specifications, now that 9 months have passed we are beginning to see speculation in regards to a 2012 iMac refresh, therefore we thought we would analyse current specs / features and see what changes could be coming.

Before we start delving into specs we thought we would talk a little about software. Apple recently pushed out a developer preview of Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion which boasts over 100 new features (when compared to Snow Leopard) and blurs the lines which currently separate Apple’s desktop operating system from iOS. Mountain Lion is said to hit the Mac App Store sometime this summer, therefore we could well see the 2012 iMac arrive with this OS version pre-installed – software innovation is all well and good, but to convince people to part with their hard-earned cash Apple will have to offer some pretty impressive hardware specs.

So let’s have a look at what’s currently offered. Currently there are four base iMac models which fall into two main categories, 21.5-inch and 27-inch. We expect the same form-factors this time around, perhaps with slightly thinner dimensions, but beneath the hood there should be plenty of mouthwatering changes in specifications.

As you probably already know there’s plenty of upgrade options in regards to internal hardware, so we expect this next time around, but one thing that we can pretty much guarantee is that the Sandy Bridge Intel Core processor offerings will be replaced with Intel’s new Ivy Bridge microarchitecture. These chips boast plenty of improvements, mainly thanks to the innovative new 3-D Tri-Gate transistors which are utilized, and when you compare Sandy Bridge side-by-side with Ivy Bridge the latter should deliver unprecedented performance improvements and low power consumption – you can see more details in regards to the new Ivy Bridge platform over at Wikipedia. There are talks of Ivy Bridge delays, if this is the case we expect Apple to perhaps delay the iMac refresh as releasing new Sandy Bridge-based iMac models would be questionable to say the least.

Currently there are plenty of RAM configurations available (4, 8 or 16GB), but no-matter what you choose you’ll get 1333MHz DDR3 memory. This time around we know that the Ivy Bridge platform which the 2012 iMac should be based upon supports 1600Mhz DDR3 memory, therefore we expect Apple to utilize this faster memory – we doubt that Apple will improve on the 16GB memory cap currently offered, in fact we’re not even sure if OS X would truly benefit from more than this.

We’re not going to talk about storage options too much as quite frankly there’s nothing which will really blow your socks off. The issues in the far east have ensured that hard disk drive and solid-state drive prices haven’t fallen a great deal, in fact they might have even gone up, so we won’t be too surprised if Apple decides to stick with hard disk options ranging from 500GB to 2TB, a 256GB SSD option and some options where you get a SSD as your primary drive and a HDD as a storage drive. I don’t know about anyone else but I’d quite welcome a hybrid drive option as well, wouldn’t you?

Perhaps the hardest thing to speculate about is graphics and display changes. Firstly as previously mentioned we think that Apple will stick with the 21.5 and 27-inch options, but some people are also wishing for a new 30-inch variant. Perhaps this time round Apple will bump up the smaller display’s resolution from 1920 x 1080 to 2560 x 1440. As for the 27-inch model we don’t really see much of a need for a higher resolution, but if there is a jump we expect the new iMac to keep the 16:9 aspect ratio, perhaps 3840 x 2160 is a possibility, but we doubt it.

Your guess is as good as ours in regards to specific GPU options, but we think that last year’s Radeon HD 6750M, 6770M and 6970M will be replaced by HD 77xx, HD 78xx and HD 79xx options. You can see a list of new GPUs which Radeon plan to release soon here, as you can see some of these will utilize the PCIe 3.0 socket and offer more advanced power consumption whilst deliver richer-than-ever visuals.

That just about sums up what people really care about in regards to specifications, in terms of ports, technology support, functionality and design we don’t think there will be too many surprises, but with that said Apple certainly like to shock the world – for now we’d love to hear your opinions on the next iMac.

What are your spec expectations for the 2012 iMac? Is there a need for a 30-inch iMac? Are higher display resolutions necessary? Let us know below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.

Also See: Apple MacBook battery life duration under scrutiny

  • itomazo

    im sitting on  late 2009 27inch i7 model and I have been waiting to renew it, I was tempted and almost ordered the latest i7 so I could get the 2gig graphic card, cause frankly the 512meg doesnt cut it anymore.
    But then I started looking on the web if there is an upgrade 2012 and your post made me realize it would be in my best interesst to wait just a little longer, only improvements i care about are processor and graphics tbh the rest is fine .. well ssd as standard wouldnt be bad either ill sit on my honey pot with cash for a little longer 🙂 

  • Anything around touch screen ? Would be awesome imo

    • Pole

      Is it really comfortable to use 27inc touchscreen vertically positioned? Or are u gonna use it while standing? It seems to me that in desktop setup touchscreen is useless.

  • Vlad Ponomarev

    24″ and 30″ (30″ for new ipad resolution) :p

    • Pole

      iMac allready has mobile GPU. If You imagine, it should drive 30” screen with the pixel density same as on the iPad, it would not be able to run any games whatsoever. iMac is cose to retina display from optimal distance. It’s pointless to go much higher… IMHO

  • toddgeneva

    I need a new computer.  I am so worried I’ll spring for a 27″ i7 with all the fixin’s … then 1 month later… new redesigned iMac with 1/2 the add-ons now standard.

  • Bwellb

    I’ll be glad when it’s here so I can get rid of this old gatevway.

  • love to see a 24″ incher, maybe an all new design???

  • Sandy Stevenson

    Ivy bridge may be the biggest change, but you missed the the other big one: 80211ac wireless speeds.  Depending on how it’s implemented, we’re looking at somewhere between 1200 mbps and 1700 mbps; a huge increase from the max 300 on 80211n.  That means a new Airport and a new Apple TV with a processor/speed bump, likely A6, which was pre-production sampling last June. Personally I’m holding out for 4k video and 80211ac.  Those specs will really put the pressure on local ISP’s to crank the price performance point on their internet connections to match, and I don’t see a tech leap of that magnitude for 3 to 5 years beyond that. 

  • Marty Parks

    anyone think USB 3.0 will be there?

  • Dresner

    They had better replace that dog of an SSD they offer from Toshiba… 

  • I never look at the 27″ model and say it’s too small in terms of desktop computer use.  Not at all.  It’s freaking huge already.  However, I might be tempted to get a 30″ model if released because I don’t watch or own a TV currently and this size would be big enough to function as a bedroom movie viewing screen from back on my bed as well as be a heck of a large monitor for any kind of graphics or video work I could ever want to do.  If they brought that size in under 2 grand I’d consider it but likely sober up and go with the 27.  So, who knows? I don’t think they’ll do it but I’d love to be posed with the choice.

  • Roger Rand

    I have the last generation Power PC dual processor tower.  It is an amazing computer but unfortunately doesn’t run any new software.  My guess is apple will discontinue the Mac Pro and add a TOL iMAC option to take its place.  I’m thinking that there may be an iPad 3 / iMac update released simultaneously.  I also think that one of the best innovations would be to remove the mouse from the iMac and make it a large touch screen with a keyboard.  An even more amazing innovation would be to allow this large  touch screen to fold flat and swivel for a gaming variation and picture sharing.

  • kash

    I have been patiently waiting from the start of the year to hear about an imac refresh. Frankly couldn’t come soon enough for me. As a video editor SSD would be great for me, I hope the cost of Thunderbolt comes down this year as well. Should be an interesting release, to see how much they can pump in to the imac. leaves me wondering whats going to happen to the mac pro.

  • With the iPad 3 coming out in Early/Mid March,  Apple is going to let those take the spotlight for a month or so.   That should give enough time for the iMacs to get the new Ivy Bridge processors and ready for a near one-year to the date release around May 8th.

  • Bryan

    My guess is that they DO make a form factor change for the next iMac.  Since it will be almost 3 years since the last change, it is about time.  The next logical step is to remove the bottom aluminum strip so that the whole front panel is glass…basically to look like the current cinema displays.

    I also think they will offer a hybrid harddrive system…maybe even by default.  An SSD drive for running the OS resources and applications and then a standard disk for storing everything else.

    • Dawda

      They already offer that option for about a additional 500 USD

      • Bryan

        Yeah, I understand that, but I think this will be a built-in/default feature on the next iMac and maybe the next MacBook pros.  Their recent acquisition of an SSD company is probably a good indicator.  And I don’t think it requires that large of a SSD drive ($500 option right now is a 256 gb).  

        They could have some sort of hybrid system that just optimizes app launching or other resources and the OS using a 128gb or smaller drive, which will reduce costs.

  • Cypress822

    Its nice to hear something about the iMac update rather than anything more about the iPad 3!!  Thanks!

    • Kieranm

      Do you think they will keep the FireWire port?

      • Jamie Pert

        Not sure Kieran, do you think it should stay?

      • Dawda

        I think it’s just a matter of time. They already tried to remove it once (on the MBP) and that was a fail. I think they’ll try it again soon. I don’t think they dare to do it with one of their most profitable product though.