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Analysing 2012 iMac refresh expectations

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!

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