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Intel Provides early 'Montevina'-Like Technology to iMac

Today's iMac updates provided a few surprising upgrades to the existing iMacs. The key changes include:

- Faster Penryn processors (2.4GHz-3.06GHz), up from 2.0-2.8GHz Merom processors.
- 1066MHz Front Side Bus, up from 800MHz.
- NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS 512MB on high end model
- More RAM (2GB) in mid-range models, up from 1GB

Montevina or Not?

First, some background: Intel delivers to its PC manufacturers specific "platforms" which are made up of the processor, chipset and wireless networking interface. These platforms go by specific codenames, such as "Santa Rosa" and "Montevina". While Apple technically does not adopt these platforms in their entirety, for simplicity's sake, we still refer to Macs using these specific named platforms.

Up until now, the MacBook, MacBook Pro and iMac have been based on the "Santa Rosa" platform which offers a 800MHz front-side bus. The front-side bus determines how fast the processor communicates with the rest of the computer. The "Santa Rosa" platform was first launched with the "Merom" processor, but recently gave way to the "Penryn" processors. The most recent MacBook and MacBook Pro updates adopted the new "Penryn" processors, but still on the 800Mhz front-side bus Santa Rosa chipset.

The introduction of the 1066MHz front-side bus iMac alongside faster Penryn processors suggested that Apple may have been able to launch the Montevina (1066MHz) chipset earlier than the expected June timeframe. When directly asked, however, Intel simply describes them as being "special" faster versions of the existing Santa Rosa chipset. The main difference, however, appears to be that these new chips consume more power than the upcoming Montevina chipsets.

For iMac buyers, however, it makes little difference. These new machines effectively provide the key benefits of the Montevina platform: faster processors and a faster front-side bus.

Besides the processing advantages, the addition of the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS 512MB is claimed to offer 2.2x the graphics performance of the ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro.

Buy or Not?

The new iMacs should be in Apple's retail stores now. However, Apple is currently providing substantial ($250-$700) discounts on refurbished previous generation iMac stock, which may better fall in your price range if absolute performance is not your top priority. Unlike with the recent MacBook and Macbook Pros revision, however, modest retailer discounts ($50-$250) on new-in-box previous generation iMacs offer no added value over simply buying today's models. For those who can wait a few more days for delivery, MacMall is already offering $50-100 mail in rebates on the new machines, and Amazon typically follows suit with their own rebates.

Our iMac Buyer's Guide recommendation has been changed to "Buy Now" and the days-since-release counter reset. Ongoing iMac discussion can be directed to our iMac forum.

Related roundup: iMac