This morning, at approximately 8 a.m. local time, Apple began officially selling the redesigned 2012 iMac through its Apple Stores and online Apple Store, starting at $1,299.
Thanks to a rumor earlier this month, many believed Apple would not meet its planned November deadline to ship the new 21.5-inch iMac. The rumor was initially believed -- after all, even Apple CEO Tim Cook stated his worries during the company's October conference call with investors. But Apple put those rumors to bed on Tuesday with an official press release announcing its plans to release the redesigned desktop this Friday.
"Featuring a stunning design, brilliant display with reduced reflection, faster processors and an innovative new storage option called Fusion Drive, the new iMac is the most advanced desktop Apple has ever made," Apple said in its press release. "The 21.5-inch iMac will be available through the Apple Online Store, Apple's retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers. The 27-inch iMac will be available for order through the Apple Online Store and will begin shipping in December."
The 21.5-inch iMac is roughly 18 inches tall, 21 inches wide and weighs just 12.5 pounds. But the computer's main showcase is the beautiful display, which takes up 40 percent less volume than the previous generation with a stunning edge thinness of just 5 mm -- this is 80 percent thinner than the previous generation's thinnest point.
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The feats of engineering needed to create the display were originally thought to be the reasons for the rumored delay. For this particular iMac design, Apple used a number of complicated and intensive processes all required to pull off the ultra-thin iMac screen. By laminating the display directly to the glass, Apple was able to remove all air gaps from the computer, making the entire display system 45 percent thinner. This process, which is only achieved by welding a system of aluminum under a highly pressurized system, is reportedly a similar process used to assemble aircraft wings, including the new Airbus A380.
“This is so thin we wanted to do something even more with it," explained Phil Schiller, Apple's senior VP of marketing, at Apple's Oct. 23 media event. "The way this is welded is called friction stir welding.”
Apple was also able to make the iMac even more "amazingly thin" by removing the computer's optical drive and reengineering the internal components.
That Beautiful Screen
It's no Retina Display, but it's certainly gorgeous in its own right (plus, there are a number of valid reasons you wouldn't want a Retina Display on this size of a display anyway).
The 21.5-inch iMac features a 1920 x 1080 display resolution, and, with a new process called plasma deposition, the screen is 75 percent less reflective than in the previous iMac generation -- something many Mac fans will certainly appreciate.
The display is the next best thing to a Retina Display -- with LED backlighting providing instant-on, uniform brightness, as well as a technology called in-plane switching, or IPS, viewers get brilliant colors and brightness at any angle.
"Everything you see on the big, glossy display -- from skin tones and dark shadows to bright blue skies and green fields — is rich and vibrant," Apple says on its website. "And the colors are more true to life, too. That’s because every iMac display is individually color-calibrated using state-of-the-art spectroradiometers to match color standards recognized around the world."
As far as storage goes, the iMac can be configured with up to 3TB of storage with a Core i5 or i7 processor, but before they make their purchase, Apple will ask customers to choose between three new storage options:
"Customers can choose what they want: a hard drive for storage or an SSD for speed," said Apple's SVP of marketing Phil Schiller, when he announced the 2012 iMac at the iPad Mini event in October. "But we have a new option. It's called the Apple Fusion Drive."
Apple’s new Fusion Drive contains 128 GB of flash storage with 1TB or 3TB HDD, which is fused into a single volume. With access to storage, the new Fusion Drive performs almost as well as Flash, but it keeps documents significantly more secure on the HDD.
“Apple has some logic, which figures out which apps you use the most and will shift those to the SDD,” Schiller explained.
The 21-inch iMac features the third-generation processor from Intel, a 2.7GHz quad-core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM, which tops out at 3.2 GHz (also known as Turbo Boost). For an extra $200, Apple will give your 21.5-inch model a beefier 2.9 GHz i7 processor from Intel with a 3.4 GHz Turbo Boost.
As far as graphics go, Apple has endowed the 2012 iMac with a GeForce GT 640M, which delivers a 60 percent greater performance for graphics-intensive tasks, from video games to video or photo editing.
Other Tech Specs
The 21.5-inch iMac also comes with two speakers on the bottom sides of the "chin," a 720p HD FaceTime camera and dual microphones and runs on OS X Mountain Lion.
As far as connectivity goes, the new iMac has an SDXC card slot, ports for USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet, as well as two Thunderbolt ports for ultra-fast connections. The 2012 iMac is also supported by the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi technology and also supports Bluetooth 4.0 (also known as Smart Bluetooth) for near-instantaneous connections with accessories and peripherals such as the Magic Mouse and Wireless Keyboard.
The 21.5-inch iMac sells for $1,299 at its most basic model; for slightly better Intel processors, Apple sells the 2012 iMac for $1,499.
Apple will sell a larger version of this iMac model; the 27-inch iMac will arrive in December, which comes with faster processors and more screen space for anything and everything you do. That computer will start selling at $1,799, with a similar choice to upgrade for an extra $200 to have some faster processors.
If you want to own a new iMac today and you don't want to stand in line, your best chance may be to order one online. As of Friday at noon EST, Apple is still shipping the 21.5-inch iMac in 1-3 business days.