With Big Graphics, HD Cameras, And Triple Monitor Support, iMacs Are More Pro-Like

For the past six years or so, my main desktop machine has been a string of iMacs. As an all-in-one machine, they’re both great to look at and simple to set up and use. But the power user side of me was always left a bit wanting. And it sounds like the iMac upgrades Apple has just unveiled this morning may fix that.

First of all, they’ve solved perhaps my single biggest complaint about the iMac: there’s finally a way to hook up two external monitors to the machine, giving you a total of three screens, Apple confirmed to me earlier today. Ever since I started using dual monitors a few years ago, I quickly realized only one thing would be better: three monitors. But the iMac could not do it — only the Mac Pro could. Again, not anymore.

To be clear, this is only a possibility with the new 27-inch models, and it will not work with the smaller 21.5-inch models. The reason is because the 27-inch models come with two Thunderbolt ports. This is the new technology created by Intel alongside Apple that is extremely fast and versatile. These ports not only handle data transfers, but can carry display signals as well. So two Thunderbolt ports means two additional monitors.

And not to worry, as Apple walked me through earlier, it’s easy enough to daisy-chain several Thunderbolt compatible devices together. In other words, taking up the two Thunderbolt ports won’t be an issue.

I’m immediately dreaming of three 27-inch Apple displays side-by-side-by-side. Now I just have to pay for them…

The other aspect of the new iMacs that the Apple spokespeople say can put it on par with a Mac Pro is in the graphics department. Again, we’re talking the high-end models here, but if you can afford it, you can upgrade to an AMD Radeon HD 6970M card with 2 GB of GDDR5 memory. This can output 1.3 teraflops of graphics performance, I’m told. Again, this is something only previously seen on Mac Pros before.

And the final Pro-like addition (though not Mac Pro, but rather MacBook Pro) is the addition of a FaceTime HD camera. This allows the iMacs to do 720p video (at the full 16×9 ratio) for the first time. It matches the cameras that were recently added to the new MacBook Pros. Obviously, those two devices can FaceTime chat in HD with each other now. Chatting with other devices (like iPhones and iPads) will downgrade the video to SD levels.