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What are the differences between the "Mid-2010" Aluminum iMac models?
Please note that all models mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The "Mid-2010" Aluminum iMac models were replaced by the "Mid-2011" Aluminum iMac line on May 3, 2011.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (21.5" - Left, 27" - Right)
Both the 21.5" and 27" models use elegant "edge-to-edge" glass designs and "seamless all aluminum enclosures" (the same as those introduced by the "Late 2009" models) with the entire computer tucked discreetly behind the flat-panel display. The 27" models are VESA compliant and can be easily wall-mounted whereas the 21.5" models are not VESA compliant and cannot be wall-mounted without ugly third-party hacks.
The 21.5" and 27" models both have glossy 8-bit 16:9 LED-backlit TFT Active Matrix LCDs that use IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology, which provides more accurate color even at wider viewing angles (178 degrees both horizontal and vertical). However, the 27" models are brighter than the 21.5" models (375 cd/m2 compared to 330 cd/m2). All have speakers mounted under the display and an integrated "iSight" webcam as well.
By default, all "Mid-2010" configurations ship with a compact aluminum wireless keyboard sans numeric keypad and a wireless "Magic Mouse," where the "entire top is a seamless multi-touch surface" that allows one to "navigate using intuitive finger gestures." As an optional US$69 upgrade, the "Mid-2010" models also can be configured with a new "Magic Trackpad" that provides multi-touch input like on a recent Apple notebook. An aluminum remote is offered for an additional US$19 as well.
Connectivity is the same on all models -- with one notable exception -- and includes an SDXC-capable SD card slot, four USB 2.0 ports, a Firewire "800" port, built-in AirPort Extreme (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, Gigabit Ethernet, a Mini DisplayPort (which supports an external display up to 30" - 2560x1600), and optical digital audio in and out ports. However, the 27" models also support input from external DisplayPort sources (so they can be used as an external display for another DisplayPort-equipped Mac, Blu-ray player, or other device).
Internally, all models use Core i3, i5, or i7 processors -- Core i3 for the 21.5" and Core i3, i5 or i7 for the 27" models -- have a 2.5 GT/s "Direct Media Interface" (DMI) that "connects between the processor and chipset" in lieu of a traditional system bus, support up to 16 GB of 1333 MHz PC3-10600 DDR3 SDRAM and have a 8X DL "SuperDrive."
In addition to graphics capability one of the most major internal differences is that the 27" models can be configured with an SSD at the time of purchase in addition to a hard drive. As first documented by site sponsor OWC, the 27" iMac models have an extra 3 Gb/s Serial ATA connector and power for the optional SSD, but if one is not installed at the time the system is purchased the connector cables and mounting bracket are not present. It is possible to install a 2.5" SSD in addition to the hard drive if an SSD is not installed initially in a 27" model it's just a bit of a "hack" whereas it is not possible to install an SSD in addition to a hard drive in the 21.5" models.
Complete configuration differences are summarized below:
|iMac "Mid-2010"||3.06 x2 21.5"||3.2 x2 21.5"||3.2 x2 27"||2.8 x4 27"|
|Std. Processor Speed:||3.06 GHz||3.2 GHz*||3.2 GHz*||2.8 GHz**|
|Std. Processor Type:||Core i3||Core i3*||Core i3*||Core i5**|
|Std. Processor Cores:||2||2||2||4|
|Std. Processor Threads:||4||4||4||4**|
|Turbo Boost:||No||No*||3.86 GHz*||2.8 GHz**|
|L2 Cache:||256k x2||256k x2||256k x2||256k x4|
|L3 Cache:||4 MB||4 MB||4 MB||8 MB|
|Std. Hard Drive:||500 GB||1 TB||1 TB||1 TB|
|Std. RAM:||4 GB||4 GB||4 GB||4 GB|
|Video System:||HD 4670||HD 5670||HD 5670†||HD 5750|
|Video Memory:||256 MB||512 MB||512 MB†||1 GB|
|Optical Drive:||8X DL "SD"||8X DL "SD"||8X DL "SD"||8X DL "SD"|
|Brightness:||330 cd/m2||330 cd/m2||375 cd/m2||375 cd/m2|
|Apple Order No:||MC508LL/A||MC509LL/A||MC510LL/A||MC511LL/A|
|Apple Model ID:||iMac11,2||iMac11,2||iMac11,3||iMac11,3|
* By custom configuration, the iMac "Core i3" 3.2 21.5" and iMac "Core i3" 3.2 27" can be equipped with a dual core 3.6 GHz "Core i5" processor (I5-680) for an additional US$200. This "Core i5" processor supports Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost (the system can dynamically increase the processor clockspeed to 3.86 GHz when tasks demand).
** The iMac "Core i5" 2.8 27" also can be configured with a 2.93 GHz Quad-Core "Core i7" processor (I7-875K) for an additional US$200. This "Core i7" processor supports Hyper-Threading (it has two threads per core for a total of eight threads for the system) and Turbo Boost (the system can dynamically increase the processor clockspeed to 3.6 GHz when tasks demand).
† By custom configuration, this model also can be equipped with an ATI Radeon HD 5750 graphics processor with 1 GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory.
Ultimately, all of the "Mid-2010" iMac models are solid choices for a desktop Mac and offer quality displays and solid performance. Whether the least expensive entry-level model with comparatively slower -- but still dedicated graphics -- the high-end model with its default quad core processor and serious graphics capability, or something in between is best for your needs is a decision that only you can make.
Site sponsor PowerMax has new 21.5" and 27" iMac models (as well as used iMacs) available for sale free of sales tax. Other World Computing sells iMac memory and hard drive upgrades at affordable prices.
Please refer to the Ultimate Mac Comparison feature to dynamically compare any iMac model to any other G3 or later Mac.