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What are all the differences between the education-only "Late 2011" Aluminum iMac and the regular "Mid-2011" Aluminum iMac models?
The education-only "Late 2011" Aluminum iMac model -- the iMac "Core i3" 3.1 21.5-Inch -- looks identical to the 21.5-Inch "Mid-2011" models -- the iMac "Core i5" 2.5 21.5-Inch and "Core i5" 2.7 21.5-Inch -- as each use the same "edge-to-edge" glass design and a "seamless all aluminum enclosure" with the entire computer tucked discreetly behind the glossy flat-panel display. However, the education-only model only is available for purchase by educational institutions.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (21.5" Aluminum iMac - Left)
The displays used in all of the "Mid-2011" and "Late 2011" models are the same 8-bit 16:9 LED-backlit TFT Active Matrix LCDs with IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology and 178 degree horizontal and vertical viewing angles. All also have speakers mounted under the display and an integrated "FaceTime HD" webcam.
Both lines are available by default with a compact aluminum wireless keyboard without a numeric keypad. For the "Mid-2011" iMac models, Apple gives the user the option of either a "Magic Mouse" or the "Magic Trackpad" at no extra charge, but in a particularly miserly point of product differentiation, the education-only "Late 2011" model ships with a "traditional" Apple Mouse (without gesture capabilities).
Connectivity largely is similar, but there are two significant differences as well. Both the education-only and "regular" models have four USB 2.0 ports, a Firewire "800" port, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet, an SDXC-capable SD Card slot, and audio line in and out ports. However, the education-only model lacks internal Bluetooth and has a Mini DisplayPort, whereas the regular models have internal Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and have a more capable Thunderbolt port in lieu of Mini DisplayPort.
Externally, the 21.5-Inch "Mid-2011" and "Late 2011" iMac models all use the A1311 model number but have unique EMC numbers. The 21.5-Inch "Mid-2011" iMac models use the 2428 EMC number, whereas the education-only "Late 2011" iMac uses the 2496 EMC number. These identifiers are all inconveniently located under the "foot" supporting the computer.
Additionally, you can type in the last four characters of any of these models serial number into EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup potentially for an exact match.
Internally, the education-only "Late 2011" iMac model is significantly less capable -- with a slower processor with half the number of cores, less memory, less video memory and a smaller hard drive -- compared to the regular "Mid-2011" iMac models.
All of these models support the same 1333 MHz PC3-10600 DDR3 SDRAM SO-DIMMs and have four RAM slots, but the "Mid-2011" models officially support 16 GB of RAM and third-parties have determined that these models actually are capable of supporting 32 GB of RAM. The education-only "Late 2011" model, on the other hand, officially supports only 8 GB of RAM and this maximum is believed to be capped in EFI.
Other upgrade capabilities may also vary between the lines. As first discovered by site sponsor OWC, the "Mid-2011" models support the 6 Gb/s Serial ATA 3.0 standard for the hard drive/SSD after installing the iMac EFI Update 1.6. The storage drive in the education-only model is believed to also have the same capability, but it is possible that the speed is limited in EFI.
Likewise, all of these models have the processor mounted on an LGA 1155 (H2) processor socket and it is theoretically possible to upgrade the processor to some extent, although doing so is not supported by Apple.
If you have detailed, internal access to an education-only "Late 2011" iMac and can provide more specifics about upgrade capabilities, please share.
The major configuration differences between the regular "Mid-2011" iMac models and the education-only "Late 2011" iMac are summarized below for your convenience. Please refer to the specs page for the model of interest for complete details.
|Al. 21.5" iMac||2.5 GHz Mid-2011||2.7 GHz Mid-2011||Late 2011 (Edu)|
|Processor Type:||2.5 GHz "Core i5"||2.7 GHz "Core i5"||3.1 GHz "Core i3"|
|Frontside Bus:||5 GT/s DMI||5 GT/s DMI||5 GT/s DMI|
|L2 Cache:||256k x4||256k x4||256k x2|
|L3 Cache:||6 MB||6 MB||3 MB|
|Hard Drive:||500 GB||1 TB||250 GB|
|Standard RAM:||4 GB||4 GB||2 GB|
|Maximum RAM:||32 GB||32 GB||8 GB|
|Video System:||Radeon HD 6750M||Radeon HD 6770M||Radeon HD 6750M|
|Video Memory:||512 MB||512 MB||256 MB|
|Video Type:||Dedicated GDDR5||Dedicated GDDR5||Dedicated GDDR5|
|Optical Drive:||8X DL SuperDrive||8X DL SuperDrive||8X DL SuperDrive|
|Firewire:||800 (1)||800 (1)||800 (1)|
|USB:||2.0 (4)||2.0 (4)||2.0 (4)|
|Apple Order No:||MC309LL/A||MC812LL/A||MC978LL/A|
Ultimately, the education-only "Late 2011" iMac model has sacrificed speed, memory, video memory and storage as well as connectivity to shave US$200 off the price. Whether these concessions are worth the price savings are a decision only a school administrator or board can make. Given discount prices for discontinued iMac models, some might find bulk purchases on the used market to be an equally good or better deal as the education-only model.
The education-only "Late 2011" iMac only is available direct from Apple and for purchase by educational institutions. Site sponsor PowerMax has standard 21.5" and 27" iMac models (as well as used iMacs individually and in bulk) available for sale free of sales tax.
Please refer to the Ultimate Mac Comparison feature to dynamically compare any iMac model to any other G3 or later Mac.