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Aluminum iMac Q&A - Published March 20, 2009

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How much faster are the "Early 2009" Aluminum iMac Core 2 Duo models than the "Early 2008" models?

Please note that all iMac models mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The "Early 2009" Aluminum iMac models were replaced by the "Late 2009" models on October 20, 2009.

Review a comparison of the "Early 2009" Aluminum iMac models -- the iMac "Core 2 Duo" 2.66 20-Inch (Early 2009), 2.66 24-Inch (Early 2009), 2.93 24-Inch (Early 2009), and 3.06 24-Inch (Early 2009) -- to the "Early 2008" models that they replaced, and it becomes quickly apparent that performance related differences are modest.

Processor clockspeeds and configurations are similar -- but the "Early 2009" models use 1066 MHz PC3-8500 DDR3 memory compared to 800 MHz PC2-6400 DDR2 on the models replaced with twice the official maximum capacity and the high-end models have improved graphics (the lower-end models have integrated graphics but support a larger external display).

With similar clockspeeds but faster memory one would expect modestly improved performance, but the precise differences can only be uncovered through real-world testing.

Reporting the results of its SpeedMark 5 test, the industry-standard MacWorld said:

Let's start with the fastest iMac, the 3.06 GHz 24-inch iMac; it posted an overall Speedmark score that was 24 points (8 percent) higher than the previous 24-inch iMac with the same 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo processor (then available as a build-to-order model). The new entry-level iMac, a 2.66 GHz 20-inch model, had a Speedmark score that was 26 points higher (11 percent) than the previous entry-level model, a 2.4 GHz 20-inch iMac.

For the remaining models in the series -- and to compare the performance of different models in the line to each other -- be sure to review the publication's complete benchmarks.

In Mac and Windows testing of the top-of-the-line iMac "Core 2 Duo" 3.06 24-Inch (Early 2009), PC Magazine found that the system:

The iMac (GT 130) finished the Photoshop CS4 test in a quick 1 minute 35 seconds in Windows Vista, and 1:57 in Mac OS X. . . When you compare the Photoshop score with that of the older 3.06 GHz iMac (2:16), you really see the improvement that the extra 2 GB of memory gives you. . . The iMac (GT 130) finished the Windows Media Encoder (WME) test in 56 seconds. I consider any WME time of less than 1 minute a very good score. . . PCMark Vantage scores (which measure the system's ability to handle day-to-day tasks) improved from 4,448 in the old iMac to 4,917 in the new.

In its own review, Register Hardware also provides synthetic GeekBench and XBench results that you may wish to evaluate.

Ultimately, the "Early 2009" Aluminum iMac models provide solid performance in a beautifully designed package.

Site sponsor PowerMax has new and used Intel-based iMac models available free of sales tax.

Also see: How does the gaming performance of the "Early 2009" Aluminum iMac Core 2 Duo models compare to earlier Aluminum iMac models? How much faster are the graphics?

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