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Apple Releases New iMacs with Thunderbolt.

After a brief down period this morning, the Apple Store came back up with a newly-updated iMac being offered. This latest revision of the all-in-one desktop computer features a new graphics card, quad-core processors, a new built-in HD camera, and either one or two Thunderbolt ports, depending on the model.

These new iMacs are powered by quad-core Core i5 processors in speeds up to 3.1GHz (with a BTO option for an i7 processor up to 3.4 GHz) and sport AMD Radeon 6790M Graphics processors.

Memory is the same 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM modules used in the previous model, and there are four slots. Apple is currently offering configurations up to 16GB, but we’ll be doing our own MaxRAM certification testing to see just how much these new machines can handle, so stay tuned here on the OWC Blog for that news.

Probably the biggest new feature is the addition of Thunderbolt ports to the iMacs – a single port on the 21.5-inch model and a pair of them on the 27″ model. In case you’re unfamiliar with Thunderbolt, it effectively allows for both video expansion and high-speed data transfer, which means that with just a couple of cables, you can quickly turn one of these iMacs from a simple desktop machine to a multi-display, high data throughput powerhouse that’s perfect as a multimedia workstation. While there are currently few displays expressly made for Thunderbolt connection, you can easily use a mini DisplayPort monitor or adapter (you just won’t be able to daisy-chain devices) and more will become available as the port becomes more widely adopted. The same goes with storage – there are a couple of Thunderbolt drives available right now, but more are coming out every day, and you’ll soon be able to find them at your favorite peripherals vendor.

These new Macs start at $1199 for the 21.5″ iMac and $1699 for the 27″ model and are already available online and at most Apple retail stores. We’ll be getting ours in soon, so be sure to keep an eye out here on the OWC Blog for benchmarking results, compatibility reports and other important info regarding these new additions to the iMac line.

OWC Chris S.
the authorOWC Chris S.
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  • I’ve seen that there is a graphics card upgrade available from the Radeon HD4850 to the HD5750. Does OWC expect that they will be able to provide a 6750M upgrade at some point, or is it too different (power consumption and form factor) ?

  • I’ll try to keep it short here –

    There are makers of PCI cards that house on them hard drives. These go internally into PC’s and Mac Pro systems. Some offer either hardware or software raid. (You can see where this is going hopefully).

    Given that the new iMacs have Thunderbolt, it would be a major find if OWC could see their way clear to build a unit that housed 2.5″ drives (2-4 of them perhaps) that attaches to the back of an iMac and exploits the Thunderbolt port. That port supposedly handles not only mixed data rates but provides about 10 watts of power. The ‘enclosure’ at one end would have a port to continue the daisy chain for additional devices.

    I guess my take is no need to open up a new iMac but get an “OWC” piggyback Thunderbolt enclosure. A generic one would simply provide the ability for software RAID. A more sophisticated unit would have internal RAID electronics/chips. Would be really nice to get either the 21.5 or 27″ iMac, simply attach a custom enclosure on the back and add 2-4 OWC SSD. This might put the new iMac in a spotlight as a serious competitor of Mac Pros from one generation ago.

    I look forward to test results of the new iMacs compared to not only old ones but older Mac Pros which seem to be more similar given the quad core.

  • Hi OWC Michael,
    Is the mounting and cabling for the new 2011 iMac’s SSD slot the same? I know you guys said in the past that adding an SSD to a 2010 iMac that didn’t originally come with one was kind of a pain since the cables and mount were missing. Is it the same case with the 2011’s and if so do you need to find the same cables and mount as with the 2010 iMac?

    Kind of disappointing that these are only SATA II, but I guess once you guys come out with TB cases it won’t matter as much. Hopefully that won’t be too long ;)


  • Not much need for SATA III when you have thunderbolt on a desktop. An external ssd would be faster anyway and no less practical. On a laptop I can see not wanting to have an external boot drive.

  • Will OWC be working on a turn key option for Thunderbolt in iMacs? I am at a serious loss here. I just recently got my iMac. However, it is past the exchange period.

    • Hello Kyle,
      Earlier versions of the iMac are not equipped to accommodate the addition Thunderbolt. I’m in the same boat personally having purchased my 2010 model 27″ iMac several months ago. For us, our best bet for external transfer speeds are to add the eSATA port through the OWC Turnkey Upgrade Program for 2010 Apple iMac 27″.
      On the plus side, eSATA equipped enclosures are readily available at this time, while were still waiting on thunderbolt-equipped enclosures to come to market.

  • This blog is referring to both 2010 iMacs and 2011 iMacs.

    My question is does a 27 inch 2011 iMac allow for SATAIII connections for the hdd + ssd option.

    • In checking system profiler, we found that the SATA bus is 3.0Gb/s. So while they would certainly be compatible, they would be limited to 3Gb/s speeds.

      • Hi Michael,

        Can you confirm what you mean by this? Negotiated speed? I cannot believe that with SB CPUs Apple would not include SATA III, especially since the 2011 MBP has SATA III ports.

        The article mentions that you’ll be getting one soon. How did you check the system profiler then?


        • We were a bit shocked ourselves when we received our machines today and installed one of our 6G SSDs to find that the SATA speed remained at 3.0Gb/s. The internal SATA connections are all SATA II. Not SATA III.

  • Realistically, when will OWC have external HDs with Thunderbolt ports? Please don’t say “Soon,” or “Before you know it,” or some other vague expression.

    Also, I realize that OWC could open up the iMac and upgrade the hard drive to an SSD (I am reluctant to do it). But would booting from an OWC SSD in an external drive enclosure through FireWire 800, or Thunderbolt, be an easy and inexpensive way to power-boost the performance? Have you done this at OWC? If so, what are the results?


    • Keep in mind that even Sonnet who Apple & Intel gave engineering info in advance to aren’t shipping their thunderbolt products until mid Summer.

      OWC and other vendors only got this info AFTER the MacBook Pro launch.

      It will be a while before OWC can work with their suppliers to design, test and bring devices to market.

      OWC ships quality products. I certainly don’t want them to rush the job. :-)

      • Your response, MacRat, is exactly the vague response that I asked to not receive.

        I wonder if someone at OWC is researching the answer to my question. I hope that OWC didn’t just ignore my question. I feel that, when consumer’s are looking to spend a lot of money, companies should do their best to communicate as well as possible.

        • Hey DC…odd…I don’t see any other question from you in this post’s comment thread …. but looking at MacRat’s reply….we don’t have a Thunderbolt solution. Are we investigating developing such? Absolutely.

          update…ah…I did find the question….

          Booting on ThunderBolt like I replied in another post…..there is nothing shipping on the market in order to test such ability.

          Also…ANYTIME booting externally via any currently offered and supported FireWire and USB 2 interface, it will always provide slower performance than internal SATA bus connected drive. So the FW800 boot with SSD would not give you a performance boost over same SSD installed internally.

          • Realistically, when will OWC have external HDs with Thunderbolt ports? Please don’t say “Soon,” or “Before you know it,” or some other vague expression.

            Also, I realize that OWC could open up the iMac and upgrade the hard drive to an SSD (I am reluctant to do it myself). But would booting from an OWC SSD in an external drive enclosure through FireWire 800, or Thunderbolt, be an easy and inexpensive way to power-boost the performance? Have you done this at OWC? If so, what are the results?


  • I have a question. I have seen the 2010 iMac turnkey service, but I never saw an option to simply replace the current default hard drive with one of your SSD drives. I know you can add a SSD and also swap the original hard drive, but you can’t (as far as I can tell) just swap the hard drive. Is this possible?

    Also, any indication whether there are SATA 3 ports on the iMac like the Macbook Pros? I’d love to stick one of the new 6G SSD drives in this baby!

      • I saw the third option, but it seems like you HAVE to choose something from the second option first – either a external SATA port or internal SSD. It appears that if you want to simply replace the existing hard drive, you must also choose to either add another internal SSD or external SATA port.

        Oh well, with the SATA internal ports still stuck at II, it seems like it makes the most sense to just wait for you guys to come out with a blazing fast external SSD drive and boot off of that and keep the internal HD as is. Far from elegant, but speed wise, this might be the best combination.