I'm not much of a Webcam user, but those who are will find FaceTime HD to be a substantial step up from the VGA-format camera in prior iMacs. The wide aspect lets multiple users participate in the video call or podcast without squishing their heads together. For those videos you can shoot in front of your iMac, there's no need for a tripod and a camcorder. A sensitive microphone is built into the chassis, or you can use the mic on either an iPhone-compatible wired headset or a Bluetooth headset.
The iMac's built-in, bottom-firing speakers are marvelous. Once again, very few iMac buyers will find it necessary to spend money on external speakers. If you want to plug the iMac into an amplifier or other sound system, you can feed the system's optical digital output straight into any component that accepts Toslink input. You can also plug an HDMI adapter into the Thunderbolt port for combined video and audio.
As for aftermarket expansion, only the RAM sockets are user-accessible. The 21.5-inch model has two sockets for 1,333MHz DDR3 SO-DIMM modules, while the 27-inch iMac has four. Beyond that, it's best to consider the iMac's chassis sealed. Make sure you configure iMac with the SATA hard disk and SSD options you prefer at purchase time. To add storage you'll have to resort to USB or NAS, or wait a few months for Thunderbolt peripherals to appear. When Thunderbolt does show, if it lives up to specs, external storage will perform as well as, if not better than, internal drives.
For the majority of desktop users, iMac renders the black-box PC obsolete. Prior objections to iMac on performance grounds have been answered by Apple's engineers, who have created a machine that's not only convenient and loaded with extras, but easily rivals the performance of any single-processor, component-based desktop system you could build with a similar budget. Apple's re-engineered iMac could become a desktop staple among professionals and consumers alike.
This article, "Thunderbolt iMac: The perfect compromise," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in computer hardware and mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.
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