In fact, the two lower-end iMacs -- the $1,199 20-inch and the $1,499 24-inch -- use the same Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics chip set as the MacBook and MacBook Air. The upper half of the iMac line, however, retains the discrete graphics of their predecessors: the $1,799 model offers a GeForce GT 120 with 256MB of memory, while the $2,199 system runs a GeForce GT 130 with 512MB of RAM.
Apple also revamped the Mac Mini, its lowest-priced system that sells sans monitor and keyboard. The two new models feature faster processors, larger hard drivers, and in the case of the more expensive unit, more memory. They are, however, still priced at $599 and $799.
"The Mac mini has always seemed like a real oddball product," said Gottheil, who quizzed Apple earlier today on its strategy. "They say people use it for all kinds of things, in vehicles, as an embedded system and to drive their TVs. In a certain sense, I agree. It's not a key product, and in some ways is almost a peripheral and not a computer."
As with the iMac, Apple moved the Mac Mini to Nvidia's graphics, specifically the same GeForce 9400M integrated chip set found in some other models. The $599 Mac Mini features 128MB of shared memory for graphics, while the $799 includes 256MB of shared memory. And for the first time, the Mini includes two video ports, allowing it to drive not just a single monitor like before, but dual-screen setups.
Apple trumpeted the environmental credentials of the Mac mini today, claiming that its power usage at idle -- under 13W -- "makes Mac mini the most energy-efficient desktop computer in the world."
"The iMacs and Mac Minis now have all kinds of energy [efficiency] certification," said Gottheil. "That might have been one of the driving causes for the delay in getting them out."
Gottheil was referring to the long stretch since Apple refreshed its desktop system, a factor many analysts have cited as one reason why iMac sales have plummeted during the last two quarters. "This does seem like a long wait for a set of not-really-newsworthy upgrades," he said. "But at the same time, desktops are so yesterday. If the market is moving to notebooks, the market is moving to notebooks, and nothing Apple can do will change that."
Finally, Apple also brushed up its professional desktop, the Mac Pro, with Intel's quad-core Nehalem processors, Nvidia GeForce 120 graphics cards with 512MB of memory, more RAM and larger hard drives. It also dropped the price of the least-expensive model $300, to $2,499. For $3,299, the higher-priced configuration offers two Nehalem CPUs to create an eight-core system; it also packs 6GB of memory, double the entry-level Mac Pro's.
Apple also updated the Mac Pro's interior layout for easier upgrading. The box now includes four direct-attach cable-free hard drive carriers that can accommodate a total of 4TB of internal storage.
"I don't think Apple is getting the price thing," concluded Gottheil when asked for his overall impression of the refresh. "Underwhelming, that's how I'd put it."
Computerworld is an InfoWorld affiliate.