PCs

27" Apple iMac (2011): Cracking Open hardware analysis

With Intel Sandy Bridge processors and AMD GPUs the 2011 Apple iMacs are powerful all-in-ones. Bill Detwiler analyzes the hardware inside a 27" iMac.

In 2011, Apple revived the iMac line with Intel's second-generation Core CPU family and AMD's new Radeon HD 6000-series graphics processors. Apple also replaced the old Mini DisplayPort input with a Thunderbolt port.

In March, I took a look inside the HP Compaq 6000 Pro All-in-one Business PC and couldn't wait to see how the new iMac's hardware compared. After cracking open the 27" Apple iMac, I have my answer.

As of this writing, the 27" Apple iMac (2011) has a suggested starting price of $1,699.99 (US), and the 21.5" iMac starts at $1,199. Our 27" test unit cost $1,768 (before taxes).

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the 27" Apple iMac (2011)

Cracking Open analysis:

  • At 30+ pounds, the 27" iMac is heavy--very heavy. It looks great on your desk and gives you a ton of screen real-estate, but it's a pain to move.
  • You can upgrade the RAM without removing the iMac's front cover.
  • The front panel is held on with magnets and can easily be removed with a thin plastic tool.
  • There's plenty of room inside the 27" iMac to work on the internal hardware, but removing the motherboard is a time-consuming task.
  • The power supply is located inside the case and is not covered with a metal shield. You'll need to exercise caution when working around or removing the power supply. The same goes for the display's LED driver board.
  • The new 27" iMac has three separate cooling fans and massive CPU and GPU cooling assemblies. Unlike the first aluminum-body iMacs (released in 2007), overheating should not be a problem on the 2011 models.
  • The optical drive and hard drive are easily assessable once the display assembly is removed. They may not however, be easily replace. See my next bullet point.
  • Replacing the 3.5 SATA HDD with a non-Apple drive isn't easy and may not be possible. According to Other World Computing (OWC), the SATA power connector on the 2011 iMac hard drives have a 7-wire configuration, instead of the standard 4-wire configuration. Apple uses this new connector and proprietary firmware on the hard drive to detect and control the drive temperature. While OWC has been working on workarounds, there's no guarantee that these will be 100 percent effective. Only time will tell.
  • The CPU is not soldered to the motherboard, which means it could be replaced.

Internal hardware and chips:

Update 12/19/2011: This post originally appeared in our TR Dojo blog.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

0 comments