New, cheaper iMac makes for an attractive option for cost-conscious business buyers

Apple announced a new entry-level iMac, an option $200 cheaper than the previous low-end model. It's slower, but still powerful. Here's a look at the new machine.

Apple iMac

Apple products are not the cheapest options on the market. This is obvious. However, for many users, they quickly pay for themselves because of Apple's legendary ease of use along with the company's excellent customer support options through AppleCare and the Apple Retail Store.

Yesterday, Apple introduced a new entry-level 21.5-inch iMac, packing a slower processor borrowed from the company's MacBook Air line of notebooks. However, don't think that the slower processor -- a 1.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 -- is too pokey to get work done.

That processor (and the Intel HD 5000 GPU) are more than capable of running anything that most users will throw at it. Productivity applications like Microsoft Office and Apple's iWork suite, email, web browsing and even consumer level photo and video editing will run just fine on the new iMac.

The new $1,099 iMac is actually pretty comparable to the $1,299 version in single-core performance, which is where many lower-end users will be spending most of their time.

Here's a test for you: If you need to ask "will this be fast enough for me?" -- the new iMac will do just fine. Generally, folks like graphics professionals and video editors know how much speed they need (read: MORE!) and that they'll need to pay up to get it. For 90% of the business and consumer market, this new iMac will get the job done, while saving some money in the process.

That said, I strongly recommend upgrading to the 256 GB of flash storage for $250. A solid-state drive is the best investment you can make when looking to upgrade a machine. With that upgrade, the base 21.5-inch iMac is $1,349 with 8 GB of non-upgradable RAM. For comparison, a similarly spec'd 13-inch MacBook Air is $1,299.

Effectively, you're getting a 21.5-inch desktop machine for $50 more than a 13-inch notebook. Decide whether you want to bring your computer on-the-go or have a larger screen, and you'll know which machine to get.

As an added bonus, the iMac's 3-year AppleCare protection plan is $169, while the same program on the MacBook Air is $249. This program (which I highly recommend) actually makes the iMac cheaper.

A few months ago, I looked at ways businesses can save money buying Apple gear, and many of them would apply to the new iMac as well.

The Apple Retail Business Team is great for companies looking to pick up machines with discounts. Companies can begin getting discounted products by spending $5,000 per year, with larger discounts available at $35,000 and $200,000 levels. For companies looking at picking up a number of iMacs or other Apple gear, talking to the business team at your local Apple Store is a worthwhile endeavor.

For many users, the new entry-level iMac will be more than powerful enough and, if you're looking for a desktop Mac with a big screen, it's a great starting point. If you have deeper pockets and are looking for a bit more oomph, Apple has a wide selection of more powerful iMacs -- or you can invest in the new Mac Pro, which starts at $3000 without a monitor.

Are you in the market for a new desktop Mac? What do you think of Apple's new offerings? Let us know in the comments below.