Core i5 iMac arrives: first benchmarks

Quad-core iMac near 3X faster than past gen

Electronista has received one of the first Core i5 iMacs and is putting it through its paces. Since many already are already familiar with the 27-inch iMac in Core 2 Duo form, we’ll provide impressions specific to the faster model. We also have some of the first benchmarks of the system, which is Apple’s first quad-core system ever outside of its Mac Pro workstations.

It should be no surprise that, subjectively, the Core i5 model will feel very fast — especially for those running Mac desktops using mobile Intel processors, such as earlier iMac generations or the Mac mini. Most apps load almost instantly, even when several are loaded in succession. Not surprisingly, Expose and other tasks refuse to bog down under load.

We’ve also noticed that the quad-core processor doesn’t seem to have a significant bearing on the noise of the system. Even in CINEBENCH R10, a 3D rendering test that taxes both the processor and graphics, the system didn’t become noisy. The quietness is both a testament to Apple’s newfound ability to cool desktop-class processors in the iMac as well as a byproduct of the larger, aluminum-backed enclosure preventing too much heat buildup inside.

Our tests so far bear out that the system is much faster than iMac owners will be used to, particularly in heavy duty tasks where they’ve normally struggled. We compared our previous iMac — a first iteration of the 24-inch iMac with a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo, 3GB of RAM and a Radeon HD 2600 XT for graphics — against the factory stock 2.66GHz Core i5, 4GB of RAM and Radeon HD 4850 of the 27-inch model. Both were running Mac OS X 10.6.2 and were freshly rebooted for the tests.

In the single-core tests, we found that the Core i5 iMac already scaled higher than the 10 percent increase in clock speed would suggest, though not in an extreme way. It’s when the full power of the system was unlocked, however, that the difference became dramatic. In many cases, we’ve seen 2.5 to over 3 times faster performance from the 27-inch model than a predecessor barely two years old. Not surprisingly, graphics performance is also much higher as AMD’s Radeon cards have advanced just as much in the same period.

We hope to provide more detail about tests, as well as a full review, in the next few days.

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