Apple's latest iMac computers continue to enhance the line. Currently the Apple store offers two basic models, each available with two different processors from which to choose. The screen size is the main physical characteristic that differentiates the two models. Each model lets you choose from a variety of feature options such as memory and hard drive size but it is the choice of the processor type and speed that is the most significant.

The first iMac with the 21.5-inch screen lets you choose either the default 3.06 gigahertz (GHz) Intel Core 2 Duo processor, or upgrade it to the faster 3.33 GHz chip. The second model sports the 27 inch screen. You can elect to get it with either of the aforementioned processor speeds found in the first model. But you can also get the 27-inch iMac with one of the Intel Quad-Core processors and here is where things get really interesting.

The 27-inch iMac is now available with either a 2.66 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 processor, or the top-of-the-line 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7. It is this fastest processor availability that led me to realize that with this model iMac, Apple has crossed a boundary with its iMacs that has up to now, never been crossed. For Macintosh owners who have always purchased and used Apple's tower configuration machines including their current Mac Pro line, the time has finally come for many of them to finally embrace the iMac.

Ever since the first Bondi-Blue iMac made the scene back in 1998, the Mac community has viewed the iMac as being the one you got the kids or for general, light-computing family usage. When you wanted the fastest and most powerful Macintosh, you got the one in the tower. No more. Both the i5 and i7 are not only the fastest iMacs ever made, they are in fact the fastest MACINTOSH computers Apple has ever made. And while the i5 may only be marginally faster that the fastest Mac Pro, the i7 model is much faster according to Christopher Breen, senior editor of Macworld Magazine.

So what does this mean to most Mac owners looking for something new? It means it's time to give up the clunky computer box on your desk or floor and get an iMac. Critics will say that you still need a Mac Pro if you want to add interface cards. That's true but only those needing dedicated graphic or audio rendering engines on a card that relieve the main processor from performing these complex tasks are still candidates for a Mac Pro. For the most of us, an iMac with an i7 quad core processor and an ATI Radeon HD 4850 video chip with 512 megabytes of video ram is most certainly going to do whatever the job requires.

So there you have it. Add up to 16 gigabytes of memory, an internal 2-gigabyte hard drive and you've got the fastest Mac on the planet. And it's an iMac. It looks like a flat screen monitor but the computer itself, the hard drive, the optical drive, everything is built inside of the screen. But Breen wars that there are still some who may still want to wait a bit. The screen uses a glossy glass rather than a matte finish which he says some pros may find objectionable. But for the most of us, the screen produces some of the most glorious colors and sharpest text I've ever seen on a computer monitor. The LED lighting produces an instant-on white light display that can be easily seen from any angle.

So if you currently own a desktop Mac that's getting a bit long in the tooth, before you consider another Mac Pro desktop, take a closer look at an iMac. I'm fairly confident you're going to like what you see and it can cost you thousands of dollars less.

Visit the Apple website for pricing and available configurations.

Craig Crossman is a national newspaper columnist writing about computers and technology. He also hosts the No. 1 daily national computer radio talk show, Computer America, heard on the Business TalkRadio Network and the Lifestyle TalkRadio Network - Monday through Friday, 10 p.m.-midnight ET. For more information, visit his web site at

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