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How Fast is the Core i7 iMac (and other Core i7 Macs)?

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 12/7/2010

Intel's Core i7 is the fastest processor available to consumers, so the Core i7 powered iMac is among the fastest computers offered by Apple - next to Core i7 powered Mac Pros and MacBooks. But just what can you expect from this performance powerhouse?

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    The Quickest Yet

    While Windows PCs are by far the most common computer in the average workplace, some offices do make heavy use of Mac computers for a variety of reasons. Some believe that the simplicity of the OS X operating system increases productivity, while others use Mac computers as workstations for photo editing and similar tasks.

    The popular image of a Mac sometimes paints it as a slow machine. With Core i7 powered Macs like the iMac now available, however, this couldn't be further from the truth. The Core i7 iMac has robust power for both homes and offices.

    But just how fast is it? Let's consider some iMac i7 benchmarks.

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    Apples to Apples Comparisons

    iMac i7 Benchmark One big wrench always thrown into the works of a Mac review is the fact that Apple computers run OS X instead of Windows. This means that benchmarks between a Windows computer and an Apple computer aren't exactly fair - it's not an Apples to Apples comparison. The hardware's true performance is being skewed by software in different ways because of the different operating systems.

    In response, reviewers usually install Windows on an Apple machine using Boot Camp and then run benchmarks while in Windows. These results provide a straight comparison to other Windows computers. Benchmarks in this vein from sources like indicate that the iMac Core i7 is extremely quick for an all-in-one PC. Indeed, iMac i7 benchmarks often end up with this iMac on the top of the heap - at least when compared to similar all-in-one computers instead of desktops.

    The Core i7 iMac also proves to be fast in Apples-to-Apples comparisons with other Macs, which isn't surprising. The hardware in this iMac is impressive, and would normally be expected to result in a performance improvement. Reality bears this out.

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    Apples to Oranges Comparisons

    While Apples to Apples comparisons are important, it's also critical to consider iMac i7 benchmarks against Windows machines even when the iMac is running OS X. After all, that is what you'll likely be running when using your iMac.

    Finding benchmarks that provide this information is harder, but does take it somewhat into consideration. Their review of the iMac indicated that the Photoshop CS4 benchmark actually took more time to complete in OS X than in Windows - 1 minute 28 seconds compared to 1 minute and 40 seconds. However, the iMac was still quicker than another high-performance WIndows all-in-one, which took over two minutes to run the benchmark.

    Overall, the performance received from OS X should be roughly comparable to Windows. In my experience benchmarking MacBooks I've found that iTunes encoding tests and general hard drive speed tests return better results in OS X than they do in Windows. On the other hand, OS X continues to struggle with support for certain applications, which is why Macs sometimes return slower results in OS X than they do in Windows on application benchmarks. OS X also has very poor support for 3D graphics compared to Windows, so games typically run slower on OS X machines, and games have a higher rate of graphics errors and crashes.

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    Overall, the iMac i7 benchmarks are very positive. Ultimately, considering the price, the Core i7 powered iMac won't be the machine you buy if you want maximum bang for your buck. However, the iMac remains a beautiful, intuitive device with performance that is competitive with the fastest Window machines.