Apple Updates iMacs With Fourth-Generation Intel Haswell Processors

Apple, with no warning, updated its iMac desktops with faster processors, better WiFi and "unprecedented" graphics performance. They're on sale now.

Apple, without fanfare, announced an update to its line of iMac desktop computers Sept. 24, 11 months and a day after introducing its last batch. The updated iMacs feature the fourth generation of Intel's quad-core processors, new graphics, next-generation WiFi and faster PCIe flash storage options.

Like the old iMacs, however, they run OS X Mountain Lion, Apple said in its press announcement introducing the desktops ahead of the launch of Mavericks, the upcoming OS it unveiled at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Apple has said Mavericks will arrive "this fall."

When connected to an 802.11ac base station, the new iMacs reportedly deliver a wireless performance up to three times faster than the 2012 generation. Likewise, the iMacs' support for PCIe-based flash storage makes the machine's Fusion Drive and all-flash storage options up to 50 percent faster than last year's iMacs, Apple said.

The iMacs come standard with 8GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive but can be configured with up to 32GB of memory and up to a 3TB hard drive.

Thin, minimalist and aluminum, they're of course also lookers, nearly—if not exactly—in line with last year's models.

"iMac continues to be the example that proves how beautiful, fast and fun a desktop can be," Philip Schiller, Apple senior vice president of global marketing, said in a statement.

The 21.5-inch model will come with a 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Haswell Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds of up to 3.2GHz and new Iris Pro graphics for $1,299, or with a 2.9GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost speeds of up to 3.6GHz and Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics for $1,499.

The 27-inch iMac will be available either with a 3.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds of up to 3.6GHz and Nvidia GeForce GTX 755M graphics for $1,799 or with a 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds of up to 3.8GHz and Nvidia GeForce GTX 775M graphics for $1,999.

The new iMacs, of course, come with a full-size wireless keyboard and the Apple Magic Mouse, with its multi-touch surface and support for gestures like scrolling and swiping.

They also include a FaceTime HD camera, two Thunderbolt ports, four USB 3.0 ports (that are compatible with USB 2.0), a Gigabit Ethernet port, an SDXC card slot and a Kensington lock slot. The 21.5-inch iMac measures 17.7 by 20.8 by 6.9 inches and weighs 12.5 pounds, while the 27-inch model measures 20.3 by 25.6 by 8 inches and weighs 21 pounds.

The worldwide PC market, competing for buyers against tablets, phablets and more, fell for the fifth consecutive quarter, Gartner reported in July. During the second quarter, worldwide PC shipments fell to 76 million units—a drop of nearly 11 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

In the United States, Apple's market share fell to 11.6 percent, from 12 percent a year ago, while Lenovo grew it share from 8.3 percent to 10.1 percent, and even Dell jumped nearly 2 percentage points, to 24.6 percent.

IDC, by contrast, found Apple's market share to have increased slightly, from 11.4 percent to 11.5 percent, while shipments were nearly flat—1.81 million during the quarter, versus 1.82 million units a year ago.

The new iMacs are available immediately.