updated 06:28 pm EDT, Thu August 22, 2013
Resellers discounting iMacs ahead of expected fall refresh
A Hong Kong-based supply chain monitor has advised its readers that new MacBook Pros featuring the energy-efficient "Haswell" processor could conceivably appear as early as next week. In related news, major resellers are discounting prices on the current models of iMac in what appears to be an effort to clear excess inventory ahead of a fall Haswell-based refresh.
The major advantage of the Intel "Haswell" Core i5 and i7 chips is their significant energy efficiency, which is of more importance to notebooks than to desktop models. However, the chip also has support for the Intel HD 5000 and Iris 5200 graphics and on-board VRAM to help speed up graphics, which will give a boost even to machines with dedicated 3D cards.
The power efficiency of the Haswell chips will also be enhanced by significant new processor- and system-management techniques coming in OS X Mavericks (10.9), also expected this fall, which may well result in additional energy savings over and above the already-significant increase in battery life seen in the current MacBook Air models. Just based on the Haswell chip, the 11-inch Air gained four additional hours of battery life, while the 13-inch gained five.
Those gains will be even more popular with the MacBook Pro buyers, and on the iMac will both lower energy usage (becoming still more environmentally friendly) but will likely also increase the ability of the processor to handle more tasks due to the better allocation of resources, making an iMac seem faster even at the same clock speed.
The MacBook Pro and iMac models may sport the newer Iris class of graphics, with the distinct possibility that the next iMac may actually lose its dedicated graphics card due to the advancement of Intel's 3D chipsets (which are designed to compete with discrete cards) -- perhaps allowing the machine to reduce volume still further. A bigger question with the MacBook Pro refresh is whether the company will try to move to all-Retina displays, or reduce the number of traditional hard drive-based storage options. Both have been stated goals of the company since the MacBook Air was first introduced in 2008.
Also potentially on tap for the new MBPs and iMacs are options such as faster PCIe-based SSDs, and Thunderbolt 2 connectors -- though the iMac may be considered too much in the "consumer" class of device to warrant the latest connector. The current iMac is seeing discounting from many of Apple's major channel partners, with discounts of up to $150 off for the non-expandable 21.5-inch iMac models, and up to $180 off for 27-inch iMacs.
Deal-finder sites such as DealNN are reporting that resellers haven't been restocked on current iMac inventory for several weeks, AppleInsider reports. This could be, however, part of a bigger plan to rein in inventory levels following investor disappointment at surpluses seen in the previous quarter.
One thing is reasonably certain: whenever the refreshed iMacs appear, Apple will work to ensure that the units are available at retail quickly. The company caught some flack last year when the redesigned iMacs encountered production problems due to the complexity of new construction techniques, and pre-orders went under-filled for months before the unit was more widely available in early spring.