Apple bumps Power Mac line, cuts LCD prices

Apple Computer has refreshed its line of desktop computers, offering a new top-end Power Mac that sports dual 2.7GHz G5 processors, a new graphics card from ATI and a new 16x SuperDrive that can burn data to double-layer DVDs. Apple also unveiled a new dual 2.3GHz G5 model as its midrange dual-processor desktop computer and continues to sell two models it had offered before: a single 1.8GHz G5 Power Mac for $US1499, and the dual 2GHz G5 model, which now sells for $US1999 - a $US500 price reduction for that version.

The new dual 2.3GHz G5 model is priced at $US2499, and the top-end version sells for $US2999. That's the same price the now-discontinued dual 2.5GHz G5 models sold for.

Like the just-discontinued dual 2.5GHz G5 models, the new king-of-the-hill Power Mac is liquid-cooled. The other models are air-cooled.

Apple also announced price cuts on two of its LCDs. The entry-level 20-inch widescreen display drops in price from $US999 to $US799, and the 23-inch display drops from $US1799 to $US1499. The price of the 30-inch display remains $US2999, but buyers of the new top-end Power Mac no longer need to shell out extra money for a video card to drive that display.

The built-in ATI Technologies Radeon video card in the dual 2.7GHz G5 model will run the behemoth 30-inch Apple Cinema Display out of the box.

"We have been hard at work on virtually every part of stack, from the hardware and the displays through Tiger and the the enabling technologies [in it]," vice-president, worldwide, for Mac product marketing, David Moody, said. "We have been busy."

The new Power Macs, which had been widely expected, are available immediately and will come with Apple's about-to-be-released Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger operating system installed.

Tiger officially will be released on Friday.

Although Apple only announced the hardware upgrades on Wednesday morning, jumped the gun, offering the dual 2.7GHz G5 model for preorder on its website on Tuesday -- prompting speculation in the Mac community that new desktop machines were imminent.

Although the dual 2.7GHz model is the fastest yet offered by Apple, it still falls short of the 3GHz processors Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, had predicted would be released last year. Jobs backed off on that forecast last year after it became clear that IBM was having problems pushing its processors to faster speeds.

Nonetheless, Apple officials touted the new models as representing a solid jump in processing speed that offer customers better value - especially when paired with the cheaper Apple Cinema Displays, according to Scott Brodrick, Apple product marketing manager for displays.

"The lower price points on the Cinema Display line are a great complement to the Power Mac line," he said. "For our pro customers, this is a real value."

Although the price of the largest of Apple's three LCDs is unchanged, Brodrick stressed that customers who want to use the 30-inch display actually saved almost $US500 they would have otherwise had to spend for an upgraded video card.

The top-end power Mac features the ATI Radeon 9650 video card with 256MB of video RAM, which will support one of the 30-inch LCDs. Before Wednesday, buyers had to spend another $US450 on the NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL graphics card.

The ATI Radeon 9650 is available on the other two dual-processor models as a build-to-order option, but it isn't available on the entry-level single-processor Power Mac.

Customers who want to run two of the displays, however, would still need to buy the NVIDIA card, Brodrick said.

Apple officials also pointed to the new SuperDrive in the dual-processor machines, which can burn twice the amount of data to double-layer DVD disks. Single layer disks can hold up to 4.7GB of data; the double-layer disks hold 8.5GB. The new 16x SuperDrives also burn data at twice the speed of the previous models.

All three of the dual-processor models come with 512MB of DDR400 SDRAM standard, while the base model starts with half that amount. The dual 2.3GHz and dual 2.7GHz models also come with a 250GB Serial ATA hard drive; the dual 2GHz model has a 160GB hard drive, and the single-processor version has an 80GB drive.

A 400GB hard drive is available as a build-to-order configuration for either $US200 or $US275, depending on which dual-processor model is being upgraded.

In addition to the hardware announcements, Apple officials also took the time to again tout the technologies and applications included in Tiger, which senior product line manager for Mac OS X, Chris Bourdon, said would be a boon to users.

He pointed to the operating system's new search technology, Spotlight, as one addition that would improve the way users find files on their computers.

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