Apple today updated its education store with a new iMac for especially price-conscious schools: for $999, you can buy a 21.5" iMac with a 3.1 GHz dual-core Core i3, 2GB of RAM, a 250 GB hard drive, a Radeon HD 6750M with 256MB of RAM, and a Mini DisplayPort connector - that's right, there's no Thunderbolt port in this iMac, though the computer is otherwise identical to the base-model Sandy Bridge iMac released earlier this year (which costs $1,149 for education customers). 

This continues Apple's tradition of offering discontinued and cut-rate Macs to education-only customers - note that in this case, "education-only" doesn't refer to the Education Store accessible by the students, faculty, and staff members at most colleges and universities, but the special Apple Store available only to people purchasing computers on the behalf of their institution. Apple also offers these purchasers the white unibody MacBook and an early 2009-model 20" Core 2 Duo iMac, each for $899. 

I don't really understand what the market for this thing is supposed to be - to save a meager $150, you lose half your processor cores, half your graphics RAM, half your regular RAM, half your hard drive space, and your Thunderbolt port, and the only part upgradeable when purchasing is RAM (4GB will set you back $90, mostly negating your savings over the base model, and 8GB costs an exhorbitant $270).

There are some very, very limited-use cases in which a Mac is needed and every dollar counts (think kiosk computers or basic computer lab machines), but to me this seems like a poor choice for your money - stay away from this thing unless you have a really good reason not to.

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  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    I didn't say iMacs or any Mac is the best option at all. I agree with you 100% that it's silly to buy iMacs for document editing.

    However, like someone mentioned above, some schools have their infrastructure designed for Macs so switching from Mac to Windows/Linux might actually be more expensive than paying the premium for iMacs (you would most likely replace all equipment and possibly even server staff, although Windows can be installed on Macs). I would say that is the only reasonable reason to stick with Macs.
  • uhuznaa - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    If you don't need what this thing is lacking, $150 saved is $150 saved. If you buy large numbers this soon adds up to real money. And putting in more RAM is very easy with the iMac, so you don't need to buy it from Apple. Small HD, no Thunderbolt and less video RAM is totally inconsequential in many such use cases anyway.

    I wouldn't buy this iMac (the "normal" one is a quite nice machine) but having more options here can't be wrong.
  • blueeyesm - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    These will most likely end up as lab systems, with the difference in cost applied to service contracts. That's where the choice comes into play.

    They'll probably replacing 5-6 yr old systems, where the latest and greatest are not needed, as they haven't hit the mainstream-cost effectiveness pinnacle.

    These machines won't be stressed out, seeing as though they'll be capable of 90% of the internet needs for a student, or just used to write code, letters, papers, etc.

    At any rate, what budgets are the American public education going to have once spending cuts are imposed? They'll look pretty damned good, compared to nothing.
  • solipsism - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Let's imagine there was some sort of "institution" that wanted to by hundreds or even thousands of iMacs. Let's also say that this institution didn't need to have the fastest processor, the most RAM, the bestest video card, etc. If they spent an extra $150 per machine how much extra would they be pointlessly spending if if they bought 500, 2000, and 5000 iMacs?

    Let's also imagine that Apple doesn't like to create new products that don't have a viable market. Let's also imagine that they we inundated with requests to get a lower-priced iMac for educational use which is why they created the Core i3 iMac.
  • darwinosx - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Andrew certainly doesn't understand the situation with school purchasing and funds. Save your recommendations for markets you understand.

    Also you can buy ram elsewhere for a much smaller amount than from Apple and then have a perfectly fine Mac.

    Macs are more expensive than cut rate piece of junk PC's but they save that cost many times over in maintenance and support.
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    "Macs are more expensive than cut rate piece of junk PC's but they save that cost many times over in maintenance and support."

    LOL. Keep telling yourself that.
  • yankeeDDL - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    I really don't understand most of the comments: "I think $150 really counts", "If you don't need what this thing is lacking, $150 saved is $150 saved" ...

    If $150 matter to you, then you don't buy a Mac.
    For $950, you can get a laptop (with all the benefits over a desktop) with a much faster CPU, 4GB of RAM, 500GB of HD and double video memory. From Sony, which is not exactly known for low prices (

    A very quick look into all in one desktops: for $939 you can get this
    Larger monitor, faster CPU, more memory ... and totally touch screen.
    And of course I would question the all-in-one solution for schools to begin with (in case of PCs that are going to be ab-used by ordes of students, I would think that a modular approach, that can be serviced/repaired more easily, with standard, off-the-shelves components, are a better solution).

    If you don't need OSX and you want to save money, don't buy a Mac.
    If Apple was selling this PC at $700, one could argue that it was a good deal for school: an undoubtedly good tool for an attractive price for the goods of education. But at $1000 is just a slightly less overpriced Mac: taxpayers money are better spent elsewhere.
  • PCTC2 - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Well, you can purchase an 8GB kit for around $60-70 online, and then it's still $90 cheaper. For a not-so-well-off educational institution (I've worked at educational institutions for years now as a sysadmin), then saving $90 on between 300 and 600 computers ends up being at least $27000, which is a lot of computers. I did an overhaul of a school system. They bought 500 Pentium D PCs right after Core 2 Duo's came out, because they were $100 cheaper. Sure, any person would say that the $100 would be well worth it, but they couldn't afford that extra $50000 and to be honest, they were using Pentium II and III machines and the move to Pentium D was big enough anyways. It's not like smaller institutions are made of money. Sure, the big players will go for the newer $1149 model, but for student labs and for teachers, the $999 is much more economical.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    And so, to save $50000 in the upgrading of 500 PCs, they went with power hungry Pentium D desktops that will negate the $100 savings within a year or two at most. Ugh.
  • DanNeely - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Reuse your existing keyboard/mouse/monitor (or even buy cheapos new) and save even more.

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