As you can read in our full benchmark report, there is now a wide performance gap between the low-end iMac and the next step up the product line. The new $1099 iMac was slower across the board, and 54 percent slower overall, than the $1299 21.5-inch system. One thing to note: We weren't crazy about the $1299 model when it shipped. It offered just modest speed improvements over the October 2012 system and most of that was due to the $1299 iMac's use of Iris Pro graphics — which are not included in the new $1099 system. We tested the new entry-level iMac with the optional Fusion Drive installed and found its superior storage performance helped the custom iMac post a 23 percent higher Speedmark score than the stock system.
The price of buying an iMac just went down. The big question: Is a 15 percent lower price worth 50 percent lower performance? For people who buy Macs for their ease of use, stylish design, and seamless integration with iOS devices, this less expensive model offers all of that; it will also run most modern applications just fine. If you can swing it, however, the $1299 has double the processing cores running at nearly double the clock speed and twice the storage capacity of this new low-end iMac. And note: As I write this, refurbished versions of the $1299 system are available from the Apple Store for the same $1099 as this new iMac.
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