Apple's desktop lineup has typically pushed users requiring plenty of fast I/O towards the Mac Pro - but the latest iMac refresh has broken the tradition. While quad-core Sandy Bridge CPUs and faster ATI Radeon HD GPUs are welcomed, it's the addition of Thunderbolt ports (one in the 21.5-inch and two in the 27-inch) that really ups the ante for a number of professional users.

The new entry-level iMac will set you back $1199, and includes:

  • 21.5-inch, 1920x1080 pixel display
  • 2.5GHz quad-core Core i5 CPU with 6MB on-chip shared L3 cache
  • AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 512MB of GDDR5 memory
  • 500GB hard drive (7200 rpm)
  • FaceTime HD webcam
  • Four USB 2.0 ports
  • One FireWire 800 port
  • One Thunderbolt port
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad
  • Apple Wireless Keyboard

An additional $800 bumps things up to the following high-end configuration:

  • 27-inch, 2560x1440 pixel display
  • 3.1GHz quad-core Core i5 CPU with 6MB on-chip shared L3 cache
  • AMD Radeon HD 6970M with 1GB of GDDR5 memory
  • 1TB hard drive (7200 rpm)
  • Two Thunderbolt ports

If your budget permits, this model can be configured to include a 3.4GHz quad-core Core i7 CPU, an AMD Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and a solid-state drive in addition to the primary drive.

For a rundown on what the new Thunderbolt ports bring to the table, read my article Why Thunderbolt is so important for the MacBook Pro.

For more information on the new iMacs, visit Apple.