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Budget rendering on an iMac

Now, for the first time, Apple iMacs are available with 'quad-core' processors (Core i5 or Core i7, if you want to be pedantic). In the same way that multiple processors reduce render times, multiple cores on a single processor also share the computational load. They do this by delegating tasks across each of the cores, as opposed to having one core doing all the work. This can lead to a four-fold increase in speed, especially for rendering. ??Thanks to the quad-core processors, the new generation iMacs are much more efficient than their ancestors when it comes to rendering images - and, of course, they still feature all of the usual gadgets and gizmos you expect from Apple computers.

The workhorse that is the Mac Pro has boasted quad-core processing in previous generations, but only now does its Xeon processor come with the 'Nehalem' badge - which is also now shared by the i5 and i7 in the iMac. The Nehalem label itself is exactly that, but it represents some pretty effective technology; while previous Intel multi-core processors are placed on two separate 'dies' (parts of an integrated circuit), the Nehalem design is such that all cores sit on a single die. The advantage of this is that no data needs to travel outside the processor when moving from core to core, meaning you'll benefit from more efficient data transfer and faster processing. Not bad, eh?

To put that into perspective, tests using 3D software have shown that a 2.66GHz quad-core Nehalem processor performs as well as the 'faster' 3.00GHz Core 2 Quad. That's a speed improvement of 340Mhz!

Another feature of the latest releases from Apple is hyperthreading - supported in the Core i7 iMacs and all Mac Pros. Hyperthreading is a process by which multi-core CPUs are able to create 'virtual' cores, where two threads/tasks can run simultaneously on one core. In this way, a quad-core iMac has eight virtual cores that your operating system will recognise. Virtual cores are a tricky concept, but the upshot for you is better utilisation of available processing power, better multi-tasking, and quicker rendering.

Finally, on those occasions when you're not pushing the boundaries of 3D design, all i5 and i7 iMacs and all Mac Pro processors support a feature called Turbo Boost - which is actually as exciting as it sounds (or is that just me..?): Turbo Boost recognises when not all cores are being used, and increases the processing speed of the core that's in use. This little feature comes in very handy when you're just surfing the web or streaming video content, as it ensures you'll always get the most from your machine.

There's so much more we could say about Apple's latest releases, like how the new giant, HD screens are perfect for design work (not to mention watching movies!), so if you want to know more about which option is best for you, give our 3D team a call on 03332 409 309 or email Visit us on Facebook and Twitter (@Jigsaw24Video)