The only way to really know how something works is by taking it apart and the folks at iFixit did just that with a 21.5″ Thunderbolt iMac.
While many of the components were the same from the previous iMac, there were a few surprises. For instance, it’s now possible to replace the CPU and the graphics card separately instead of having to replace the entire logic board if either of them fail, which can get quite costly out of warranty. It would be interesting to see if Apple introduces upgrade kits that could be installed to extend the life of an iMac instead of having to buy a new one every few years.
Another change is the use of the Intel Z68 chipset for Sandy Bridge 1155, which Intel isn’t going to release until May 11th. The main advantage is Intel Smart Response Technology which uses both solid state drives (SSD) and hard disk drives (HDD) to improve performance by putting files that are accessed often on the SSD and putting everything else on the HDD. However, SSDs are rather expensive, which is why Intel is also going to come out with a Solid-State Drive 311 Series. It’s only 20 GB, but large enough to hold the Windows 7 operating system. This improves performance up to 355% depending on the application.
What does this have to do with the iMac? You can add an SSD to the Thunderbolt iMac, but it costs $650 to have both a 256 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD, which is a lot more than the $49 to $59 Intel will want for their 20 GB SSD. In other words, Apple uses a chipset that integrates solid state and hard disk drives, but then has the only option so terribly expensive that most people will just stick with the hard disk drive. Maybe in the future there will be an option for a smaller SSD when buying a new iMac, or maybe there will be a way to buy a smaller and cheaper SSD from Apple so you can take advantage of this new technology.
Regardless, it definitely looks as if SSD is going to be used a lot more in the near future for both desktops and laptops.