RealTime IT News

Largest iMacs Plagued With Delays, Problems

A product shortage is both a blessing and a curse. It means a vendor is selling out of a product and it is in demand. It also means they can't meet the demand, which could be an indication of problems somewhere in the supply chain.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is wrestling with such a problem with its new 27-inch iMac computer. At best, it's taking a few weeks to get one. At worst, a few months, it all depends on the retailer. Not the kind of news a vendor wants in the middle of the Christmas shopping season.

When contacted for comment, Apple told InternetNews.com: "The new iMac has been a huge hit and we are working hard to fulfill orders as quickly as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience or delay this may cause our customers."

But customers might be better off. The 27-inch iMac, which launched last month, has been plagued with a number of problems. Initially there were reports of very slow performance. The iMac has an Intel Core i7 processor, the latest desktop CPU from Intel. There have been no problems at all with the 21-inch iMac that also shipped last month, and it uses a Core i5 processor.

The predominant problem lately, though, has been video performance. It's the subject of discussions on Apple's own support boards and other Apple boards, where the most common complaint is video flicker.

The site iMac Squeaked has a menu selection where people can sort the problems customers of the new iMac are experiencing. The problem seems to be centered around the ATI Radeon graphics cards in these computers.

ATI had never enjoyed much business with Apple, which has stronger ties with its main competitor, graphics chip supplier nVidia (NASDAQ: NVDA). But for these iMacs, ATI, a part of AMD (NYSE: AMD) was able to score a deal to supply two video chips, the 4670 and 4850.

Among the 280 customers who bought an iMac with a Radeon 4670 on iMac Squeaked board site, 149 (53 percent) reported a flicker problem. Of the 571 who bought a 4850, 196 (34.3 percent) reported a flicker problem. Of the 22 that bought an older iMac with an nVidia GeForce 9400m, only two (0.09 percent) had a video problem.

So far, the only person pointing fingers at ATI is Broadpoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall, who told MacNewsWorld "The 27-inch iMac has a problem with the AMD ATI graphics card. They should have stuck to Nvidia."

AMD declined to comment for the story as did Nvidia.

A combination of problems?

But John Jacobs, an analyst with DisplaySearch, wasn't so sure if it's the card as it could be the overall design of the system. The 27-inch iMac uses a very large display, with 2560x1440 resolution. That's a lot of pixels to be driven at once, and it stresses the limits of the GPU.

Some years ago, Apple released a 30-inch Cinema display and needed a new driving technology called a copper bus which was co-developed with LG Electronics, the maker of the panel and long-time Apple partner.

"I don't know if this 27-inch unit uses that or not, but typically when you get to that high of a resolution you have issues driving the signal. So it could be a combination of the display technology, the graphics card or the interplay of the two," he told InternetNews.com.

iMac 27-inch aside, Apple is not exactly hurting. New retail sales data from NPD Group show Mac sales were up 21 percent year-over-year in the months of October and November. Apple is on track to again sell three million units in the quarter, meeting its record sales in the third quarter of this year.