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Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 10:50 am PT (01:50 pm ET)

Apple rumored to release new iMacs with Sandy Bridge, Thunderbolt by early May

Apple may release a new line of iMac all-in-one desktop computers by the end of April or the first week of May with Sandy Bridge processors and the new high-speed Thunderbolt port, but no major cosmetic changes, according to a new rumor.

Brian Tong of CNet reported the rumor Tuesday on his Twitter account (via MacNews.de). Citing anonymous sources, he said that the new iMacs will be "en route by ocean" to the U.S. around the start of May, and the machines will be upgraded with Intel's latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors.

"We'll see if this pans out, but I'm highly confident in my source," Tong wrote. Aside from the anticipated inclusion of a Thunderbolt port, no other specifics were given.

The inclusion of both Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt ports on the new iMac lineup are expected. But the alleged ship date, by the first week of May to the U.S., is new information.

The iMac lineup was last updated in July of 2010, when the all-in-one desktops were outfitted with Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, along with ATI Radeon graphics. Those machines retained the same design first introduced when the iMac was given an edge-to-edge glass screen in October 2009.

Intel's Sandy Bridge processors debuted on Apple's new line of MacBook Pros in February with the high-end 15- and 17-inch systems sporting quad-core CPUs.

The new MacBook Pro models also marked the debut of Thunderbolt, a new input-output technology developed by Intel with collaboration from Apple. Featuring two bi-directional channels with transfer speeds up to 10Gbps each, it delivers PCI Express directly to external high performance peripherals such as RAID arrays, and can support FireWire and USB consumer devices and Gigabit Ethernet networks via adapters.