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Model A1311 / Mid 2010 / 3.06 & 3.2 GHz Core i3 or 3.6 GHz Core i5 Processor

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Best CPU AND GPU Upgrade for my iMac


I am thinking of upgrading my CPU and the GPU as I need to repair the broken HDD so why not get the most of opening up the computer.

I have a computer repairman friend who is willing to do this for me so it won't go wrong.

I am wondering, what is the best CPU and GPU I can put into my iMac at this moment in time?

I’m not really sure of what I should look at to see if it would be compatible with the Mac.

All the other posts were from 2014/15 so I wanted to see if there has been any chances.

Thank you


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Which CPU and GPU do you currently have?


I currently have the i3 3.06ghz variant with ATI Radeon HD 4670

I know an upgrade is possible, I was just wondering if I can put in an i7 which has a lower tdp than 73W?


I have seen people and even me once for a customer the GeForce got 750 that works really well with its 1gb onboard ram


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Your choices are limited to what Apple has used as well as what your system is able to support. So lets look at what Apple offered within your models series: iMac11,2 these are generally the best one can do.

Now lets take a deep dive into the discreet specs of your systems CPU: Intel I3-540 - 3.06 GHz (Clarkdale). Here we can see the TDP of the chip 73 W and the socket FCLGA1156 so any other CPU would need to also offer these. If we look at the Clarkdale CPU’s we see Intel never offered an i7 version. The best it offered was this chip Intel I5-680 - 3.60 GHz (Clarkdale) which looking at our listing of Macs is the top one in the iMac11.2 series.

So lets jump up the the next Intel CPU’s Apple used in the 2011 system series: iMac12,1 - Sandy Bridge CPU’s. Heres the best this series offered: Intel I7-2600S - 3.80 GHz (Sandy Bridge) as we can see the TDP is 65 W and the socket is LGA1155 so it won’t work in your system.

So best you can use is: Intel I5-680 - 3.60 GHz (Clarkdale) which your system can support.

Moving on to the GPU: The best this series offered was the ATI Radeon HD 5670 (512 MB) Apple P/N 661-5546 GPU board. The systems size limited the cooling unit so you really can’t go with a more powerful GPU board without cooking your system.

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Thank you,

I saw that i7 with a lower tdp and read a post saying that the macs motherboard supports all processors however the tdp must match. This post was old so I wasn't sure the current lower tdp chips can be supported since it is an outdated computer.


I upgraded my 2010 21.5 iMac to the Nvidia gtx 765m and runs perfectly however when you first boot you will have a slightly longer first boot so don’t panic :. You’ll find it much harder to get 32 gb of ram to finally work I’m using the Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD With exactly 3.54 sec boot time with Kali Linux and windows installed any help feel free to post a note here.


You can also use the Radeon HD 5670 Vram Type: GDDR3 if you insist on ati


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I know this has been some time, but in an effort to update the threads people come across when searching this (such as me), there are other options for both the CPU and the GPU.

First, the CPU. The Intel i5-680 3.6 GHz is the fastest 2 core processor you can use with the highest single core benchmark scores. However the i7-860S and i7-870S 4 core processors share the LGA1156 socket and work. These S variants are a 82 TDP and work in the 21.5" iMac. The i7-860S is a 2.53 GHz with a turbo boost of 3.46 GHz, but 4 cores. So while the single core benchmark scores average slightly lower than the i5, the multi-core scores are much better! The i7-860S is much easier to find and a lot more affordable than the i7-870S. The i7-870S is a 2.66 GHz with a turbo boost of 3.6 GHz. It can be hard to find and is over twice the cost of the 860S. Also, it is only very slightly faster. From looking at the Geekbench 4 tests, the score results are extremely close to just marginally faster… not really worth the much higher cost. An advantage of the i7 chipset is that you can use 32GB RAM, even with the 21.5” model!

Here’s my CPU benchmarks. First the i5-680 (3.6 GHz 2 core) -> and then the i7-860S (2.53 GHz 4 core) ->

For the GPU, the ATI Radeon HD 5670 (512 MB GDDR3) was the top 2010 GPU you can use. However, you can install the 2011 21.5 iMac's AMD Radeon HD 6770M (512 MB GDDR5) P/N 661-5945.

Here’s my OpenCL benchmarks. First the i5-680 with the ATI Radeon 5670 (512MB) -> and then the i7-860S with the AMD Radeon HD 6770M (512MB) ->

Just so this information can be seen, here’s the ‘About This Mac’, ‘Overview’ and ‘Displays’ from my 21.5” 2010 with the i7-860S CPU, 32GB RAM and the Radeon HD 6770M GPU.

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I case there are any questions about the second 43” display with 3840x2160 resolution. I’ve got a 4K TV that wanted to also use as a secondary monitor, but a basic Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter could only feed 1080p. After some search, and a couple of products tested by trial and error, I found two that gave me this 3840x2160 resolution. Ones the Plugable brand: Active Mini DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 Adapter, the other is the Cable Matters brand: Active Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter. The image is outstanding, and higher resolution than I expected to get since all the specs I found list the max secondary display resolution of 2560x1600. The only drawback is that I have only been able to get 30Hz.

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Great job on this mods. Your upgrade documentation on this post was the catalyst for me doing it also. Thx!!


Hello, thank you for the clear and concise information. How did you manage to get 32GB of RAM working? I thought it was not possible with a 2010 iMac? What brand/model RAM did you use please?


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Excellent walk through the options. The S variants of both the 860 and 870 have a TDP of at least 12 watts below their non-S counterparts which is what makes them sustainable for the iMac’s power supply I imagine, right?

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Hi All

Sorry to gatecrash the thread but on reading the thread I can see that some of you are extremley experience in iMac upgrades

I want to buy an iMac to explore and learn video editing but my budget won’t stretch more than £1000 ish right now as I’m in lock down and not working.

I have researched on the web to th epoint where I am getting confused.

I had settle to buy a late 2013 27 inch with i7 and gtx780m gpu, until I read somewhere it won’t be good enough for 5k

So basically I’m looking for an iMac for around £1000-1100, that can handle 5k and is relatively easy to upgrade RAM/CPU and GPU as and when I can afford.

Any advice would be welcome and sorry again for gate crashing

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Delekson zal eeuwig dankbaar zijn.

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