While it may not be the major redesign that many have been hoping for, Apple quietly announced the anticipated refresh of its 27-inch iMac today, and it’s actually a pretty serious update in terms of internal specs, improving Apple’s most popular desktop Mac in a few key areas.
This newest 27-inch iMac is likely the last Intel-based iMac we’ll ever see, since Apple is expected to significantly ramp up the transition to its own silicon next year; following the release of the new ARM-based chips on its 13-inch MacBook lineup, which is reportedly coming later this year, Apple will likely release a major iMac redesign next year as the first Apple Silicon-based desktop computer.
For now, however, there’s a lot to like about Apple’s newest 27-inch iMac, and in fact, as exciting as Apple’s new chips will surely be, there are some good reasons to stick with Intel for now, which means that this could be the iMac that some folks have been waiting or.
In addition to the obvious spec bump to a 10th-gen Intel processor, which we pretty much all knew was coming, Apple has also improved the quality of the 27-inch 5K Retina Display, thanks in part to a new nano-texture glass option, as well as bumping the specs of the camera, speakers, and mics.
As predicted by at least one leaker earlier this year, it’s also gone all-in on SSD, eliminating the now-anachronistic Fusion Drive technology, and of course it’s added the T2 Security Chip, finally bringing all of Apple’s Macs up to the same level of security architecture.
Up to 10 Cores
The boost to Intel’s latest 10th-gen CPUs also means that you can now soup up your iMac with a 10-core CPU. This is naturally the highest-end option — 6-core and 8-core versions are also still available — but it does mean that the standard iMac is now pushing into iMac Pro territory, with Turbo Boost speeds that now reach 5.0GHz for what Apple promises is 65 percent faster performance.
Apple has also doubled the maximum memory capacity, allowing you to max out the iMac with 128GB of RAM. It’s still nowhere close to the staggering 1.5TB you can put on the Mac Pro, of course, but it should offer a lot more headroom for all but the most intense projects.
The new iMac also gets the rumoured AMD Navi GPU upgrade, in the form of the Radeon Pro 5000 series graphics card, which can now be configured with up to 16GB of video memory and promises up to 55 percent faster graphics performance.
Apple has also improved the 5K Retina Display on the iMac in a couple of interesting ways, including the addition of True Tone technology for the first time — something that’s been available for so long on the iPhone, iPad, and MacBooks that we forgot that the iMac never actually included it before now.
While it’s arguably less necessary on a desktop Mac that operates under more consistent lighting conditions, it will still be a nice boon for those who do work like photo editing where colour accuracy is important.
A new nano-texture glass option is also now available — coming over from the Pro Display XDR — which should offer much better viewing under more challenging lighting conditions like bright rooms filled with indirect sunlight as it’s less reflective than even the most matte display finishes. That said, it doesn’t come cheap — the configure-to-order option will add another $500 to the base price.
FaceTime HD (Finally) Gets 1080p
Considering the high-resolution TrueDepth cameras found on Apple’s iPad Pro and iPhone devices, it’s rather ironic that the company’s Macs have been saddled with substandard 720p cameras for years, but at least this year’s iMac refresh finally fixes that, bringing the front FaceTime HD camera up to 1080p for the first time ever.
It’s also been tied into the T2 Security Chip, which has an Image Signal Processor that offers much better tone mapping, exposure control, and even face detection — although there’s no support for Face ID here, and despite the addition of the T2 chip, Touch ID is still out as well since there’s no integrated keyboard on which to place the fingerprint sensor.
Interestingly, though, Apple is also using the T2 Security Chip to improve the speakers with variable EQ for higher fidelity and deeper bass. It’s clear that there’s more going on with Apple’s T2 chip than just security. A “studio-quality” microphone array has also been added for better audio capture, likely similar to what was introduced in the 16-inch MacBook Pro last fall.
SSDs In, Fusion Drives Out
The other prediction that’s come true in this latest iMac is the elimination of the Fusion Drive in favour of SSDs across the board, with capacities of up to 8TB, much like most of Apple’s other high-end Macs.
To be fair, the Fusion Drive was never much more than a stop-gap measure to allow Apple to offer cost-effective SSD performance without sacrificing higher storage capacities, generally blending a 256GB SSD with a 1TB or 2TB HDD and automatically keeping the data that needed high-speed access on the much faster SSD.
As SSD prices have plummeted, however, there’s really no place for the Fusion Drive, and it’s sort of surprising Apple hasn’t phased it out of the iMac before now. A pure SSD configuration should allow for much better performance across the board, and takes away the overhead of making the system try to manage the two different storage areas.
The addition of the T2 Security Chip is also a key component to the move to SSD as well, since it offers on-the-fly encryption, meaning that iMac users will now finally be able to enable FileVault without having to wait several hours for the entire drive to be encrypted.
The Other iMacs
Although the 21.5-inch iMac hasn’t gotten nearly as exciting of an update, Apple does note that it will now come standard with SSDs across the line for the first time, although it will still be possible to configure it with a Fusion Drive instead for those who would prefer the more affordable option.
The iMac Pro, which was originally released in late 2017 and hasn’t been previously refreshed at all, now comes with a 10-core Intel Xeon CPU configuration as the base model, but otherwise remains completely unchanged from before; it doesn’t even get the new nano-texture glass option of the standard 27-inch iMac. It’s basically the exact same product with the lowest-end configuration taken off the list.
The new 27-inch iMac starts at $1,799 for a (very) base model that features a 3.1GHz 6-core 10th-gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of DDR memory, a 256GB SSD, and the Radeon Pro 5300 with 4G of GDDR6 memory.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, for $8,799 you can get the new iMac fully loaded with a 3.6GHz 10-core Intel i9 CPU, 128GB of DDR4 memory, a Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB of GDDR6 memory, an 8TB SSD, 10Gbps ethernet, and of course the $500 nano-texture glass display too.
All of Apple’s new iMacs are available to order now on Apple’s online store, and should be showing up in Apple’s retail stores later this week.