Time for a new iMac! To me, I mean it. My 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display from 2014 has halved since the internal SSD failed (see “Six lessons learned from handling an iMac’s dead SSD,” April 27, 2020). Although the Samsung T5 external SSD has worked well when everything is running, the iMac starts up and shuts down slowly, Wi-Fi does not become available for several minutes after startup, but the Apple Watch only works occasionally to unlock the Mac, even if it always works to approve app authentication requests and i have seen some core panic. It’s not dead, but it’s not a happy Mac.
So Apple’s announcement of a significant update to the 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display comes at a welcome time. Although there are no changes in industrial design, it is not a half-hearted speed bulb update. Along with faster 1
At the same time, Apple adjusted the configurations of the 21.5-inch iMac, and finally removed the option for a performance-draining hard drive, and the iMac Pro dropped the 8-core model and made the 10-core model the base configuration.
Faster CPUs, more memory, updated graphics, more storage and T2
When it comes to chips, the new iMacs have 10th generation Intel Core i5, i7 and i9 processors. In the low-end model, there is a 3.1 GHz 6-core i5. That configuration cannot be upgraded. The mid-range iMac includes a 3.3 GHz 5-core i5 and can be upgraded to a 3.6 GHz 10-core i9 for $ 500. And the top model starts with a 3.8 GHz 8-core i7 and lets you jump to 3 , 6 GHz 10-core i9 for $ 400.
All 27-inch iMac models start with 8 GB of RAM in the form of two 4 GB DIMMs, with two more user-friendly DIMM slots available. You can upgrade to 16 GB ($ 200), 32 GB ($ 600), 64 GB ($ 1000) or, for the first time on the iMac line, 128 GB ($ 2600). Honestly, there is no good reason why I can see buying RAM from Apple, given that it is so much cheaper from third parties and so easily upgraded by just jumping off a panel on the back. To give you an idea, OWC sells 32 GB of RAM for $ 135, 64 GB for $ 310 or 128 GB for $ 600.
Graphics processing will also improve significantly, thanks to a next-generation AMD Radeon Pro 5300 with 4GB of memory in low-end and mid-range models. The advanced model starts with a Radeon Pro 5500 XT with 8 GB of RAM, and you can upgrade to a Radeon Pro 5700 with 8 GB for $ 300 or a Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16 GB for $ 500.
When it comes to storage, Apple has dropped Fusion Drive altogether. Slightly disturbingly, the company limits your storage options based on which model you choose. The low-end model is locked to 256 GB of storage, which is not very much. The midrange model starts with 512 GB, which feels like a reasonable minimum these days, and allows you to expand to 1 TB ($ 200) or 2 TB ($ 600). And the advanced model takes the iMac to a new and conspicuously expensive territory, starting again at 512 GB and offering the same updates 1TB and 2TB, but then adding 4TB ($ 1200) and 8TB ($ 2400) options.
Like the iMac Pro, the 27-inch iMac now sports the Apple T2 security chip, which provides on-the-fly data encryption for everything stored on the SSD and confirms that the operating system has not been tampered with during startup. Of course, it also makes certain types of troubleshooting and repairing hardware much more difficult or even impossible. In addition, the T2 chip has an image signal processor that promises to enhance video and offers variable EQ for better sound. When we talk about it…
Better audio, video and networking
For some people, the big news with this new iMac is the ability to swap the glass surface of the Retina 5K screen for a nano-textured glass. The nano-texture glass alternative was first introduced on Apple’s insanely expensive Pro Display XDR, and provides a matte surface that provides better viewing in bright rooms or indirect sunlight without requiring additional coating. If blending is a major issue for you, the nano-textured glass option may be worth the $ 500 extra cost.
Also welcome in this era of non-stop video conferencing will be the 1080p FaceTime HD camera, supported by the T2 chip’s image signal processor. Although Apple does not specify the resolution of the FaceTime HD camera used in previous models, I think it was 720p. Previously, only the iMac Pro had a 1080p webcam.
Resolution is not the whole story of video quality, and I would be curious to see how well the iMac’s new camera and image signal processor handles low light situations. We recently had two outdoor Zoom calls, one using a 10.5-inch iPad Pro’s 1080p front-facing camera and the other using a 2012 MacBook Airs 720p FaceTime HD camera. The iPad Pro handled the light that faded throughout the evening far better than the MacBook Air.
Apple says that the iMac has higher fidelity speakers, although it is difficult to know how much of it is better speaker hardware and how much comes from the T2 chip that does more processing on the audio output.
Previously, the iMac had only a single microphone, but it now boasts a three-mic array with a high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming. And of course, thanks to the T2 chip, the new iMac has support for “Hey Siri.”
The ports remain almost the same with a 3.5mm headphone jack, an SDXC card slot, four USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet connector, and a Kensington lock slot. New in this update is a $ 100 option for 10 Gigabit Ethernet. 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 are standard.
Prices and availability
As previously mentioned, it is important to start with the right model of 27-inch iMac, depending on what options you may want.
- The low-end model starts at $ 1799 and only offers upgrades to RAM, the nano-texture glass and 10 Gigabit Ethernet.
- The midrange model starts at $ 1999 and does not provide the top two storage options, or allows you to choose from Radeon Pro graphics chips.
- The advanced model, which allows you to access all the options, starts at $ 2299.
These prices are the same as the iMac’s latest revision, making the new models a generally good deal.
Apple’s online store is currently showing a delivery date of August 7, 2020, so you should not have to wait long to get one of these iMacs.
On to Apple Silicon
It is impossible to know which variables will cause Apple to update certain Mac models with Intel chips instead of including them in the new custom chips that the company is developing. However, the release of this iMac model suggests that the first Mac with Apple Silicon will be a laptop or a Mac mini. It would not make much sense to update the 27-inch iMac with 10th generation Intel chips in August and revise it again with new Apple silicon in a few months.
I will order one of these iMacs as soon as I can figure out the best combination of CPU and GPU for my needs. None of my work is demanding, but I run many apps at the same time and hit RAM quite hard. Usually I buy a beefier model than what is absolutely necessary because I expect a Mac to last around 5 years – I got almost 6 years from my current iMac – but given the transition to Apple’s silicon, it would probably make sense to replace it for .
While I had planned to replace my MacBook Air from 2012 with the new 2020 model, I shelved the plans when it became clear that I would not travel in the foreseeable future. Fortunately, the first Mac with Apple Silicon will be a MacBook Air laptop, so I can dip my toes in Apple’s new chips and get a warm new travel machine.
21-i5-cm iMac: Ding, Dong, the internal hard drive is dead!
Although Apple did not update the 21.5-inch iMac in any way, the company made a small configuration adjustment that will save effort for consultants and heartache for consumers. That’s right, Apple has finally replaced the universally revived 5400 rpm hard drive that came in the low-end 21.5-inch iMac with an SSD. Consultants will no longer have to warn people not to buy it, and no longer will those who are slandered with substandard performance.
This feature makes SSDs standard over the 21.5-inch iMac line, and indeed across the entire Mac line. This is not to say that Fusion Drive, which combines a 1 TB hard drive with a 32 GB SSD, is completely gone, but it is now just a royalty-free alternative to the standard 256 GB SSD. I’m not a fan of Fusion Drive, because problems with both make it useless and difficult to replace. Stick to an internal SSD and add an external hard drive if you need more space. You need one for backups anyway.
iMac Pro Base configuration gets multiple cores
In an even less interesting change, Apple dropped the 8-core Intel Xeon W processor from iMac Pro configurations, making the 10-core Xeon W a base-level processor. That means you get a little more performance for your money, but it’s sad that Apple has not paid any other attention to the iMac Pro since its launch in December 2017. Its 14-core and 18-core configurations are likely to still provide more performance than 27- inch iMacs new 10-core configuration, but the gap is undoubtedly narrowed and may no longer be worth the thousands of dollars.