While Apple’s portable devices receive the lion’s share of attention these days, its all-in-one iMac desktop computers have remained popular with businesses — as likely to be at the front reception desk as in C-suite offices. Now that long-awaited keyboard and processor upgrades have been completed across the MacBook lineup, the iMac is finally getting an update, though it will use recent Intel processors rather than the “Apple silicon” announced for upcoming Macs at this year’s WWDC.
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Contrary to rumors that circulated ahead of today’s announcement, the new iMac hasn’t been fully redesigned — instead, it continues to use the same chassis that iMacs have sported for years, as a completely new iPad Pro-inspired model reportedly waits in the wings for release. Consequently, the latest iMac still comes in a 27-inch screen size, while a successor model is expected to have a 30-inch screen. Apple has, however, introduced a matte glass option for the new iMac using nano-textured glass — a feature debuted in the Pro Display XDR last year.
The new 27-inch iMac does improve upon its predecessor’s performance. Over the 16 months that have passed since the last iMac upgrade, Intel’s 10th-generation Core processors have made their way into both Apple laptops and rival machines, leaving last year’s 8th- and 9th-generation Core-based iMacs conspicuously behind the curve. Apple’s prior 27-inch iMac lineup started at $1,799 with six-core i5 CPUs across the board, with the option of upgrading to an eight-core i9 chip, while its 21.5-inch models started with a dual-core, non-Retina $1,099 model, but offered a higher-end Retina screen and quad-core Intel i3 processor for only $200 more, then a second $200 step with a six-core i5.
Today’s 27-inch machines include new Core i5, i7, and i9 chips from the 10th-generation “Comet Lake-S” family. The highest end Core i9 chip has 10 cores, with a base clock speed of 3.6GHz, turbo boosting to 5.0GHz, and is available as an optional upgrade to the $2,299 8-core i7, which has a higher base clock speed of 3.8GHz, and the same turbo peak speed. For $1,999, users can get a 6-core 3.3GHz Intel Core i5 version with a peak single-core speed of 4.8GHz, while a $1,799 model has a 3.1GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 with 4.5GHz turbo speed. The low and mid range machines feature a Radeon Pro 5300 GPU, while the higher end one has a Radeon Pro 5500XT, up from the Radeon Pro 555X and 560X options found in prior iMacs. Radeon Pro 5700 and 5700XT GPU options are available for the top of line model.
Apple’s decision to release the new iMac with Intel internals raises some interesting questions about its plans for the Apple silicon transition, which is scheduled to kick off later this year. In October 2005, Apple famously released an updated iMac G5 as one of its last models with a PowerPC processor, only to release an improved Intel version three months later. It remains to be seen whether an iMac with Apple’s own CPU and GPU will follow as quickly, or take longer due to high-end chip engineering challenges.