After two years, Apple dropped a surprise refresh of its 4K and 5K iMacs on us. Here’s what’s new, including top-end ninth-gen Core i9 CPUs.

imac-2019
Apple

Like a trail of breadcrumbs leading up to its event on March 25Apple announced updates to its iMac all-in-one desktops on Tuesday, following the launch of two new iPads on Monday.

What’s new? Upgraded eighth- and ninth-generation Intel Core CPUs and new AMD Radeon GPUs, just like we got in 2017. Notably, though, the top configuration now goes up to a ninth-gen Core i9 processor and Radeon Pro Vega graphics.

You can expect a noticeable performance increase from the new components, if only because of the increase in processor cores and clock speeds on the Intel chips and the move to AMD’s updated last-generation or newest Vega-architecture graphics.

The base 21.5-inch, non-Retina model remains the same, sticking with its $1,099 (£1,049, AU$1,699) price tag.

We hope that these internal upgrades don’t preclude an iMac redesign this year, though. While the good news is these enhancements come without concomitant price increases, the bad news is that the system’s design was already getting old in 2017 and some of the core features, like wireless networking and Bluetooth, could stand some upgrades.

IMAC 2017 VS. IMAC 2019 SPECS

iMac 21.5-inch 4K 2017 iMac 21.5-inch 4K 2019 iMac 27-inch 5K 2017 iMac 27-inch 5K 2019
Starting price (USD) $1,299 $1,299 $1,799 $1,799
Starting price (GBP) not available £1,249 £1,749 £1,749
Starting price (AUD) not available AU$1,999 AU$2,699 AU$2,799
Display 21.5-inch, 4,096×2,304 pixels, 16:9 aspect ratio 21.5-inch, 4,096×2,304 pixels, 16:9 aspect ratio 27-inch, 5,120×2,880 pixels, 16:9 aspect ratio 27-inch, 5,120×2,880 pixels, 16:9 aspect ratio
Pixel density 219 ppi 219 ppi 218 ppi 218 ppi
Color gamut 8-bit DCI P3 (with FRC dithering to 10 bits) 8-bit DCI P3 (with FRC dithering to 10 bits) 8-bit DCI P3 (with FRC dithering to 10 bits) 8-bit DCI P3 (with FRC dithering to 10 bits)
Max brightness 500 nits 500 nits 500 nits 500 nits
Processor options 7th-gen Intel Core i5 dual core, i7 quad core 8th-gen Intel Core i3 quad core; i5 or i7 hexacore 7th-gen Intel Core i5 dual core, i5 quad core, i7 quad core 8th-gen Intel Core i5 hexacore; 9th-gen i9 hexacore, i9 octocore
Graphics 2GB AMD Radeon Pro 555 or 4GB Radeon Pro 560 2GB AMD Radeon Pro 555X, 4GB Radeon Pro 560X, 4GB Radeon Pro Vega 20 4GB AMD Radeon Pro 570, 575; 8GB Radeon Pro 580 4GB DDR4 AMD Radeon Pro 570X, 575X; 8GB HBM2 580X, Radeon Pro Vega 48
Storage 1TB 5,400 rpm HDD, 1TB Fusion drive, 256GB to 1TB SSD; SD card slot 1TB 5,400  rpm HDD, 1TB Fusion drive, 256GB to 1TB SSD; SD card slot Up to 3TB Fusion drive or up to 2TB SSD; SD card slot Up to 3TB Fusion drive or up to 2TB SSD; SD card slot
RAM Up to 32GB 2,400MHz Up to 32GB 2,666MHz DDR4 Up to 64GB 2,400MHz Up to 64GB 2,666MHz DDR4
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
USB 3.0 Type A 4 4 4 4
USB-C/Thunderbolt 2 2 2 2
Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt 0 0 0 0
Additional monitors supported 1x 5K, 2x 4K UHD/Retina 4K 1x 5K, 2x 4K UHD/Retina 4K 1x 5K, 2x 4K UHD/Retina 4K 1x 5K, 2x 4K UHD/Retina 4K
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone jack
Camera FaceTime HD FaceTime HD FaceTime HD FaceTime HD

Notably, there don’t seem to be any more Core i7 options for the 27-inch model, probably because the core and clock-speed increases to the Core i5 serve to move it up to that performance class, though probably not the same performance level. Given the addition of another level of processors — the Core i9s have joined i3, i5 and i7 in Intel’s CPU lineup since 2017 — something had to go to maintain the pricing structure.

The new base 5K model moves from a dual-core seventh-gen Core i5 to a quad-core eighth-gen Core i3 model, but while the new Core i3s don’t support Turbo Boost like the old i5, performance seems to be the same.

Keep in mind that iMacs tend to deliver performance roughly equivalent to similarly configured MacBook Pros. Like many all-in-one desktop manufacturers, Apple uses a lot of laptop parts because they have the same hot-components-in-a-small-space issues.

The i9 configurations, starting at $2,299, are definitely welcome for people who want some of the power of an iMac Pro but hyperventilate at the $4,999 starting price. The top iMac configuration — the 3.6GHz base/5GHz boost version with 64GB RAM, a Radeon Pro Vega 48 and 2TB SSD — will run you $5,249, which is still cheaper than a similarly configured iMac Pro at $5,999.

By opting for the iMac instead of the Pro, you sacrifice a workstation-class Intel Xeon processor, some GPU processing power (the Pro starts with a Vega 56), ECC memory and the higher-bandwidth networking, but it’s nice to see some powerful intermediate price and configuration options between mainstream consumer and workstation systems.

Speaking of which, the iMac Pro didn’t get updated, but that’s not surprising — there’s nothing to upgrade at the moment, since workstation parts are on a longer update cycle than consumer ones. There aren’t any Coffee Lake (eighth-gen) versions of the Xeon W CPUs, and AMD has only just released its first consumer card based on its latest 7-nanometer Zen architecture.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here