New Retina 5K iMac
The big iMac gets a Skylake processor
From £1,849 Apple apple.com/uk
Processor 3.3GHz Intel Core i5 Memory 8GB Storage 2TB Fusion Drive
This is Apple’s first really big refresh of its 5K iMac lineup, and it’s quite an interesting one. For a start, Apple has stopped making non-5K 27-inch iMacs, but has brought the price of the lowerend 5K model down further, and has introduced a new mid-range option, but it’s the high-end model we’ve got for review. All of the models include Intel’s latest generation of processors, but at lower clock speeds than their equivalents from last year.
There are new graphics cards in all of them too, and this highest-end model offers a 2TB Fusion Drive, up from 1TB in the previous offering. Perhaps most importantly, though, is a new screen – still a 5120x2880pixel Retina masterpiece, but it can now support a wider colour range than before – a 25% larger range, to be precise, meaning more realistic colour representation, if you’ve got the right media to show it off.
For creative professionals, this can be a big deal. It means that raw photos can be processed with a new eye on their colour representation, eliminating banding artefacts in gradients, and the results can be pretty striking – reds especially looked richer to us, even compared to last year’s Retina 5K iMac. For some people, the gamut improvement alone will make the new iMac a must-have upgrade – being able to get more colour out of your raw photos is a powerful draw. For the rest of us, though, it’s more of an academic improvement – it will really only be noticeable to pros, and even then, some people won’t be keen that the display still has a reflective, glossy finish. That said, this is probably the best desktop screen ever, and we absolutely love it.
Slower, but faster
Despite this model having a slightly lower processor speed than its 3.5GHz predecessor, Intel’s overall improvements to the complexity and capability of its chips mean that this model is about 10% faster when performing real tasks – it managed our HandBrake multi-core video encoding test in 27 minutes, while last year’s did it in 30 mins. Our benchmarking tests, including Geekbench’s single-core performance measurements, reflected this improvement too.
In terms of graphics, we got essentially the same results here as the previous model. The Tomb Raider benchmark (running at 2560x1440 on High settings) recorded 49fps on average, which is exactly what last year’s scored. Our Batman: Arkham City test actually got a couple of frames lower when running at 1920x1080, but we suspect that’s down to quirks of it being a game that’s a few years old now – the difference was negligible in any case.
For some people, the colour gamut improvement alone will make the new Retina 5K iMac a must-have upgrade
Factor in that Apple has doubled the size of the Fusion Drive you get, and you have a machine that’s an even better deal than last year’s, which we already loved. It hasn’t progressed all that much in that time, but that’s kind of inevitable – Intel and Apple are both making big leaps in performance for low-power processors, but at the higher end, Intel’s progress is pretty slow. Getting something 10% faster and with the even better screen is about as good as we could have hoped for.
One thing that hasn’t changed from the previous 5K models is that it comes with 8GB of RAM – enough for home use. Call us old-fashioned, but we tend to feel that a £1800+ machine that’s mostly attractive to pro users should probably come The 5K iMac’s connectivity hasn’t changed; there’s no sign of Thunderbolt 3 just yet, but what’s there is a good range of ports. with 16GB of RAM as standard. Fortunately, you can still upgrade the 5K iMacs with more RAM after you purchase (unlike the 21.5-inch iMacs, including the new 4K model, which must be configured when you buy due to the RAM being soldered in), meaning you can save money on Apple’s RAM prices.
The new iMac comes with Apple’s new accessories, of course – the new Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2 (or you can get the Magic Trackpad for an upgrade cost). As you can see on p87, we really like the new keyboard, the Magic Mouse is pretty much the same as it ever was, and the trackpad is a nice upgrade for those worried about RSI or similar computer-use woes.
We still thoroughly recommend the high-end 5K iMac, of course – it’s still knocking on the door of the Mac Pro for high-end work such as HD or even 4K video editing, unless you’re talking about upgrading to an eightcore Mac Pro and applying a lot of advanced effects. For most work on video, photography, illustration and many more tasks, there’s simply no need to go pro – you get loads of power here, with an amazing screen already attached! (And, if you need even more power, there’s still a 4GHz model available, which is just astonishingly powerful.)
The previous high-end 5K iMac scored five stars, while this one hasn’t – why is that? We think it should come with 16GB of RAM, it’s true, but one of the biggest reasons is the new mid‑range model.
That model features a processor that’s slower only by a couple of percent, a graphics card that’s a bit less powerful, but still offers a solid 2GB of VRAM, and a Fusion Drive at 1TB instead of 2TB, which is still plenty for most people. It’s £250 less, and, of course, you still get the newer, flashier 5K screen with wider colour range. Even a year on from Apple’s initial 5K iMac launch, buying a 5K monitor separately will set you back most of the cost of even an iMac, without the computer parts. And they won’t look as good.
We think most people will find the middle model offers all the iMac they need, and so we would mostly recommend people go for that. But this high-end option is excellent too, if you want the extra storage space and power it offers. Matt Bolton Still a fantastic machine, with its spectacular screen made even better. But do look at the mid-range option.
5K display better than ever
Generous 2TB Fusion Drive
Only 8GB of RAM despite price
What you can’t see here is just how great the improved P3 display in the new Retina 5K iMac looks – even compared to last year’s amazing model.