Which imac should you buy?

If you’re in the mar­ket for a new imac, Mac­world staff look at each model to help you find the right model

Macworld - - Contents -

The imac is a di­rect de­scen­dant of the very first Mac, and it’s of­ten the com­puter that long­time users think about when they think about the Mac­in­tosh. The imac’s all-in-one de­sign is pop­u­lar and iconic.

The imac is great for both novices and de­mand­ing users. It can han­dle gen­eral-pur­pose

and heavy-duty tasks equally well. It’s ideal for some­one who needs to buy a com­plete com­puter setup (key­board, mouse or track­pad, and dis­play) and wants to max­i­mize workspace ef­fi­ciency.

The cur­rent imac line-up was re­leased in

June 2017 dur­ing Ap­ple’s World­wide De­vel­op­ers Con­fer­ence, and the imac Pro was re­leased in De­cem­ber 2017. If you’re in the mar­ket for an imac, this guide will help you make the right choice. Ap­ple has two ver­sions of the imac: the stan­dard imac and the imac with Retina dis­play.

imac

Ap­ple has two ver­sions of the imac. Let’s go over the stan­dard model first, fol­lowed by the imac with Retina dis­play.

What is it? The imac is Ap­ple’s iconic all-in-one com­puter. Made of alu­minium, the imac has a builtin dis­play and looks stately as it sits on a desk. It also of­fers top-notch per­for­mance.

Who’s it for? The imac is great for both novices and de­mand­ing users. It can han­dle gen­eral-pur­pose and heavy-duty tasks equally well. It’s ideal for some­one who needs to buy a com­plete com­puter setup (key­board, mouse or track­pad, and dis­play) and wants to max­i­mize workspace ef­fi­ciency.

What are the spec­i­fi­ca­tions? One stan­dard imac model is cur­rently avail­able with a 21.5in 1920x1080-res­o­lu­tion dis­play. It has a 1TB hard

drive. (Ap­ple no longer makes a 27in imac with a stan­dard dis­play – more on that later).

The en­try-level 21.5in £1,049 imac (from fave.co/2spp­kfr) has a 2.3GHZ dual-core In­tel Core i5 pro­ces­sor and In­tel Iris Plus Graph­ics 640 in­te­grated graph­ics. The hard drive in the 21.5in imac mod­els is a 5,400rpm drive.

You can’t up­grade the 21.5in imac your­self af­ter you buy it, so con­sider pay­ing an ex­tra £180 at the out­set for a mem­ory up­grade to 16GB. If you want to add more RAM later, you need to bring the imac in to an Ap­ple store. The 21.5in imac also of­fers a Fu­sion Drive or a flash stor­age up­grade. The imac comes with Ap­ple’s Magic Key­board and Magic Mouse 2. If you or­der on­line from the Ap­ple Store, how­ever, you can switch the key­board to a ver­sion with a numeric key­pad, and switch the mouse to a wired

Ap­ple Mouse or a

Magic Track­pad 2

(£50). You

can opt to get both a Magic Mouse 2 and a Magic Track­pad 2 for £129 ex­tra.

The imac does not have an op­ti­cal drive. If you want to read or burn CDS and DVDS, you need to buy an ex­ter­nal USB op­ti­cal drive.

How do I con­nect stuff? Wi-fi and Blue­tooth are built-in. All imacs have four USB 3.0 ports, two Thun­der­bolt 3 ports, a gi­ga­bit eth­er­net port, and an SDXC card slot.

If you want to con­nect a Firewire de­vice, you’ll need to use a Thun­der­bolt-to-firewire Adap­tor (£29 from fave.co/2t32ulc). USB 2.0 de­vices can con­nect to the imac’s USB 3.0 ports.

How fast is it? The imacs are among Ap­ple’s fastest com­put­ers, how­ever, the £1,049 imac is Ap­ple’s slow­est imac. Also, if the imac has a hard drive, it’s a per­for­mance bot­tle­neck. If you can up­grade to a Fu­sion Drive or flash stor­age, you’ll gain a sig­nif­i­cant per­for­mance boost. The £1,049 ver­sion has an at­trac­tive price, but you make huge sac­ri­fices in per­for­mance.

Mac­world’s buy­ing ad­vice: For new Mac own­ers, the £1,049 imac is a good al­ter­na­tive to the Mac mini, pro­vid­ing a nice per­for­mance in­crease. If per­for­mance is your top pri­or­ity, con­sider a Fu­sion Drive up­grade. On a 21.5in imac, the 8GB of RAM should be fine, but buy­ing the RAM up­grade at the point of pur­chase could help you avoid some has­sle in the fu­ture.

imac with Retina dis­play

What is it? The imac with Retina dis­play is like Ap­ple’s stan­dard imac, but with an ul­tra high­res­o­lu­tion dis­play.

Who’s it for? The Retina imac is de­signed for pro­fes­sion­als who work with high-res­o­lu­tion videos, pho­tos, or im­ages. Or it’s for the de­mand­ing user who wants the best im­age qual­ity for ev­ery­day use.

What are the spec­i­fi­ca­tions? Ap­ple calls its two 21.5in mod­els the 21.5in imac with Retina 4K dis­play. These imacs have a 4096x2304 res­o­lu­tion screen. The £1,249 model (from fave.co/2sp­n6we) has a 3GHZ quad-core In­tel Core i5 pro­ces­sor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive, and 2GB Radeon Pro 555 graph­ics. The £1,449 model (from fave.co/2t3c­sqa) has a 3.4GHZ quad-core In­tel Core i5 pro­ces­sor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB Fu­sion Drive, and 4GB Radeon Pro 560 graph­ics.

Ap­ple’s 27in imacs (called the 27in imac with Retina 5K dis­play) come with a 5120x2880res­o­lu­tion Retina dis­play. Ap­ple of­fers three mod­els of the 27in Retina imac. The £1,749 model

(from fave.co/2t3e­jvb) has a 3.4GHZ quad-core In­tel Core i5 pro­ces­sor, a 1TB Fu­sion Drive, and 4GB Radeon Pro 570 graph­ics. The £1,949 model (from fave.co/2t3raxh) has a 3.5GHZ quad-core In­tel Core i5 pro­ces­sor, a 1TB Fu­sion Drive and 4GB Radeon Pro 575 graph­ics. The £2,249 (from fave.co/2sp565x) model has a 3.8GHZ quad-core In­tel Core i5 pro­ces­sor, a 2TB Fu­sion Drive, and 8GB Radeon Pro 580 graph­ics.

Users can up­grade the RAM on the 27in imac eas­ily. The ma­chine has four RAM slots, ac­ces­si­ble through the back. Ap­ple in­stalls the stan­dard 8GB as a pair of 4GB mem­ory mod­ules, so you can add more RAM af­ter you buy the sys­tem. Or if you pre­fer, you can up­grade the RAM at the point of pur­chase to 16GB (£180) or 32GB (£540).

How do I con­nect stuff? Wi-fi and Blue­tooth are built-in. All Retina imacs have four USB 3.0 ports, two Thun­der­bolt 3 ports, a gi­ga­bit eth­er­net port, and an SDXC card slot.

If you want to con­nect a Firewire de­vice, you’ll need to use a Thun­der­bolt-to-firewire Adap­tor (£29 from fave.co/2t32ulc). USB 2.0 de­vices can con­nect to the imac’s USB 3.0 ports.

How fast is it? The Retina imacs are among Ap­ple’s fastest com­put­ers when it comes to sin­glecore per­for­mance. When it comes to multi-core speed, the Mac Pros with more than four cores are faster ma­chines. You can im­prove the mul­ti­core per­for­mance by opt­ing for the 4.2GHZ Core

i7 up­grade in the £1,949 and £2,249 in the 27in mod­els, or the 3.6GHZ Core i7 up­grade in the 21.5in model – you’ll pay more, but it may be worth it to your for the per­for­mance boost.

Mac­world’s buy­ing ad­vice: The al­lure of the Retina dis­play is strong; you’ll love the way it looks. You may not love the way the price looks, how­ever. If you are hes­i­tant about the price, it won’t take long to get over it, once you’ve used the Retina imac for a cou­ple of weeks.

imac Pro

Who’s it for? The imac Pro is the com­puter for peo­ple who work on the most de­mand­ing tasks. It’s tar­geted at creative pro­fes­sion­als, sci­en­tists, and soft­ware de­vel­op­ers.

What are the spec­i­fi­ca­tions? It fea­tures a 27in Retina 5K 5120x2880 P3 dis­play and comes in sev­eral con­fig­u­ra­tions, in­clud­ing:

£4,899 from fave.co/2bhr9zz: 3.2GHZ 8-core

In­tel Xeon W pro­ces­sor, 32GB 2,666MHZ ECC mem­ory, 1TB SSD stor­age, 16GB Radeon Pro

Vega 56 graph­ics

£6,879 from fave.co/2d0c­cty: 3GHZ 10-core In­tel Xeon W pro­ces­sor, 64GB 2,666MHZ DDR4 ECC mem­ory, 1TB SSD, 16GB Radeon Pro Vega 64 graph­ics

£9,759 from fave.co/2d0c­cty:2.5ghz 14-core

In­tel Xeon W pro­ces­sor, 128GB 2,666MHZ DDR4 ECC mem­ory, 2TB SSD, 16GB Radeon Pro Vega 64 graph­ics

£12,279 from fave.co/2d0c­cty: 2.3GHZ 18-core In­tel Xeon W pro­ces­sor, 128GB 2,666MHZ DDR4 ECC mem­ory, 4TB SSD, 16GB Radeon Pro Vega 64

The RAM on the imac isn’t user up­grade­able, but Ap­ple says it will up­grade your imac Pro at the Ap­ple Store like the stan­dard model. So if you’re buy­ing one you prob­a­bly want to spring for the ex­tra money up front rather than pay more later.

The imac Pro comes in an ex­clu­sive alu­minium space gray case with a match­ing space gray Magic Key­board with numeric key­board and Magic Mouse 2 (or Magic Track­pad 2 for an ad­di­tional £50). And Ap­ple is sup­ply­ing a one-of-a-kind black Light­ning ca­ble in the box as well for charg­ing pur­poses. Ap­ple is de­but­ing the T2 chip with the imac Pro, a

step up from the T1 in the Macbook Pro with Touch Bar. The chip is re­spon­si­ble for con­trol­ling a va­ri­ety of com­po­nents and tasks in­clud­ing the Facetime HD cam­era, putting less stress on the CPU. Ear­lier ru­mours sug­gested the chip could be re­spon­si­ble for hands-free Siri on the imac, but Ap­ple has yet an­nounce such a fea­ture.

How do I con­nect stuff? Wi-fi and Blue­tooth are in­cluded for wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity. The back of the imac Pro has four USB 3 ports, four Thun­der­bolt 3 ports, a 10 gi­ga­bit eth­er­net jack, and a SDXC card slot.

How fast is it? The ma­chine is a multi-pro­cess­ing beast, de­signed to work with pro-level apps that de­mand mul­ti­ple pro­cess­ing cores. Ap­ple

has is­sued dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tions of the imac

Pro to se­lect users, in­clud­ing me­chan­i­cal and aero­space en­gi­neer Craig A. Hunter, di­rec­tor and pho­tog­ra­pher Vin­cent Laforet, and Youtu­bers Mar­ques Brown­lee and Jonathan Mor­ri­son, and all of them say the speed is very im­pres­sive.

In last is­sue’s re­view of the imac Pro, we con­firmed that the new Mac is at its best with soft­ware that can take ad­van­tage of pro­ces­sors with mul­ti­ple cores. And the imac Pro’s graph­ics per­for­mance is spec­tac­u­lar, thanks to the

Radeon Pro Vega.

If you use soft­ware that’s geared for sin­glecore per­for­mance (which in­cludes many gen­eral con­sumer apps), you won’t see a marked in­crease. In fact, we found that the imac Pro is sim­i­lar in sin­gle-core per­for­mance to a 2014 Core i7 5K imac. You’re bet­ter off with a new 5K imac in this case.

Mac­world’s buy­ing ad­vice: If you use multi-core soft­ware and want the fastest pro­cess­ing speed avail­able, this is the Mac to get. There is a new Mac Pro in the works, though you might be wait­ing un­til the end of 2018 be­fore you can buy it.

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