Ignored in 2018, the iMac is ready for a change
Apple’s New York event in October brought no mention of the all-in-one
desktop. Barely a year old and still jaw-droppingly quick, the iMac Pro arguably wasn’t due an overhaul, but the current consumer line-up dates back to June 2017. Its seventhgeneration Intel Core i5 and i7 processors were phased out months ago by other computer makers.
That’s not to say they’re slow – all but the cheapest are quad-core, and the top-end 4.2GHz i7-7700 is quite a beast – but eighth-gen silicon, with up to six cores, has shown significant performance increases.
Assuming it doesn’t dump Intel just yet (see next page), Apple could skip straight to ninth-gen in 2019. An 8-core i9-9900 is already available, requiring only 5% more power than the i7-7700; an i7-9700 and 6-core i5-9600 follow. But limited stock has inflated the i9-9900’s price, and it’s hard to tell how long it’ll be until these chips are ready in quantity. As for the iMac Pro, any update will have to wait for the Cascade Lake versions of its Xeon W processors, now expected late in 2019.
So much for the inside. What we don’t know is whether Apple has a revamp of the six-year-old ‘slim’ iMac design up its sleeve – and we’ll come back to that topic on
Apple confirmed in April that a replacement for 2013’s ‘trash can’ Mac Pro would arrive in 2019. It seems likely to be later in the year. Senior VP of marketing Phil Schiller had already revealed that plans were for a ‘modular system’ and ‘a display’.
That would be the first Apple monitor since 2011’s Thunderbolt Display, which it discontinued in 2016. The Apple Store currently offers LG’s UltraFine Displays, with similar panels to the iMac’s 4K and 5K Retina screens. They hardly need improving, but with cinema production moving to 8K HDR, a bigger, sharper screen for the high end isn’t unthinkable.
As for the Mac Pro, Apple has vowed to ditch its compact design for one that meets diverse needs, implying flexible configuration. Like the iMac Pro, it’ll probably use Intel Xeon W chips, now offering up to 28 cores, although AMD’s Threadripper is a credible rival. Some users would prefer Nvidia graphics processors, but so far Apple looks like it’s sticking with AMD’s Radeon.
Reduced bezelThe Thunderbolt display did away with the iMac’s ‘chin’; if Apple drops the knife-edge design, the wide bezels could be dramatically reduced. Thanks to Apple’s custom Thunderbolt 3 interface, the iMac Pro can drive two 5K displays. So an 8K screen is possible – though Dell’s costs over £3,000. Resolution PortsA 27in 8K panel would be closer to the pixel density of iPhone XR’s display, but do you need 40in-plus 8K? It’s certainly not for everyone.