It’s time for a new imac, and here are 9 im­prove­ments we’d like to see

The cur­rent imac de­sign feels out of date. A new all-in-one Mac is long over­due.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY JA­SON CROSS

The cur­rent imac de­sign is pos­i­tively an­cient, by com­puter de­sign stan­dards. The 27-inch Retina imac, with its slim de­sign and 5K res­o­lu­tion, was launched in the fall of 2014. It was re­ally only a small tweak on the ex­ist­ing “slim uni­body” imac that dates back to 2012, it­self only a thin­ner ver­sion

of the uni­body imac de­sign that goes back to 2009.

The ba­sic look and phys­i­cal fea­tures of the imac have barely changed in a decade.

It’s a tes­ta­ment to the el­e­gance of the de­sign that it’s still de­sir­able af­ter all that time, but it’s well past time for a change. Re­cently, Ap­ple up­dated the imac line (see

page 7) with new in­ter­nal hard­ware, but the de­sign and fea­tures re­main fun­da­men­tally un­changed.

We can’t tell you what a new imac should look like (we want Ap­ple’s de­sign prow­ess to sur­prise us!) but we can de­scribe some fea­ture gaps we re­ally want to see ad­dressed.

HEIGHT AD­JUST­MENT

Set an imac down on al­most any desk, and its dis­play will be at least four to six inches lower than it should be. You can tilt it up, but that doesn’t re­ally solve the prob­lem. This is why there’s an en­tire cot­tage in­dus­try of ris­ers and stands for the imac, and why ev­ery sin­gle imac I’ve ever seen out­side of an Ap­ple store is rest­ing on top of some­thing. Usu­ally a stack of books.

An imac’s dis­play needs to sit much higher above your desk than it cur­rently does. Maybe a new imac could have a base with most of the com­puter parts in it and an ad­justable dis­play. Ap­ple hasn’t done that since the imac G4 ( go.mac­world. com/imc4; aka the “lamp” imac). Maybe it just needs to come with two or three re­place­ment stands in the box, of var­i­ous length. Per­haps Ap­ple could do some­thing slick with a tele­scop­ing stand that doesn’t look like a tele­scop­ing stand.

What­ever the so­lu­tion, the next imac should be able to move the dis­play up and down enough to sit at the proper height for most desks and work ta­bles.

PRO­MO­TION

Cur­rently, imac dis­plays are all limited to a max­i­mum re­fresh rate of 60Hz. That’s not nec­es­sar­ily a prob­lem, but it’s no longer cut­ting-edge tech. In the PC space, we reg­u­larly see 4K mon­i­tors with re­fresh rates up to 144Hz.

It’s tempt­ing to think of that as mostly a gam­ing thing, and imacs are not great game ma­chines (and cer­tainly aren’t go­ing to run top-tier games at high res­o­lu­tions in ex­cess of 60 frames per sec­ond), but any­one with an ipad Pro can tell you that fast re­fresh rates are not just for games.

Ap­ple should take its Pro­mo­tion brand­ing from the ipad Pro and ap­ply it to the imac. Give us vari­able re­fresh rates

that top out at 120Hz. It would be great for con­tent creators (who can lock the re­fresh rate at mul­ti­ples of 24Hz or 25Hz when cre­at­ing con­tent at those frame rates) and for movie-watch­ing, too. Plus, ev­ery desk­top move­ment, ev­ery scrolling browser win­dow, ev­ery swoosh­ing in­ter­face an­i­ma­tion, would look so smooth. Once you ex­pe­ri­ence com­put­ing at 120Hz, ev­ery­thing else feels slug­gish.

HDR

Ap­ple has al­ways taken dis­play qual­ity very se­ri­ously, and we’ve seen that present it­self in imac dis­play up­grades: first to Retina res­o­lu­tion and then to the DCI-P3 color gamut. But it’s def­i­nitely time for the imac to take the next big leap and in­cor­po­rate high dy­namic range (HDR) ca­pa­bil­ity. Ap­ple doesn’t need to go crazy with Dolby Vi­sion cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and over 1,000 nits of peak bright­ness: A max­i­mum bright­ness over 800 nits and HDR10 support would be plenty.

It would be a huge boon to con­tent creators, who want to edit and pub­lish

HDR con­tent for Youtube and Vimeo, but it also meshes well with the rest of the Ap­ple ecosys­tem. The lat­est iphones and ipad Pros all have HDR dis­plays. Ap­ple’s itunes video store (and up­com­ing stream­ing ser­vice, we as­sume) is full of Hdr-en­abled videos. It’s also great for Net­flix and Hulu.

A 27-inch imac could be a killer way to watch TV shows and movies, es­pe­cially in dorms and small apart­ments. The con­tent is there, the dis­play has the res­o­lu­tion and color for great 4K, but it can’t re­ally shine un­til it also sup­ports HDR.

BET­TER AU­DIO

Speak­ing of turn­ing the imac into a great me­dia con­sump­tion de­vice, it re­ally could use a bit more oomph in the au­dio depart­ment.

It’s im­pres­sive how much sound Ap­ple gets out of the cur­rent de­sign, given the rel­a­tive thin­ness of the imac and the fact that the en­tire com­puter is

crammed in be­hind the dis­play. But it could def­i­nitely be bet­ter, es­pe­cially in the bass depart­ment. A new phys­i­cal de­sign might take into ac­count how best to de­liver a bet­ter au­dio ex­pe­ri­ence, and that in­cludes re­plac­ing the sin­gle omni-di­rec­tional mi­cro­phone with a more ro­bust mi­cro­phone ar­ray. Ev­ery­one who makes a Facetime call (or records a quick bit of voiceover for a pod­cast or video) would ap­pre­ci­ate it.

TRUEDEPTH MOD­ULE AND FACE ID

Speak­ing of Facetime calls, the we­b­cam on the imac is an em­bar­rass­ment. Even the im­proved 1080p Facetime cam­era on the imac Pro just doesn’t de­liver a good ex­pe­ri­ence, and pales in com­par­i­son to the front-fac­ing cam­eras on iphones.

Ap­ple should in­cor­po­rate the Truedepth mod­ule into the top bezel of the imac dis­play in­stead of the cur­rent we­b­cam. It could just use the same ex­act one you find on the iphones to­day, or what­ever next-gen­er­a­tion ver­sion Ap­ple’s got in its labs.

Think of the ben­e­fits! Ev­ery­one us­ing an imac would be in­stantly rec­og­niz­able on their com­pany group video call, only now it will be be­cause they have by far the best video qual­ity, not the worst! You could have support for An­i­moji and Me­moji Mes­sages on the Mac! You would get Face ID au­then­ti­ca­tion for log­ging in, re­sum­ing from sleep or lock state, mak­ing web pur­chases, en­ter­ing pass­words, and more! Af­ter all, you can’t re­ally put Touch ID on an imac’s wire­less key­board—not without blow­ing up the cost and dec­i­mat­ing bat­tery life. You could even do neat Mac­spe­cific stuff with it, like au­to­mat­i­cally blank­ing and lock­ing the screen if your face isn’t vis­i­ble for a user-spec­i­fied amount of time, or au­to­mat­i­cally log­ging in dif­fer­ent users based on what face is rec­og­nized by the sys­tem.

T2 (OR T3) CHIP

The T2 chip first ap­peared in the Mac Pro ( go.mac­world.com/nwt2), and is now in the Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, and Mac mini.

It han­dles se­cu­rity (in­clud­ing the se­cure en­clave used for Touch ID), stor­age en­cryp­tion, se­cure boot, au­dio in­put and out­put, and pro­cesses the Facetime cam­era data.

It’s still not in the lat­est regular imac, though. The lat­est up­date was just a spec bump, not a new in­ter­nal de­sign, and so the T2 is still ab­sent.

We’d want a new imac to have the T2 chip, or per­haps, a fu­ture T3 chip that could do even more. For ex­am­ple, a hy­po­thet­i­cal T3 chip might have the same Neu­ral En­gine as the A12 Bionic ( go. mac­world.com/ba12) to se­ri­ously speed up ma­chine learn­ing and AI func­tions in all sorts of ap­pli­ca­tions.

FLASH STOR­AGE ONLY

If you buy the most af­ford­able imacs— ei­ther the old 21.5-inch 1080p model for $1,099 or the just-up­dated Retina 4K model for $1,299—you are graced with a 1TB 5,400-RPM hard drive. Ew.

More ex­pen­sive imacs, in­clud­ing all the 27-inch mod­els, in­clude a Fu­sion Drive, which com­bines a big, slow-spin­ning hard drive with a small chunk of flash mem­ory to cre­ate a sin­gle vir­tual disk. It should, in most cases, per­form a lot bet­ter than a tra­di­tional spin­ning disk hard drive.

But let’s face it, it’s still too slow. Way too slow for a brand-new com­puter that costs $1,200 or more. It’s eas­ily the slow­est part of an imac.

I mean, we get it. SSDS are more ex­pen­sive, and Ap­ple doesn’t want to ship an imac with a small amount of stor­age. These are meant to be com­put­ers that get filled up with huge photo li­braries, imovie projects, and Garage­band record­ings. Ap­ple should ab­so­lutely not drop the min­i­mum con­fig­u­ra­tion to 256GB just to go all-in on fast SSDS.

It shouldn’t have to, though. Flash stor­age prices are plum­met­ing. You can now buy a 512GB SSD for un­der $80. And that’s on­line re­tail pric­ing, not the bulk pur­chase price a huge com­pany like Ap­ple would pay. The base imac mod­els could have a 512GB SSD and strike a much bet­ter compromise be­tween cost, per­for­mance, and ca­pac­ity, and even a 1TB SSD wouldn’t cost Ap­ple a whole lot more

than their 1TB Fu­sion Drive setup to­day.

The switch to Ssd-only stor­age might be a ne­ces­sity in fu­ture imacs, as­sum­ing they in­cor­po­rate the T2 chip (or its fu­ture suc­ces­sor). Those chips act as the stor­age con­troller, and it would ap­pear they are only ca­pa­ble of do­ing so with flash stor­age.

SLIM­MER BEZELS

The black bezels around an imac’s dis­play are about an inch wide. That kind of thing might have flown in 2012, but here on the other end of the decade, they look pos­i­tively prim­i­tive. Then there’s the huge sil­ver “chin” be­neath the dis­play...maybe it’s a nec­es­sary func­tion of try­ing to fit the whole com­puter, with proper ven­ti­la­tion and cool­ing, be­hind the screen, but it should be the first thing to go in a newly-de­signed imac.

COLOR OP­TIONS

Re­mem­ber the bright fruit col­ors of the imac G3? I miss the days when there was a bit of life in Ap­ple’s com­puter line. To­day your imac can be any color you want, as long as it’s sil­ver.

I don’t nec­es­sar­ily think we need to see a re­turn of lime, straw­berry, blue­berry, grape, and tan­ger­ine, but it would be nice to have a few color op­tions. In the IOS line, Ap­ple of­ten makes its top-end hard­ware avail­able in only sil­ver, space grey, or black, and maybe rose gold. But it’s more af­ford­able phones, from the iphone 5c ( go. mac­world.com/ip5c) to the iphone XR ( go. mac­world.com/iphr), pop in a rain­bow of col­ors. Why not do the same with the com­puter line? Let the imac Pro fade into the back­ground in bor­ing space grey, while the imacs for ev­ery­one make a state­ment with a splash of color. ■

There’s a whole in­dus­try of imac stands, be­cause they’re sim­ply not high enough on their own.

In the PC space, you can get a 4K, HDR, 144Hz mon­i­tor (like this Acer Nitro XV273K) for un­der $1,000.

Just slap the Truedepth mod­ule up in the top bezel of the imac al­ready, Ap­ple

The imac Pro has the T2 chip, but the imac does not. Ap­ple should change that.

Maybe we don’t need a re­turn of the fruit fla­vors, but a lit­tle color would bring the imac line to life.

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