In what is presumably the final update to the Intel-based iMac before the shift to ARM processors, Apple has refreshed the 27” model with new processors and graphics. Also, the dreaded Fusion drive is now history.
Apple iMac 2020
When Apple announced the move to ARM processors at WWDC in June, some expected the iMac to be one of the first Macs to come with ‘Apple Silicon’. After all, the iMac’s design had begun to show its age long before that, and a redesign is long overdue.
But as things progressed, signs started to appear that there would be one final update to the iMac in its current form, with Intel processors and the design we’ve been used to since 2012. The ARM chips will probably make their debut in a MacBook instead, most likely towards the end of this year.
I bought a 2019 27” iMac last year and thought I was getting the last of the dinosaurs. But as it turns out, Intel processors aren’t going anywhere in the iMac for the time being. The 27” model is now available with a 10th generation 10-core Intel i9 running at 3.6 GHz, with Turbo Boost up to 5 GHz. All 27” iMacs now come with at least six cores. In the 21.5” model, however, 6-core 8th generation processors are still the (rather disappointing) maximum configuration – Apple must still have a ton of those lying around.
The Fusion Drive is finally gone
Here’s a piece of good news: The dreaded Fusion Drive (a combination of a spinning hard drive and a tiny SSD) is finally (almost) history. This should have happened several years ago. All iMacs (even the 21.5” model) now offer SSD storage, although Apple still seems to think that 256 GB is an acceptable amount. Only the top two 27” models come with 512 GB as the standard configuration, with 8 TB being the maximum. You can still order the Fusion Drive as an option on the 21.5” model, but who in their right mind would even consider that?
The 27” model has also received a graphics update. The Radeon Pro 580X, which was already outdated when the previous model came out, has been replaced by a Radeon Pro 5300 in the base configuration. The top-of-the-line model can now be ordered with a Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16 GB of GDDR6 memory. The 27” 5K display is now available with nano-texture glass as an option, as seen on the Pro Display XDR. Apple says that this reduces glare while preserving contrast, which is especially helpful in direct light or changing lighting conditions.
New camera and microphones
The pandemic has led to an unprecedented surge in video conferencing, and Apple has taken the opportunity to give the 27” iMac another long overdue update. The integrated FaceTime HD camera finally offers a resolution of 1080p. The computer also features a new three-mic array, which Apple says delivers a better sound quality than the previous generations.
Two other updates are also exclusive to the 27” model. The larger iMac now features the T2 chip and is available with 10 Gigabit Ethernet as an option, which is essential for things like editing video on a storage server over the network. Both of these features were previously only available on the iMac Pro.
The 27” 5K iMac starts at USD 1799. This gets you a 6-core 10th gen i5 processor running at 3.1 GHz, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD and Radeon Pro 5300 graphics. The highest-specced standard configuration costs USD 2299 and comes with an 8-core, 10th gen i7 at 3.8 GHz, 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD and Radeon Pro 5500 XT graphics.
If you go nuts and max out the 27” iMac with a 10-core i9 processor, nano-texture glass, 128 GB of RAM, Radeon Pro 5700 XT graphics, 8 TB SSD and 10 Gigabit Ethernet, you end up with a price of USD 8799. A more sensible configuration with 10 cores, standard glass, 8 GB of memory (we’ll buy that somewhere else), 1 TB SSD and 5700 XT graphics comes in at USD 3499.
The 21.5” model still starts at USD 1099, but as before, this model should be avoided at all cost. The fact that you now get an SSD instead of a Fusion Drive doesn’t make the entry-level iMac any better, as it still comes with an ancient 7th-generation i5 CPU, no dedicated graphics card and a 1080p display resolution. You can get a 21.5” 4K iMac with an 8th-gen i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM (which isn’t upgradeable on the 21.5” model), 512 GB SSD and Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics for USD 2449.