iMac: Everything you need to know about Apple’s all-in-one computer

Apple has released new iMacs that deliver faster processors, better screens, more powerful graphics, and, at long last, Thunderbolt 3.

Table of Contents
Show More

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 lineup was released in June 2017 during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. While the new iMacs might look the same on the outside as its predecesors, they’re quite a bit different inside. It starts with the screen: Apple says the new iMacs have the “best Mac displays ever,” upping the brightness to 500 nits to make them 43 percent brighter while bringing support for a billion colors. You’ll also get faster Intel Kaby Lake processors, higher memory capacity, super-fast storage, and next-generation graphics, as well as a pair of Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports.

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. Apple announced the iMac Pro at WWDC this year, but it won’t be available until December—we’ll update this guide with more info on the iMac Pro once it gets released.

Standard iMac

Apple offers one standard iMac model. It’s priced at $1,099.

Apple iMac Apple

iMac

Processor, memory, graphics, and storage: The $1,099 iMac has a 2.3GHz dual‑core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, and Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 integrated graphics. The 5,400-rpm drive has a capacity of 1TB.

You can’t upgrade the $1,099 iMac yourself after you buy it, so consider paying an extra $200 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 $1,099 iMac also offers a Fusion Drive or a flash storage upgrade.

Display: The $1,099 iMac has a 21.5-inch display with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels and can display millions of colors. By comparison, the 21.5-inch iMac with Retina display comes with a screen that has a 4096x2304 display that offers more image detail and can display billions of colors.

The $1,099 iMac’s display is an sRGB display, which is the color space the display uses and is enough for most users. The Retina display uses the P3 color space, which is often used for digital movie projection and the film industry.

Input device: The iMac comes with Apple’s Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2. If you order online from the Apple Store, 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.

Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built-in. The iMac has four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a gigabit ethernet port, and an SDXC card slot. USB 2.0 devices can connect to the iMac’s USB 3.0 ports.

Speed: The $1,099 is Apple’s slowest iMac. That said, it has enough power for productivity tasks, video and photo editing, and games. The hard drive is a performance bottleneck; if you can upgrade to a Fusion Drive or SSD, you’ll see a significant speed improvement.

Macworld’s buying advice: For new Mac owners, the $1,099 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 21.5-inch 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.

Ready to buy an iMac (with standard display)? Go to the Apple Store

iMac with Retina display

Apple offers two 21.5-inch and three 27-inch models of the iMac with Retina display. Here are the specifications and prices for the five Retina iMac models.

21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K display

  • $1,299: 3.0GHz quad‑core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 1TB 5,400-rpm hard drive, and 2GB Radeon Pro 555 graphics
  • $1,499: 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB Fusion Drive, and 4GB Radeon Pro 560 graphics
Apple iMac with Retina Display Apple

iMac with Retina Display

With older 21.5-inch Macs, there was no way to install an upgrade after you bought it, so it was a good idea to add more RAM at the point of purchase. That’s no longer the story with the new 21.5-inch iMac. You can add more RAM later but the upgrade has to be done at an Apple store.

The 21.5-inch iMac with Retina display has a 4096x2304 resolution screen. It uses the P3 color space, which is often used for digital movie projection and the film industry. Also, these screens offer 500 nits of brightness, which is an increase over the screen in older iMacs.

27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display

  • $1,799: 3.4GHz quad‑core Intel Core i5 processor, 1TB Fusion Drive, and 4GB Radeon Pro 570 graphics
  • $1,999: 3.5GHz quad‑core Intel Core i5 processor, 1TB Fusion Drive and 4GB Radeon Pro 575 graphics
  • $2,299: 3.8GHz quad‑core Intel Core i5 processor, 2TB Fusion Drive, and 8GB Radeon Pro 580 graphics

The 27-inch iMac with Retina display has a 5120x2880-resolution screen. Like the 21.5-inch models, it uses the P3 color space, which is often used for digital movie projection and the film industry. These screens offer 500 nits of brightness, which is an increase over the screen in older iMacs.

Users can upgrade the RAM on the 27-inch 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 ($200) or 32GB ($600).

Input devices: The iMac comes with Apple’s Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2. If you order online from the Apple Store, 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.

Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built-in. The iMac has four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a gigabit ethernet port, and an SDXC card slot. USB 2.0 devices can connect to the iMac’s USB 3.0 ports.

Speed: The Retina iMacs are among Apple’s fastest computers when it comes to single-core performance. When it comes to multi-core speed, the Mac Pros with more than four cores are faster machines. You can improve the multi-core performance by opting for the 4.2GHz Core i7 upgrade in the $1,999 and $2,299 in the 27-inch models, or the 3.6GHz Core i7 upgrade in the 21.5-inch 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.

Ready to buy an iMac with Retina display? Go to the Apple Store

iMac Pro

The iMac Pro is the computer for people who with the most demanding tasks. It’s targeted at creative professionals, scientists, and software developers.

Specifications: Apple hasn’t specified which processors are in the iMac Pro, but rumor has it that they will be Intel Xeon processors. Apple has stated that the processors will be available with 8, 10, or 18 cores.

Apple - iMac Pro [2017 Apple

iMac Pro

The iMac Pro will comes standard with 32GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory. You can configure it to 64GB or 128GB.

The storage device is a 1TB SSD, with options for 2TB or 4TB. The graphics card is a Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics processor with 8GB of HBM2 memory.

Pricing will start at $4,999.

The iMac Pro comes in an aluminum space gray case. It also has matching space gray Magic Keyboard with numeric keyboard and Magic Mouse 2.

Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are included for wireless conenctivity. 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.

Speed: Benchmarks of the iMac Pro are not yet available. The machine will be a multi-processing beast, designed to working with pro-level apps that demand multiple processing cores.

Macworld’s buying advice: This will probably be the fastest available Mac in Apple’s lineup when it is released. If you want the fastest processing speed available, this is the Mac to get. There doesn’t seem to be a Mac Pro coming in the near future, despite what Apple said about it. So if you’d rather wait for a new Mac Pro, you might be waiting for a while.

Related:
Shop Tech Products at Amazon