When Apple met with select members of the media to talk about the Mac Pro, Apple VPs also mentioned that the company plans to update the iMac this year.
The gap between updates for the iMac isn’t as long as the Mac Pro, but it’s been a while. The current iMac was released in October of 2015, well past the yearly updates Apple used to issue. So the iMac is due.
Pike’s Universum, which has an eagle eye for finding references to future Apple products in Apple’s operating system code, reported on some specs that could be used for the new iMac—though the site says that the information should be “handled with care/skepticism.” I’ll point out Pike’s findings in each section below, along with my commentary.
The latest CPUs
Pike’s Universum says that the high-end iMac could have an Intel E3-1285 v6 processor. This is a Xeon processor that’s not on Intel’s E3 v6 Family list, so you can either dismiss it as not true, or it could be a processor not yet developed. Intel does have older Xeon processors with the E3-1285 part number, so it does seem feasible.
Intel released the E3-1200 v6 processor family in late March, so if there’s any credence to Pike’s report, it checks a box on my iMac wish list: that Apple use current CPUs, not ones that are a generation behind.
It’ll be interesting if Apple decides to go with a quad-core Xeon processor, which is used in professional workstations. During the Mac Pro briefing, the iMac was mentioned as being used by professionals, and since a ship date for the future Mac Pro has not been announced, Apple could want to fill the professional demand in the meantime by offering a super fast iMac.
Apple offers multiple models of the iMac, with 21.5- and 27-inch display. You’ll probably see Core i5 or Core i7 processors in the 21.5-inch iMacs, and then a Xeon processor in the 27-inch model. Let’s hope those Core processors are from Intel’s 7th generation.
16GB of memory
Besides the fast performance, another reason for using a Xeon processor in the high-end iMac is its support for Error Correction Code (ECC) RAM. ECC RAM has a chip that’s dedicated to finding and fixing memory errors. Standard RAM doesn’t have this capability, but it’s also less expensive. So you should experience fewer memory errors when using EEC RAM.
What I’d like to see with the iMac is a standard configuration of 16GB of memory. Currently, it’s at 8GB. I’d also like to see Apple make the RAM user accessible on all iMac models, not just on the high-end 27-incher, so you can upgrade to 32GB or 64GB at a later date.
Make Fusion Drives standard
A solid-state drive would be great because of the speed benefits, but it’s expensive and will drive the price of the iMac up. Apple currently stocks 1TB hard drives in its standard configurations of the iMac, and a 1TB SSD would be really pricey. Pike’s Universum says that the new high-end iMac could have an NVMe SSD, which would be awesome, but there’s still a price consideration for the lower-priced iMacs.
A good compromise would be to make a 1TB Fusion Drive standard. A Fusion Drive is a hard drive that’s combined with flash storage and seen on the Mac and a single storage device. This provides fast file access and spacious file storage.
A Fusion Drive upgrade for the current iMac is only $100. Hopefully Apple could find a way to offset the cost of making it a part of the standard configuration.
Easier to access ports
Apple puts its iMac ports on the back, because they’re ugly and they ruin the aesthetic of the iMac’s front appearance. If you need to regularly access those ports, however, it’s annoying. You have to reach around and scrape up the back of the iMac as you try to fit a connector into a port. Or you have to move the iMac itself, which can be disruptive if you have a special hardware setup.
But Apple won’t move the ports from the back. Maybe they have data that shows that it’s not really an issue. Maybe the data they have says customers want a change, but Apple doesn’t care, it’s sticking to its design. I can wish, but I know that in this case, it won’t happen.
Thunderbolt 3/USB-C and USB 3
Here’s a wish that has a really good chance of coming true. I can easily see Apple replacing the Thunderbolt 2 ports on the current iMac with Thunderbolt 3/USB-C on the new iMac.
I hope Apple retains the other ports on the back of the iMac: USB 3, ethernet, the headphone jack, and the SD card slot. I don’t see a reason for Apple to eliminate these ports, but I can also see Apple deciding to offer only Thunderbolt 3, and then telling people that you can use a dock like CalDigit’s TS 3 Lite ($200 on Amazon). That would mean paying extra money for something that used to be included. But on the bright side, a dock addresses my issue with port access.
External GPU support
The iMac’s all-in-one design limits the type of GPU that can be used. You can’t use one that generates a lot of heat. But if lots of pros are using iMacs, a pro-class GPU accessible externally would address the needs of graphically-demanding apps.
An external GPU is also on my wish list for the Mac Pro. In that article, I said that an external GPU is the type of product you usually wouldn’t see from Apple, but if it can be used by any Mac, it makes it more feasible. And as I noted in the Mac Pro wish list, macOS needs some updating to support an external GPU.