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

Apple’s iMacs deliver faster processors, better screens, more powerful graphics, and, at long last, Thunderbolt 3.

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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, and the iMac Pro was released in December 2017. 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. 

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 work on the most demanding tasks. It’s targeted at creative professionals, scientists, and software developers. It features a 27-inch Retina 5K 5120-by-2880 P3 display and comes in several configurations, including:

  • $4,999: 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, 32GB 2666MHz ECC memory, 1TB SSD storage, 16GB Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics
  • $7,199: 3.0GHz 10-core Intel Xeon W processor, 64GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory, 1TB SSD, 16GB Radeon Pro Vega 64 graphics
  • $10,399:2.5GHz 14-core Intel Xeon W processor, 128GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory, 2TB SSD, 16GB Radeon Pro Vega 64 graphics
  • $13,199: 2.3GHz 18-core Intel Xeon W processor, 128GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory, 4TB SSD, 16GB Radeon Pro Vega 64

The RAM on the iMac isn't user upgradeable, but Apple says it will upgrade your iMac Pro at the Apple Store like the standard model. So if you're buying one you probably want to spring for the extra money up front rather than pay more later.


Apple - iMac Pro [2017 Apple

iMac Pro

Design and input devices: The iMac Pro comes in an exclusive aluminum space gray case with a matching space gray Magic Keyboard with numeric keyboard and Magic Mouse 2 (or Magic Trackpad 2 for an additional $50). And Apple is supplying a one-of-a-kind black Lightning cable in the box as well for charging purposes.

Security: Apple is debuting the T2 chip with the iMac Pro, a step up from the T1 in the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. The chip is reposibiile for controlling a variety of components and tasks including the FaceTime HD camera, putting less stress on the CPU. Earlier rumors suggested the chip could be responsible for hands-free Siri on the iMac, but Apple has yet announce such a feature.

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: The machine is a multi-processing beast, designed to work with pro-level apps that demand multiple processing cores. Apple has issued different configurations of the iMac Pro to select users, including mechanical and aerospace engineer Craig A. Hunter, director and photographer Vincent Laforet, and YouTubers Marques Brownlee and Jonathan Morrison, and all of them say the speed is very impressive.

In our review of the iMac Pro, we confirmed that the new Mac is at its best with software that can take advantage of processors with multiple cores. And the iMac Pro's graphics performance is spectacular, thanks to the Radeon Pro Vega

If you use software that's geared for single-core performance (which includes many general consumar apps), you won't see a marked increase. In fact, we found that the iMac Pro is similar in single-core performance to a 2014 Core i7 5K iMac. You're better off with a new 5K iMac in this case.

Macworld’s buying advice: If you use multi-core software and want the fastest processing speed available, this is the Mac to get. There is a new Mac Pro in the works, though you might be waiting until the end of 2018 before you can buy it.

Ready to buy an iMac Pro? Go to the Apple Store

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