The latest Apple iMac 27-inch is something you’d call a generational upgrade, that improves on the 2015 versions on many facets, packing faster components, newer ports, and a beautifully bright display than its predecessor.
- Sleek, class-leading designs persists
- A stunning 5K display, is brighter and better now
- Useful connectivity, including USB-C with Thunderbolt 3
- The rear-facing ports are not convenient
- Limited ergonomic adjustment options.
When Steve Jobs launched the original iMac 20 years ago, he envisioned that someday it will be a computer for everyone. Sure, over the years it has set the bar for premium Windows systems built in its mold. Apple has since refined the iMac’s design into the current super-slim unibody version, that has remained unchanged since 2012. All we can say is that the newer iMacs are closer to Steve Job’s vision, of not having unnecessary CD drives, something that makes us excited over the iMac 2019.
Having skipped 2018 and with news of upcoming versions of the iMac 2019, that leaves us with the 2017 models as the latest model in the market, at least for now. The latest Apple iMac model boasts a 27-inch 5K Retina display, it gets an incredibly bright screen, a robust set of modern connections, and a remarkable performance bump over its two-year old predecessor, the 2015 Apple iMac.
All these make it the All-In-One desktop to beat, especially if you’re in the market for one with a large display and macOS is a must have. While at it, keep in mind that it’s only a matter of time before premium Windows AIOs like the Microsoft Surface Studio 2 or the HP Envy begin to eat into Apple’s pie.
The 2017 iMac doesn’t have any radical changes over its predecessors, both the 2012 and 2015 models. That’s not necessarily a bad thing considering that the genre-defining aluminum body and glass build have persistently remained thin and sleek. Having been around for so long, we are even tempted to take it for granted, but we can’t, considering that no competitor has pulled a similar engineering feat, and packed powerful parts inside.
Alongside the 27-inch iMac, there is also a small 21.5-inch 4K iMac that shares the same design as its larger stablemate, with the same aesthetic but offered in a smaller size. The iMac’s design remains iconic, with a steadfast, yet elegant appearance that remains a staple of offices, homes, studios and newsrooms, as it did at release.
Then, of course, there is the striking thinness of the 27-inch iMac, taking into consideration the immense power packed into the display area of the computer – literally, everything from the CPU, graphics processor and ab robust choice of connectivity options.
In recent days, we’ve seen the iMac competing with high-end Windows AIOs, particularly Microsoft’s Surface Studio series, so we can’t ignore the fact that Apple might be in the woods for a much thinner 2019 iMac. For now, we envision an impressive iMac is Apple decides to leverage its experience from developing Mac Mini computers towards creating an iMac that holds its own against the competition.
The latest iMac has a screen that’s almost the same as the last version, a brilliant 27-inch 5K Retina display with a 5,120-by-2,880 resolutions sandwiched by edge-to-edge glass. It does not support touch, so if that’s something you need, you’ll have to look at something like the Surface Studio 2. Since last year, Apple has been introducing new features, especially on the latest release of MacOS, Mojave, but touch is still limited to iOS.
Compared: The Microsoft Surface Studio 2 combines the convenience of a touch screen with a 5K screen. If you work would benefit more from a built-in digitizer and still want the ultra-high resolution, the Surface 2 is the way to go. Talking of a digitizer, the Surface 2 can recline almost fully horizontally to serve as a digital drafting board, unlike, the iMac’s screen that can only be tilted up about 45 degrees, and lacks height adjustment.
Still, the iMac delivers insanely crisp images thanks to a 5K screen that triumphs the Surface Studio 2. All new iMacs now have increased screen brightness of up to 500 nits, making them very vibrant. However, at full brightness the display is rather painfully luminous, but you can easily adjust the screen brightness.
For those who want to see finer details in videos and images, though, especially professionals in photo and video editing, the bright screen is much welcome, alongside the display’s wide color (P3) support. Colors on the new iMac are vibrant and out of this world.
While the overall body remains unchanged, the iMac’s ports have taken strides towards where competition is going. All ports are held in the left bottom corner of the back panel, they include four USB 3.0 ports, two USB-C ports with thunderbolt 3, an Ethernet jack, an SDXC card slot, and a headphone jack. In the 2015 iMac, you only had Thunderbolt 2 ports so the upgrade means faster data transfers and forward-looking connectivity for modern accessories and peripherals.
Again, by including both USB 3.0 and USB-C and USB-C Apple ensures that you won’t need too many adapters to use your USB-C peripherals. However, there exist a few exceptions, whereby you might need to purchase Apple’s USB-C to Thunderbolt 2 adapter or any other USB-C to HDMI adapters if you have gadgets that are not compatible with the available ports. Wireless connectivity comes via integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2.
The built-in speakers are above average in sound quality for any all-in-one we’ve reviewed. You can play music at high volumes without distortion, even though it falls short of a true stereo speaker setup. On the other hand, the 34-inch HP envy integrates a full high-quality soundbar on its base, making it a favorite among music fanatics. Also, the Dell XPS 27 includes a 10-speaker setup for a better music/movie experience.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Apple’s Magic Keyboard 2 included with the new iMac is simply thrilling to type on, and the many days battery life is a major plus – especially when the only alternatives you have to buy are the older, wired models, if you don’t love wireless peripherals.
On the other hand, the Magic Mouse 2 gets the superb battery life, in addition to amazing clicking and tracking. We always expect that from a company that inspired everyone into wireless input game many years ago. However, I feel that its time Apple redesigned the Magic Mouse 2. Factor this, the Lightning charging port is located on the bottom of the mouse, meaning you can’t use the mouse while using it.
The new Apple iMac runs on macOS Mojave which isn’t compatible with most testing platforms and benchmarks, hence, it’s not easy to compare it’s not possible to compare its performance against Windows 10-based all-in-one PCs we’ve reviewed recently. That said, this iMac benefits greatly from its 7th-generation ‘Kaby Lake’ Intel Core i5 processor, with the same uptick as the Surface Studio 2’s 7th-generation chip.
Particularly, the Apple iMac shows stronger single-core performance over Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2 and fairly higher multi-core performance in most productivity tasks. Still, the Surface 2 does have a stronger Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card with more memory, over the iMac’s AMD Radeon Pro 570 (4GB) graphics card. As such, the Studio 2 is a capable gaming PC, even though that’s not the main purpose for buying an AIO PC.
Still, the latest iMac emerges as a stronger performer regardless of the GPU. It easily handles our normal workloads that involve dozens of Google Chrome tabs and Photoshop – both RAM and processor hungry apps – without slowing, and would easily take on a bit more. The included 1TB storage and 8GB RAM are sufficient for most users, although the system is configurable at order so you can decide to order one with even double the storage and memory.
If you’re interested in 3D performance, it does get improvements, but it isn’t very revolutionary. The AMD Radeon 570 with 4GB VRAM is a step up from the 2015 model’s 2GB Radeon R9 M290. This means that you can run animation and rendering software at better speeds, thanks to the upgrade something that will benefit creative professionals.
Our biggest delight in using the latest iMac is its beautiful, stunning display. It does a good job displaying crisp images that are expertly colored, thanks to the system’s P3 color gamut. That one, right there is important, because the enhanced color reproduction affects all ends of the iMac, no matter the resolution of the content you’re viewing. I was surprised that videos at 1080p look drastically improved thanks to P3. Sadly, going back to a usual 1080p screen after watching it on this iMac will be a painful experience.
The Bottom Line
The latest Apple iMac is something you’d call a generational upgrade, that improves on the 2015 versions on many facets, packing faster components, newer ports, and a beautifully bright display than its predecessor. The changes are modest over the previous model, though, but it’s a speedy computer in general, and if you’re a professional creative who does processor-intensive work like video editing, it will deliver on that every minute that matters.
At any rate, some users simply need to stick with macOS for their sake of their professions. And, if that’s you, this is the most updated and powerful iMac you can buy right now. If you’re truly wed to macOS and need more muscle over everything else, the recently released Apple iMac Pro workstation is a better buy, as it included much more powerful components. It features a 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics (8GB memory), 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD, all highly configurable.
That said, Windows-based all-in-one desktops just keep getting better with physical hardware and designs as the important differentiators. For example, the 24-inch Acer Aspire Z24-890-UR11 sports an eye-catching design with a huge curved display and a high-quality sound bar for a few hundred dollars more than the 27-inch iMac. It is a top pick for media-centered AIOs, with much to offer than any other system out here. Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2 is another excellent AIO PC that earns our Editors’ Choice for its innovative technology, combining a touch screen and a seamlessly convertible form factor for a strong PC and digital tool, all under one roof.
Going forward, we can only anticipate for an overhaul of Apple next iMacs in the new year to keep the Windows competition on the sidelines in 2019. For now, the 27-inch remains to be a powerful All-In-one PC to beat, with a timeless design and newer components, of which, any mac fan (or would-be fan) will find plenty to love about yet another exemplary Apple computer.
Microsoft Surface Studio 2 (Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 1TB) - Newest Version
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