The iMac is today the icon that represents Apple’s computers: its particular and recognizable silhouette makes it unmistakable almost anywhere, even when in some movies they put a «timely» sticky note covering the apple brand. It is the true heir to the tradition of the original Macintosh, a «transportable that you can hold» computer, integrated into an all-in-one monitor with a striking industrial design.
This flagship Mac of the company has gone through different phases: it was the machine that started Apple’s economic recovery this month 21 years ago – in 1998 the first iMac laid the foundation for next-generation computers for the brand and it was quite a statement of int entions. There would no longer be floppy diskdrive, replaced by USB ports, and the design completely removed from the old grey machines from the rest of the competition. In many ways, Steve Jobs’ iMac saved Apple and gave it wings to begin its transformation into a company beyond traditional computers.
That’s why the company has treated with special care every transition to the different generations of the device: I think we will all agree that the iMac G4 «lamparita» is one of the most spectacular models – especially at the time – and that later it evolved in 2012 into the current model in which it has been squeezed to the last millimeter to include every new hardware since the design came out on the iMac G5.
-The iMac has evolved into an all-in-one all-around-road model, with domestic but also powerful models-
The iMac that coexists with the iMac Pro
Last year we witnessed a unique movement throughout the trajectory of this model: the emergence of an iMac Pro that was coming to replace the promised new redesign of the Mac Pro that we expect to know this 2019 (predictably in WWDC19). This new iMac Pro meant the graduation with honors of a device enhanced like never maintaining the known design, which involved major internal changes in the cooling system, plates, etc… He came to demonstrate the company’s experience in a machine that he controls perfectly and on which we also expected an update in the «normal» model that we are dealing with. In fact, the iMac we’re analyzing today inherits some interesting point from the iMac Pro itself, such as graphics architecture.
That’s why this 2019 iMac has big changes inside, but with exactly the same external appearance as for six years. Without a doubt, the look is still impontane – look at my photos – and manufactured with the same quality and details that the brand has us used to, but in my opinion Apple should renew the design and update it to the «frameless» trends of the market. Something similar has happened with the new iPad Air (2019) and iPad mini (2019), although on the desktop the frames are more discreet by size than on mobile devices, they are still too large and would need a soft drink.
This change may be seen once the Mac Pro is publicly announced, and using the experience with the frameless screens of the iPhone XS and XR, a new design will be built beyond the physical appearance that also brings Face ID on the table to the iMac Pro and iMac futures. Despite this necessary change, the design continues to work at the level of integration with the internal hardware and brings that familiar aspect to our artboards, as has happened in previous years.
-The design is still impressive, but six years later Apple should consider the «unframed» trend towards which the market is oriented-
The Retina 5K screen is once again the protagonist
The 27-inch 5K display panel is spectacular in terms of brightness (500 nits), color gamut (uses standard color space in P3 professional video productions) and has a resolution of 5120×2880 pixels. The reliability of the color and the movement of any graphic representation stand out for the quality and behavior in what is undoubtedly one of the best features of a computer where this screen is the real protagonist – both for editing photographs or videos, as for everyday use.
This 27-inch model also has some difference in design from the 21 model: for example, here the RAM is expandable by the user, thanks to a small compartment duly camouflaged at the height of the stand. A good tip here to save on purchase is to look for the cheapest RAM after purchase (DDR4 memory at 2666 MHz) and invest our money in improving the processor or hard drive, for example.
The ports on the back are two Thunderbolt 3 ports with the USB-C interface that operate at full capacity (each at 40 Gb/s) – here you can connect another 5K monitor or two simultaneous 4K monitors on them. There are also four USB 3.0 ports for the rest of our peripherals, a convenient SDXC card slot, Gigabit Ethernet and the typical 3.5mm headphone jack. If we plan to use it in a shared office or outside our trusted scope, there is also the possibility to pin it using the Kensigton security slot.
Ninth Generation Intel Processors on Board
One of the big changes of this new iMac is the up-to-date. Starting with ninth-generation Intel processors up to eight cores that reach a speed of 3.6Ghz (or 5Ghz with Turbo Boost) for this 27-inch model. This new processor named Coffee Lake Refresh is an update to the previous Coffee Lake model to work with up to eight cores, its main difference.
They have a new physical cooling system to withstand the heat increase (a directly welded heatsink) and this generation is designed with desktop systems in mind.
This new processor stands out especially in multi-core execution, where the performance is really amazing – perfect for systems where gross computing power is needed to be able to address large 3D, sound or video projects. Synthetic tests obtained with Geekbench make it clear that this high-end iMac points to professional design stations:
The investment in an i9 processor such as the one included in this analysis model would be justified if you look for this computing power on a day-to-day basis – either as a job, or even as a semi-professional hobby. If you don’t need this increase in continuous performance, the base option that includes a six-core i5 is more than valid: the 27″ input model comes with it and can have up to 32GB of RAM, while the one we have under review right now could include up to 64GB. There is an intermediate model that could also mount all this RAM: although as I mentioned the interesting thing is not to invest in it at the time of purchase when it is updatable by the user, if it is convenient to think about the maximum that we will need for the future.
The graphics power here is called Radeon Pro Vega 48
All 27-inch models (and the highest of 21 inches) have Radeon Pro graphics cards, which improve in each version if we go up in performance, but it is in the highest model that we can choose as optional two new graphics cards: a Radeon Pro 580X with 8 GB of GDDR5 memory or the more powerful Radeon Pro Vega 48 with 8 GB of HBM2 memory. This is a high-bandwidth memory, capable of reaching 256-307 GB/s in data transfer, with up to a maximum of 8GB per packet (such as the one included in these iMacs).
This results in a faster process of data such as textures or graphical information that is then processed by the primary GPU, due to process acceleration and access in larger blocks. These new Radeon Pro Vega cards were designed initially as part of the iMac Pro. To see what this new graph is capable of, we start with synthetic graphics benchmarks using LuxMark, getting 3272 points (4108 if we combine it by also processing next to the CPU):
-High-bandwidth memory or HBM2 on the Radeon Pro Vega improves data transfer for complex rendering processes-
Accessing the results tables with other systems, we see that the Radeon Pro Vega is at the level of AMD’s Hawaii graphics architecture or the GeForce GTX 1070, with one difference: the Pro Vega is capable of achieving them having much less clock speed (almost half).
Looking at the combined CPU+GPU results, the equivalent achieved to AMD’s Fiji architecture at more than 1Ghz along with an FX-8370 CPU at more than 4.3Ghz. In both cases, the clock speeds also exceed those of the iMac, but still the Apple computer achieves them as a result due to the improvement in hardware efficiency.
In Cinebench we get around 4265 cb points all over the system, just below systems like the AMD Ryzen Threadripper with exactly twice as many cores, but surpassing others that even have more processing cores (Xeon and Ryzen 7 systems included). All this power-level bill had to go beyond «lab» tests, so I subjected the iMac to one of the best-known tests using Final Cut Pro X – the famous 5K Bruce X test.
All tests used the Apple Pro Res 422 codec without pre-rendering in the background. If we review the results of the forum where users add their results, we will see that the 14,002 seconds of our iMac are among practically the best of them all. This is largely due to the high-bandwidth memory we mentioned earlier: exporting and creating projects of this type is greatly enhanced with this type of HBM RAM, in addition to the power of the GPU.