This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
The new 27-inch iMac powered by the Comet Lake, Intel's 10th generation Core processor, has been released.
Earlier this year, there were repeated predictions that the iMac would undergo a full model change with a new narrow bezel design and only SSD storage, but it looked the same as before.
The iMac is the same style as it has been since 2012. The 5K display wasn't introduced until 2014, and since then, the exterior has been essentially untouched at all. While the design is still novel enough over time, some readers who have been imagining that it's time to narrow down the screen's frame or eliminate the area under the screen where the Apple logo will be placed may be disappointed that there were no design changes.
However, despite the lack of changes to the exterior, the new 27-inch iMac is a major update that warrants a full makeover, with the latest CPU and GPU for improved performance, as well as the inclusion of a T2 chip that brings a new built-in camera, speakers, microphones, and other features have also been significantly refined. In addition, the new 27-inch iMac includes the Nano-texture glass option used in the Pro Display XDR, and the new 27-inch iMac is the full range of technology that Apple is offering in its latest Mac.
Apple has announced that it will be switching its Mac processors from Intel to its own, in other words, this is likely to be the last iMac to run Windows in a virtual environment (or Boot Camp). The specs have been raised as well, with up to 10-core Intel Core i9 processors and 128GB of memory, twice as much as before. In other words, this is a worthwhile update for a computer that runs macOS / Windows / Linux at the same time.
Appearance is the same, but with T2 installed, basic strength is greatly improved
As for the CPUs and GPUs installed, there is no novelty in itself, as there are machines with equivalent specs in Windows. This iMac comes with 6-8 core processors in the standard configuration and can be expanded to 10 cores. In addition, there are four grades of Radeon Pro 5000 series GPUs to choose from that use AMD's Navi architecture (you can list the specs of the Radeon Pro for iMac on AMD's page).
One thing to keep in mind when purchasing is that of the three models available as a standard configuration, the low-end model is not CPU changeable and the mid-range model is not GPU upgradeable. Only the higher-end model, which comes standard with the Radeon Pro 5500XT, can choose the Radeon Pro 5700 (8GB GDDR6) or the Radeon Pro 5700XT (16GB GDDR6). Which GPU you choose is a matter of purpose and budget, but if you're not dealing with high-definition 3D graphics, we're guessing that the standard GPU will suffice (the top-of-the-line Radeon Pro 5700XT was installed in our test unit). The Radeon Pro 5500XT's performance is nearly identical in specs to the Radeon Pro 5600M, which is available as an option on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, as well as the benchmark results discussed below.
But the reason why the new iMac can be considered a full redesign isn't because of the CPU and GPU upgrades; it's largely because the system has been updated to use an SSD controller and security chip called the Apple T2. The T2 chip doesn't just act as a fast SSD controller, it intervenes between various inputs and outputs, making it seem as if Intel's entire system is under the control of the T2 chip and benefiting from the various functions it contains. Initially, it featured a high-speed SSD controller, encryption, and an H.264 video compression accelerator, but now it also provides sound quality and phase correction for the speakers, multi-microphone audio processing, and video processing for the built-in camera (independently of the Intel system).
What's in it has not been clearly announced, but it's said to be a certain generation of Apple A processors themselves. In other words, it could be read as a mechanism to bring the signal processing, hardware and software value developed for the iPhone to Intel-powered Macs.
1080p FaceTime camera with greatly improved image quality
Apple hasn't officially announced how the hardware has changed, but the built-in camera has been updated from 720p to 1080p, or Full HD resolution; this is the first time Mac's built-in camera will support 1080p. The sensor size has been enlarged and the generation has been updated as well. The combination of video processing, exposure control, and face recognition by the T2 chip's built-in image signal processor (ISP) has clearly improved the image quality.
Compared to the 16-inch MacBook Pro (albeit at 720p), which also has a T2 chip, tonal and color noise and luminance noise are all superior, and contrast and black level sinking are also completely different. The image quality, especially in dark areas, seems to have improved. This is not simply because the quality of image processing has improved with the T2 chip, but also because the sensor itself is of higher quality.
In terms of the semiconductor circuits developed for the iPhone, the same is true for improving voice-related quality. This is where the hardware and software developed to improve call quality and provide satisfactory sound quality on the small, thin iPhone speaker comes into play. In addition, the built-in microphone, previously located only near the camera, has been added to the bottom of the screen in two additional locations on the new 27-inch iMac. By combining multiple microphones, directivity is controlled and the sound quality is greatly improved. It's basically the same technology found in the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but with a built-in microphone for a desktop device, it's an unbeatable quality.
The camera and microphone, especially in a telework environment, are very important. Likewise, the speakers are well balanced, bass-enhanced, and phase-adjusted, and coupled with unique virtual surround sound, you can enjoy the surround or immersive sound of Apple TV+ and other devices. However, the speakers, unfortunately, don't provide the same level of excitement or three-dimensional effect as the 16-inch MacBook Pro, perhaps due to the fact that the iMac's chassis design and the speakers themselves have not been redesigned.
In terms of soundstage balance, the overall impression is not as impressive as the MacBook Pro. Nevertheless, there is a clear improvement from the previous iMac. If you're listening to music, I'd recommend finding your favorite external speakers separately, but if you want to comfortably listen to audio from a video streaming service, the sound quality is adequate.
Check out the video below to see how the FaceTime camera and built-in microphone perform.
The expensive but extremely effective anti-reflection effect of nano-texture glass
Perhaps the most annoying part of choosing a new iMac is the Nano-texture glass option. This option, which is set at 70,000 yen for the 32-inch-sized Pro Display XDR display, is priced at a modest 50,000 yen for the 27-inch iMac. That said, it's still extremely expensive for a screen surface treatment option.
Nano-texture uses an etching process on the glass surface to create an extremely fine bumpy finish that does not adversely affect the clarity and contrast of the 5K display. As the name implies, it reduces glare by adding minute nanometer-level textures and dispersing external light reflections in various directions.
Some of you may have already experienced the benefits of the Pro Display XDR, but it's extremely effective and doesn't make the screen difficult to see, even with ceiling lights or windows behind you. You might think this is similar to ground glass, but the fine texture makes it incredibly sharp. On the other hand, it's not glossy and looks silky despite being a transmissive display, but I don't think many people would choose it if it were priced at 50,000 yen without checking it out.
However, from the standpoint of having seen it in person, if I were to buy a 27-inch iMac personally, I would choose the Nano-texture. Because I found the quality to be that intense and wonderful. There have been a variety of screen processing options available in the past, including some for professional use, but I'd like to assert that this is the best of all options, and I'd like to emphasize that it doesn't affect the 5K resolution, contrast or Display-P3 color gamut of the 27-inch iMac. I recommend it, especially to those who do graphics design, photo development, and retouching on their iMacs.
It also supports TrueTone, which optimizes the color temperature of the screen to match the surrounding lighting environment. It's hard to find a display environment with such a high level of perfection and a 5K resolution other than an all-in-one unit, and no other product is as well-equipped and solidified in terms of quality, including color reproduction, as the iMac is. In that sense, we frankly feel that there are no clear rivals, including Windows-based devices.
Wide choice and low-end machines are a bargain, so what are the weaknesses?
The model we tested this time has a top-end CPU/GPU. There's plenty of cooling performance to go around, even with the 10-core Core i9 and the Radeon Pro 5700XT with a 150W TDP.
While developing RAW files with Luminar 4, I monitored the processor's performance with Intel Power Gadget, and despite the combined GPU processing, the average operating clock frequency was over 4.5GHz, compared to Turbo Boost's upper limit of 5GHz.
This is also true for video encoding, for example, with the cooling system working properly against a 125W TDP CPU. We ran the same test with the Cinebench R20, which has a high CPU load, but the package's power consumption temporarily jumped to 160W above the rated value, sticking at around 4.5GHz, but eventually dropping to nearly 4GHz (as the CPU temperature approaches 100 degrees Celsius).
The loss of the built-in Fusion Drive and the creation of space inside may have made it more adaptable to heat, but there seems to be room in the thermal design to run consistently at clock frequencies near the upper end of the range under high load. We're testing with a 10-core model in this case, but the model with an 8-core CPU may be able to run at a slightly higher clock frequency.
In several other tests, the clock frequency settled in the 4.6GHz vicinity for intermittent processing, and for short periods of time, it could do well at 5GHz. There seems to be plenty of room in the thermal design, so even the lower-end models with lower base clocks are actually going to be able to consistently perform at much higher frequencies.
Note that the machine we tested came with 32GB of memory, but the 8GB model would be a good choice if you're actually buying one. This is because the 27-inch iMac is the only one, with the exception of the Mac Pro, that allows you to add or replace the memory yourself. You can save less than half the cost of adding memory by using a third-party product.
So what are the weaknesses? The problem I've had since the current design of the iMac was released is still there. As I wrote in my review at the time, when I put the iMac on my desk, my line of sight is slightly elevated.
Even my 6-foot-tall author tends to look upward, which is probably even more so if you're short. If you are used to looking downward with a notebook, this positional relationship is hard for you. It's also hard on the neck. In any case, this position is not in line with Apple's own recommendations for PC use (eye level is horizontal or slightly downward).
The best thing to do is to rebuild the iMac into a design that adds height adjustment and also removes the bottom margin of the screen. I'd love to see Apple come up with a good answer to the problem of the iMac's display position being too high (which will be in the next release, of course).
On the other hand, the low-end model is priced low, due to its long-used industrial design. The price tag of less than 200,000 yen while incorporating a 5K display of such high quality is cheap. As usual, it gets more expensive as the options pile up (our test unit configuration was close to 500,000 yen), but we have to give the company credit for keeping the price of the entry-level model down by keeping the same design.
This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.