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Opinion: What can we expect from a Retina iMac, and who will buy it?


Desktop fans have waited a long time for a Retina iMac, but it now seems pretty clear the wait won’t last too much longer. Our sources told us last month that the machines are “in the late testing phases,” and the rumor is that the machine will have a 5K display, with a resolution of 5120×2880 – exactly double that of the current 27-inch iMac.

We may even have identified the specific display Apple intends to use: a 27-inch 5K panel announced by Dell is looking like a very plausible candidate. This panel would provide a pixel density of 218 PPI, about the same as that of the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro …

Assuming Apple does indeed launch the machine, there’s one immediately obvious implication: we can expect a Retina Apple Thunderbolt Display using the same panel. I’ve previously suggested a number of reasons Apple didn’t immediately hop on board the 4K display bandwagon, but leap-frogging the competition with a 5K model would be another good one.

More importantly, a Retina display makes sensible use of those extra pixels. I’ve always felt that 4K is way too high a resolution for a 27-inch display. Text is absolutely tiny when rendered at 3840×2160, as are many user-interface elements. To me, 4K made sense only as a TV or as an ultra-large display – one pushing the boundaries of what most of us would have room for on a desktop, even before we figure out how we’d ever pay for it.

But keeping the effective resolution at 2560×1440 while using the extra pixels to sharpen the display – that makes sense.


We can also expect a Retina iMac (or what Apple will doubtless refer to as the iMac with Retina display) to be a pretty high-spec machine. Driving a 5K display at decent frame-rates is not a trivial task, requiring a beefy GPU.

A significantly more powerful GPU will obviously be accompanied by a matching CPU, and uprating the Thunderbolt port to Thunderbolt 2 then seems a pretty obvious step.

All of which adds up to something rather interesting: an all-in-one machine capable of meeting the needs of many graphics pros: photographers, videographers, designers and so on.

Now sure, there will always be those graphics professionals who demand the very best performance available, and have the budget to match. Those guys are still going to be hooking up that cute black cylinder to their multiple 4K (or perhaps now 5K) monitors.

But there are many others who are likely to look at a Retina iMac and note that they are getting a very capable machine with an ultra-high-definition screen in one package. For many, that might be good enough – raising the interesting prospect of an iMac cannibalising at least some Mac Pro sales.

Not that Apple will worry about that: as Tim Cook observed when asked whether the iPad would eat into MacBook sales, you can’t be afraid of cannibalizing your own products because if you don’t, someone else will.


But AV professionals can’t be the core target for a Retina iMac. It doesn’t make sense to offer two different lines aimed at a niche market: Apple’s primary target market has to be ordinary consumers and small businesses.

And I think that’s interesting in its own right. The high-end Mac Pro market aside, the overwhelming trend seen for quite some years now has been the death of the desktop PC and the triumph of the laptop.

For those who need lots of screen space to work with, a very common solution has been to connect a MacBook – sometimes even a MacBook Air – to an Apple Thunderbolt display to get the best of both worlds. A machine that is portable when it needs to be, yet offers all the display real-estate and permanent docking options you get with a desktop.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to question whether desktop PCs – OS X or Windows – have much of a future outside of the AV professional market. Yet in planning a Retina iMac, Apple clearly thinks they do. The company whose co-founder famously described PCs as trucks and predicted that most of us would be choosing cars – or iPads – still sees a future in what might be considered a rather chunky truck.

We won’t have long to find out exactly what Apple has in store for us: we’re expecting the new iMac to be announced on Thursday, and we’ll of course be bringing you full coverage.

If you’ve been holding off on a MacBook Pro because you’ve been waiting impatiently for an iMac with Retina display, let us know your reasons in the comments.

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  1. Vasyl Vasyltsiv - 8 years ago

    it`s fantastic news

    • dwisehart - 8 years ago

      I agree. And it will make some people ill, but I think this is the perfect guest, family, hotel, health club computer: everything is self contained and the display just keeps giving no matter how hard you push it.

  2. Ron Dimick - 8 years ago

    Wanted to buy a Mac Pro with a Retina Display – but have held off the purchase. An iMac with a 5k Display would be exactly what I am looking for…especially since the days of upgrading your Mac Pro are over…might as well get an iMac and a Screen all in one.

  3. Joefrey Kibuule - 8 years ago

    We’re not going to see a Retina Thunderbolt Display until Thunderbolt 3 when you’ll be able to push a 5K and up display without any MST hacks.

    • dwisehart - 8 years ago

      Agreed: it will not be right away. But I am looking forward to when it gets here, because there are a lot of ways I push the resolution of my current 27-inch Thunderbolt Displays, both for editing multiple documents at the same time and for displaying complex drawings.

  4. craigkocher - 8 years ago

    I could care less about a retina 5K iMac that’ll probably cost 5K or more to purchase.

    Just release a new Mac mini on Thursday that starts out with a 1TB HD and I’ll be happy.

  5. - 8 years ago

    I will. My iMac, despite still being sufficient from 2009, is getting a bit stale. I’ve also been waiting for an upgrade to the Cinema Display. I’ll probably be grabbing both when they’re released.

  6. Im so gonna buy this machine! at the absolute highest spec possible. And I’m working with graphics, mostly Photoshop, After Effects and Unity3D. Currently I have the highest spec iMac 2012. THe only thing that worries me is if the general performance will be lower than the iMac I am using because of the resolution, that won’t be acceptable. I need a faster machine with a lot more VRAM (preferably 8gb), particularly because of After Effects, and hopefully the ability to up ram to 64gb and 6 core CPU with as high clockspeed as possible.

    So, since you so kindly ask us to explain why we want this machine?
    Mostly because I hope the specs are up to date! ( I would buy it even without the retina) But, for graphical work its going to be a pure joy! And the reason I’m not buying a Mac Pro instead is because none of the programs I use utilize the full power the Mac Pro has to offer, so paying the intense sums the Mac Pro requires for multiple cores and double gpu’s when Adobe hardly utilize any of it, would be a waste of a lot of money. If I were working with Final Cut, the Mac Pro would be the way to go. But for Adobe programs and unity3D, and such… the iMac is a better rig.

    • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

      Won’t be up to date long if it includes Haswell chips. Hopefully it has Broadwell chips, if not might be forced to wait for Skylake.

  7. custa1200 - 8 years ago

    Pretty sure thats 4x the resolution with a screen having a height and a width. 2 x 2 = 4?

  8. P. G. (@p_giguere1) - 8 years ago

    Unfortunately, it’s not realistic to expect a 5K Thunderbolt 2 Display. Thunderbolt 2 uses DisplayPort 1.2 which doesn’t have the necessary bandwidth for 5K @ 60Hz. At best it can do 4K60. For 5K60 you need DisplayPort 1.3 (which Dell is using on their monitor) but it’ll only be included in Thunderbolt 3, which itself won’t be released until Intel Skylake next year. The best Apple could do with current bandwidth limitations would be to 1) release a 30Hz display or 2) have on-the-fly lossy compression/decompression like they did for the Lightning to HDMI adapter 3) Use dual Thunderbolt 2 cables with MST, meaning only Macs with at least 2 TB2 ports would be compatible. All those solutions are pretty inelegant, so expect a 5K Thunderbolt Display next year. iMacs however will probably be released this year.

    • Joefrey Kibuule - 8 years ago

      Remember, two Thunderbolt ports != two 20Gbps PCI-E connections to the CPU. The TB controller itself only gets 20Gbps, which is why the Mac Pro has 3 of them.

      So unless your computer has Thunderbolt 3, it will not be driving a 5K display from a Mac. Hence why this screen is coming to the iMac first, and not standalone, despite the rather high price that would make it a more natural complement to a Mac Pro. Internal displays aren’t connected via any external bus protocols.

      • P. G. (@p_giguere1) - 8 years ago

        Correct, my 3rd option is not technically possible (not that it was viable anyway)

    • philm6 - 8 years ago

      Could someone explain to me, why TB2 cannot drive a 5k display. Am I doing my math wrong?

      5120×2880=14,745,600 pixels x 24bit x 60Hz = 21,233,664,000 bits/s
      21,233,664,000 bits/s / 1024 / 1024 / 1024 = 19.78 Gbit/s

      So theoretically a TB2 port would be able to drive such a 5k display? Or did i forget something?

      • Joefrey Kibuule - 8 years ago

        Even if you have the bandwidth (and trust me, because of overhead, your math sadly doesn’t work), DisplayPort 1.2 doesn’t support higher than 4K@60Hz. And DisplayPort 1.3 support doesn’t come until Thunderbolt 3.

      • P. G. (@p_giguere1) - 8 years ago

        The maximum effective bandwidth of DisplayPort 1.2 is 17.28 Gbps. Not sure why you can’t reach 20Gbps, but even if you could, there would only be 220 Mbps available for all other data going through the cable. Think of the USB hub, gigabit ethernet, audio, second TB port for daisy chaining… Having all those features collectively limited to 200Mbps isn’t desirable anyway.

  9. PMZanetti - 8 years ago

    My finger is on the button to buy. Just depends on if Apple has a reasonable price in mind.

    If they come out with $2999 starting price, it will flop.

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 8 years ago

      I’m ready to buy also and I agree about the price.

      I just hope that they allow us to buy a non-retina model if the price is going to be that high. I don’t see the logic in having to pay a thousand more for pixels you can’t really see, especially if there are going to be performance problems, which it totally sounds like there will be.

      • irelandjnr - 8 years ago

        Non Retina model isn’t going anywhere; will remain for sale.

  10. the sad part is my iMac 27 is two years old and i cant get a buyer who pay good amount for it and i jump to these new models.

    • tokyojerry - 8 years ago

      A buyer is not going to pay a ‘good amount’ for 2 year old technology If the buyer has to pay good money (assuming you mean a high price versus bad money) that buyer will want to apply ‘good money’ to a state-of-the-art technology and get good technology for good money. ;-)

      Place on auction, start bids at $0.01 ¥1 or whatever currency you use. Apply the ‘Law of Attraction’ and discover just what the market will absorb, support, for the 2 year old model.

  11. PMZanetti - 8 years ago

    Pretty sure Thunderbolt 2 cannot drive a 5k display, so the possibility of a 5k display is nil.

  12. sally (@FedGoat) - 8 years ago

    I won’t be buying one. I am one of the few that do not want a 4-5k iMac.
    I have the current model 27″: i5, 16GB Ram, 256SSD, and nVidia 780 4GB graphics card.
    I run windows 10 boot camped because I use my Mac side for real work and windows to Game on.
    The current iMac is an awesome gaming machine. I get 50-60FPS in the games I play on ultra at full resolution 2560×1440.
    If the iMac goes 4-5k I will have to sell my current model and build a gaming machine and get a Mac mini.
    I really don’t want to go this route because of all the wires but it looks as though I have no other option.

    I know that many are going to flame that the iMac was never meant to be a gaming machine, but I have been gaming on an iMac since the introduction of the AMD 5750 2GB card several years back.
    The iMac won’t push out as many FPS as a dedicated gaming machine, but as long as it pushes 50-60 all the time, that is Plenty good enough for gaming.

    I have upgraded every single year when a new iMac comes out. I just sell the old one while it has excellent resale value and pick up a new one each year.
    This looks like the year that gaming on an iMac goes away…
    I know some people will say… “just turn the resolution down” …. No. Lowering resolution makes the picture look like crapola. Even the current model at 1920 x 1080 looks really bad, Grainy.

    My hope is, IF apple Does make a 4-5k model, they also keep a 2560×1440 model that I can max out and continue to use for gaming.

    I think they should keep the normal line up they have now and introduce one more model that is “above” the current top model that sports 4-5K and a 28″-30″ display.

    • This is an interesting post for me as I was thinking the retina iMac would have enough horsepower to run any game with ease but your post makes sense and has me thinking I might be better off buying a current/non retina.

      Currently running a 10.1 rMBP and a 24ACD which is ok, but want something I can push to high settings on most things, when I am not doing serious and important real work on it obviously…

    • rwross - 8 years ago

      I’m pretty sure that the 5k display will game just as well, if not better, than your existing rig. Worst case, you can just set the display to essentially disable the retina feature by opting for more clustered pixels of the same instruction. You can do that on the Macbook Pro Retina now…

      Beyond that, the new cards are pretty robust and I’d be very surprised if they were not substantial enough to make for a good experience.

      • rwross - 8 years ago

        Also found this which might help you feel better:

        Now, this is worst case scenario time, which means you need to go to system pref before gaming…still…a whole lot faster than booting into Windows.

  13. Nice… But I want a 17″ MacBook Pro with retina, Bluetooth 4.0, SSDs, and less weight…

  14. Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 8 years ago

    I think the obvious mistake in your analogy that ends up describing the retina iMac as a “chunky truck” is that the laptops are in the same category. They are just slightly less chunky “trucks.”

    When one uses the the cars vs. trucks analogy it’s about *all* PCs, not just desktop PCs. The real difference to focus on is simply mobile versus non-mobile. While many of the readers, and most of the authors, and participators in tech sites like this use laptops and need to be mobile, there are absolutely huge numbers of people that have a computer at home, and do not need or want to “take it on the road” with them.

    The new iMac is clearly intended to be a non-mobile version of the MacBook Pro. Some people still want “trucks” and not all people want the mobile experience.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      Yep, that’s why I say “chunky truck” to specifically refer to a desktop PC rather than a laptop.

  15. James Hopkins - 8 years ago

    As a long time apple user and fan I have to say apple is constantly trying to do something different and better – simply to be different and better. But is this really what the consumer NEEDS. Sure everyone sees 5K retinal display and goes “wow, awesome, that would make my computing so much better – I will buy one”. But what point is a 5K display in a Mac with a spinning hard drive that holds back the OS and only 8GB of RAM – especimally if they make neither user upgradable. What many of us need is decent sized SSD’s and generous RAM as that is what will make computing more efficient. I need a 5K display like a hole in the head. For me if Apple update the iMac in a way where I HAVE to pay extortionate prices to upspec essentials such as RAM and HDD/SSD to sensible capacities (namely bare minimum 16GB RAM and minimum >512GB SSD) then I am simply not going to buy this, especially if I can’t do it myself in 2 years time when I need it. Currently you have to pay a 35% premium to up spec an iMac to 16GB RAM and a 3TB fusion drive. If you want an SSD then add another 10%. Want and i7 processor then you have to step to the top of the line, make all the afforementioned upgrades AND another 10% for the i7. Similarly MacBook Air and Pro are out of my shopping list because of the lousy SSD/RAM spec and unaffordable upgrade pricing apple offers. If this happens to the new release iMac and Mac mini it is time for a hackintosh!

    • hmurchison - 8 years ago

      Why would you need more than half a Gigabyte of SSD? That’s seem rather arbitrary. SSD is and will always remain more expensive per Gigabyte than HDD. I thought buying a Macbook Air with 128GB would be too limiting and what i’ve found is that is “is” limiting but I was making poor choices about where to store my larger data files like videos. Now I augment my SSD with external and portable HDD and leverage digital movies that are kept on remote servers. Soon my photos will go the same route.

      What I want going forward for an SSD is ridiculous speed. so that the items that I need to reside locally are running at blazing speeds and the items that take up space are running on more suitable (read cheaper storage)

      And the 27″ iMacs have always had upgradeable RAM slots.

      I see a lot of people complaining about pricing. You must be young and cannot remember the days when a Mac IIci was 3200 dollars and then you added mouse/keyboard, display and more.

      You’re living in an era of unprecedented home computing power and acting like it should be given to you for peanuts.

      • jameskinz - 8 years ago

        Thanks for your reply. I see your point and I have been where you are. I have a 256 GB SSD in my 2009 MBP and it is chocka. I have been VERY selective as to what is on the SSD. Everyday files that I want to always be jn my laptop (without having to plug in an external drive or connect to the internet to access cloud based files), only my favourite music tracks, only my favourite photos and no videos. As a hobby photographer (not pro) this has become a pain to manage. Not to mention when I want to listen to a whole album on iTunes I have to plug in a power hungry portable hdd – 2 drives running is inefficient when on the move – just to listen to music.

        You are right fast SSD is key with current OS. But limiting the size so much in the standard spec is such a kick in the face when 1TB SSD’s cost less than apples upgrade from 128->512GB.

        Re the RAM slots your are right they are user upgradable – what I was getting at is the fear they will make these non user upgradable in future iMacs so you have to pay through the nose to upspec via apple.

        I also agree on pricing – computing is extremely affordable nowadays, it is the non competitive overpricing of upgrades that is the problem in non user upgradeable devices.

    • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

      For the premium they will charge it would be nice to get more ram and fusiondrive or SSD. It’s Apple and they love to force us to pay out the ass for descent ram and storage.

    • M - 8 years ago

      “and only 8GB of RAM..”

      You’re delusional if you think a significant portion of the population needs or will benefit from more than 8GB of RAM. I’m a designer, and use my Macbook Air for everything, including all the hungry Adobe apps- with 4GB RAM. What my use cases are more intensive than 98% of users. 8Gb is fine for a long time.

      • silas681- - 8 years ago

        What do you ‘design’ using that rig? Cross stitch patterns?

        Seriously though, my work today in CAD was using 10 gig of ram.

      • Kemar W (@toohotz) - 8 years ago

        You are not doing that memory intensive of a work then if you truly believe all the “hungry Adobe apps” is not able to easily consume 4GB of RAM. CAD alone as silas681 said can certainly consume far beyond four and eight. Doing light to moderate AV editing in After Effects can easily fluctuate between four to five gigs used. All depends on the workload of course but your alleged case of being more than “98% of users” is falsely made because for one I would not buy an Air to get “intensive” work done. Pro models were made for that.

      • jameskinz - 8 years ago

        I have to agree. Aperture, iPhoto, and even more so adobe software all require more than 4GB RAM to get all the room to breathe they demand. That’s why I upgraded my MBP ram to 8GB a few years ago – that cost me about $150 back then. I am constantly utilising 80% of that 8GB just for hobby photography using Aperture. Open adobe and my RAM is paging to SSD instantly. If you don’t have sufficient RAM you get paging – even to an SSD that is far slower than RAM speeds and a massive hit on performance.

      • M - 8 years ago

        Yep, you got it- “cross-stitch patterns”. What a ridiculous assertion.

        No, I don’t use CAD or after-effects. I sue photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. I often have multiple, very large files open at the same time in all these applications, as well as 30+ tabs in chrome and safari, and at lest 5-6 other open applications. Would it be smoother with 8GB? I’m sure it would. Is it unuseable with 4? Absolutely not. Do I have a more intensive use case than the MAJORITY of Macbook/Macbook Pro owners? Yes, I do.

  16. theagentmike - 8 years ago

    I am probably going to switch out an old Windows computer for one of these. Just need to make the money first, because I know its going to cost at least $1,500 for a decent configuration.

    They should also do away with traditional hard drives at this point. No more low-spec configurations as the base model. These days people are looking for fast computers that won’t waste their time waiting to boot up or open apps.

  17. Jeff Colvin (@jeffcolv) - 8 years ago

    As an Apple fan/user, I believe this will be far too expensive for the majority of users.

  18. hmurchison - 8 years ago

    My 27″ is only a year old so I’m enthusiastic about 5K displays hitting now because when it comes time to refresh my Mac I’ll be looking at a Skylake based computer with PCI Express 4.0, Thunderbolt 3 eDRAM and SATA Express. A worthy upgrade for sure.

    For now those looking to upgrade their older computers will get a fantastic display and current generation power.

  19. Yes, please. Been waiting to replace my late 2007 iMac. Considered a MacBook Pro but historically you get WAY more for your money with an iMac oppose to a MacBook Pro. And it usually cost less when all is said and done. For what I do, it’s a no brainer but mileage may vary for others.

    • Much of what you get is weight, so there’s that. ;) It’s a fruit to vegetable comparison as one doesn’t necessarily satisfy the same requirements as the other.

    • Max Mars (@devianter) - 8 years ago

      it’s MID 2007, not late ;) Mine is still rocking hard after i put a 840 ssd in it. In Yosemite right now, everything is pretty damn good. It feels kinda old, especially the screen, but hey.. Won’t be upgrading anytime soon and i’m happy this 7 years old beast is still running the latest and greatest OS.

      • You are correct. Mine has been a work horse but it’s choking when it comes to video and high end graphics. I’m sure that SSD breathes new life into it but unfortunately you can’t upgrade the GPU/CPU, so, for me, it’s time to upgrade. It has served me well and have no complaints. Will probably keep it around for other uses. Does Yosemite work well on it? Looking to upgrade (if they allow it via app store) when it becomes available.

  20. I’m hanging on for dear life to my early 2009 MacPro, hopefully until the day I have the cheese for a NMP + Cinema Display. I’ll probably get killed by terrorists before that happens though.

    • giskardian - 8 years ago

      You can drop in a new video card and drive a 5K display. Can’t do that with a nMP, lol.

  21. Dave Nelson - 8 years ago

    I would say the analogy is not truck vs car but truck vs van vs car. The trucks are the Mac Pro and believe it or not the Mini. What you say? The mini is a truck? Consider the Mac Pro as something like a dump truck or semi. The Mini is a utilitarian pickup truck and is nice when you need the versatility but don’t need a big truck. The van is the iMac. It carries a lot of passengers or supplies in its big enclosure. Home contractors and other small businesses use a lot of vans and pickups. The cars are the laptops and iPads. Cars come in different sizes and are the most popular.

    The truck and automotive market isn’t one size fits all and neither is the computer market. Sure you see more cars than trucks and more vans and pickups than big trucks but that is because people buy what they need. Personally, I’d like to see a new pickup truck where I can create a video library for my TV and do my photography work. I don’t need a semi truck and prefer the versatility of a pickup over a van. Bring on a new Mini please!

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 8 years ago

      I would say:

      – Mac Pro == The big rig (semi)
      – iMac == Truck (vans, pickups, whatever, all the same thing)
      – Mac mini == Electric delivery vehicle (like the post office uses, still a truck but weak)
      – MacBook Pro == Luxury car (mostly for showing off and going fast)
      – MacBook Air == just a car
      – iPad == a care “share” (modo, zip car, etc.)
      – iPad mini == Segway
      – iPhone == public transit

      • Dave Nelson - 8 years ago

        Hmmm…. Then I have:

        – A truck
        – An antique car (the white Macbook)
        – A zip car
        – A Segway
        – And take public transit

        I use the Segway and truck the most. Even though I have an iPhone 5s I don’t use it a lot. Mostly I use it for car navigation (ironic as I’m using public transit for directions in my real car!) and for grocery lists.

      • Roger J. Caldwell - 8 years ago

        I just have a bicycle and a tallywacker. No problem finding a parking spot for either. Oh wait, are we still analogizing? {smirk}

    • hmurchison - 8 years ago

      The whole Truck Analogy was not Steve Jobs finest and most clarified moment in history.

      iPads are disposable. My iPad 2 is non-functional and my wife’s iPad mini’s performance fell off the cliff with iOS 8.

      iOS devices are not long term products. My buddy just upgraded a laptop going on 5 years old. It was slow but it was almost 5 years old (White Macbook) you just don’t see iOS device lasting much longer than 3. They’re pretty much toast buy then.

      Give me the Truck please.

      • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 8 years ago

        Well, your fighting history with that sentiment. :-)

        Long term, that never works out. It will be a slow change though and not uniform either, so everyone will still be able to use what they want for a long, long, time yet.

  22. taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

    Hopefully it will be priced at about $2099. $300 premium over the non retina model. Still the display to me alone isn’t worth a $300-$400 premium. It needs to have a fusion drive or decent sized flash drive standard for me to pay the $309-400 premium over the standard 27″ iMac.

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 8 years ago

      Agree. Anything more than just a little bit more in price will be a deal killer.

      If the premium is even $500, you’d be better off skipping the retina and spending that money on a bigger, all-SSD drive. That would affect your computing experience far more than a few more pixels.

      • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

        I hope somehow that secured some Broadwell chips for it. Refreshed Haswell chios will be a tough sell for me, I might be forced to wait for Skylake.

        I’m agreement more pixels will be a tough sell for me even though it does help with eye strain from my astigmatism.

        Instant on with SSD or SuperDrive is a must for a premium price. If it is more then $309 premium I’ll probably just customize a non retina model.

      • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

        Fusiondrive I mean.

    • P. G. (@p_giguere1) - 8 years ago

      Given that this Dell 5K display costs $2500 whereas the Dell 27″ 1440p display with the same panel as the current iMac costs $600, I think it’s extremely unlikely that this will only be a $300 premium over the non-Retina version.

      My guess is that it will be something like $1000 more and come with 256GB flash. A tough sell for most average buyers, but if you were in the market for a quality 4K+ IPS 60Hz display to begin with, that would be quite a bargain compared to the current offering from competitors.

      • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

        I don’t see who a $2999 to $3499 iMac would appeal to. Buying a MacBook Pro or a Mac Pro and a good display would make more sense.

        $3500 AIO seems like a tough sell to an average consumer or even a prosumer to me.

      • P. G. (@p_giguere1) - 8 years ago


        A $1000 premium over the current 27″ iMac would mean a starting price of $2799. It would appeal to anybody who wants the luxury of owning one of the best (if not the best) display on the market yet doesn’t need specifically high performance. A Mac Pro with a equivalent display and Apple mouse/keybaord is minimum $5636, that’s not really close, that’s over twice the price.

        It really comes down to wether you value such a high-res display. If you don’t, I’m pretty confident Apple will keep selling the non-Retina iMac anyway. It’s definitely a niche device for now, but price will come down eventually. Think of what people originally said of the MacBook Air. “Who will buy that? It’s too slow to be my main computer, too expensive to be a secondary computer.” And look where we are now.

  23. Scott (@ScooterComputer) - 8 years ago

    Right up front, I’m going to tell you who the surprising (likely, for the 9to5Mac demographic) purchaser is going to be: older Mac users.

    The march over the past several years to smaller and smaller “chrome”, UI elements, has played hell with the large number of older folks that I work with, to the point I seriously believe that Apple has lost concept of the composition of their market demographic. Older folks, Americans especially, have most of the wealth; this is a fact and it isn’t changing quickly. So tiny 13″ and 15″ screens, even WITH Retina, that continue to use small widgets and small fonts are hurting Apple. Those smaller elements especially don’t translate well to non-Retina larger screens, and users are forced into using scaling…which, to say the least, is suboptimal. Throw in with the demographic the affects of natural aging, and the idea of Retina screens with better scaling becomes a no-brainer. My father, like MANY other older Apple customers, suffers from a condition called presbyopia; it causes the sclera of the eyeball to harder and makes focusing up close difficult (think bifocals). He has complained of OS X’s move to smaller widgets and thinner fonts for years, and has refused to upgrade his iMac 24″ since buying a 15″ MacBook Pro and being disappointed with the higher (non-Retina) resolution that resulted in yet-smaller widgets. I am seeing more and more aging programmers from the Mac and iOS communities also now complain (aging is a bitch). A 5K iMac would be a godsend to these folks. And they have money.

    The hardware features I’d like to see:
    • the return of a 24″ iMac…Apple should continue to sell the 21″ and 27″, but add the 24″ back. I have many clients who want larger than 21″ but aren’t interested in the size of the 27″, primarily executives and folks with offices with desks that meet with people (and aren’t interested in having to crane around a billboard to talk).
    • I think the “experiment” with non-upgradeable RAM and SSD/HDs needs to come to an end. iMacs, especially 5K Retina ones, will be FAR too expensive over the price of the commodity “PC” to “weld the hood shut”. It will continue to be a non-starter for business owners if Apple chooses that path. (At least the 24″ and 27″ should be upgradeable. I believe the market would probably tolerate the 21″ remaining as it has.)
    • I’d like to see, on the 27″ especially, a ARM-based iOS-driven co-processor board that would allow the iMac to run as a Cinema Display (without powering on the Mac motherboard) over Thunderbolt and as, effectively, an AirPlay receiver. Looking at the inexpensiveness of the guts of the 2nd gen Apple TV in current pricing, just make it an Apple TV.

    My pie in the sky, likely not going to happen wish would be for the larger iMacs to become more modular and integrate the Mac mini. Apple would sell the more expensive screen on the idea of it being a “chassis”…that way users would effectively “invest” more money up front. Then, over time, the mini-based motherboard could be swapped at an Apple Store. I think these screens, like TVs, are going to be expensive enough and of high quality enough to be seen as an investment property rather than a disposable piece. People paying $2000 for a 5K iMac are going to be loathe to drop $1000 on a Cinema Display later down the line. Apple has to be willing to position this right from the start. Apple consumers might be wealthier than the average consumer, but contrary to what some believe (and reality TV parades), most wealthy folks are NOT wasteful or stupid with their money…they are quite savvy and pragmatic. By modularizing the motherboard with the mini, the model lines come into alignment and reduce cost of manufacturing for both. The only difference between the two would be the shell/chassis.

    Finally, I’d really like to see 10.10/beyond usher in modular cluster computing. The technology is here, and it would be HUGE if Apple was the company to take the first step. OS X already supports it, more or less, with Xgrid. The idea is you start out with an iMac or Mac Pro on a gigabit or Thunderbolt network. Then, as you want more computing power, you merely add new nodes. As you upgrade, your retired Mac becomes a cluster node. Photoshop users might have an old iMac or reuse the iMac as a Cinema Display powered by a Mac Pro; need more power? add a mini. Likewise, for scientific applications, just keep adding Mac Pro supercomputers. Home users would effectively begin to build a cluster that could, in a few years, effectively act as a local “cloud” to allow Mac OS X power-level computing while using the iPad as the portable interface. Who needs a laptop around the house when you have three kids, 2 iMacs, a Mac Pro, and an old mini crunching the numbers and displaying the results on a 12.9″ iPad?

    • Scott (@ScooterComputer) - 8 years ago

      Oh…and I’d like to see the “i” from the “iMac” disappear. It’s been long enough. The iMac looks, today, like the original Mac concepts…it is the Mac. The “i” is redundant.

      • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

        30th anniverversary is best time to reintroduce the Mac name. You have Mac mini, Mac Pro and for whatever reason the iMac still. Just don’t bring back the eMac))

      • P. G. (@p_giguere1) - 8 years ago

        Please no, I hate ambiguous names.

        Conversations would go like:

        – “What computer do you use”
        – “I have a Mac”
        – “Ah! You mean the new desktop one?”
        – “No, I have a MacBook”
        – “Which one? MacBook Pro, MacBook Air?”
        – “Just MacBook”.
        – “Ah the plastic one?”
        – “Yeah, the white one”

    • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

      The 27″ has user replaceable ram, should be a standard in all models, but Apple has never liked giving us much ram. I don’t think Apple will bring back the 24″ model, but think Apple will change the MacBook Pro to 14″ and 16″.

    • sewollef - 8 years ago

      I like your idea for cluster computing. Not sure it will happen just yet, but still.

      Waiting for this announcement, I’m about to upgrade both my 2007 Macbook Pro and my 2008 iMac but I can certainly see a use for these older machines without selling them. My house is big enough to accommodate ‘nodes’ around the place and I can certainly make use of them.

      As for the likelihood of a new 5K iMac, since I’m in the market and have held off specifically for this event, I shall probably be buying the highest spec they will offer. My wok is design and my freelance work is photography. I’ll need the power.

      • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 8 years ago

        Custer computing will never happen with iMacs, or MacBook Pros.

        It goes against the whole concept that apple is working with in terms of the “all-in-one” for starters, and Apple makes *consumer* products, not reeked out systems for nerds. If your aged mother couldn’t figure it out, that’s almost a guarantee that Apple won’t implement it in their mainstream products (and that’s a good thing).

    • giskardian - 8 years ago

      Interesting post!

      Only quibble is that since an iPad lacks a keyboard, it doesn’t replace a laptop. Sure you could buy a keyboard for it, but then why not buy a MacBook?

      iPad is more passive consumption, while a Mac is about doing stuff.

  24. Herbert Mayermacher - 8 years ago

    I’m so excited,
    and I just can’t hide it
    I know, I know, I know, I know
    I want an iMac, an iMac

  25. giskardian - 8 years ago

    Dumbest computer ever. Takes a beautiful display and slaps a bunch of soon to be outdated hardware on the back of it, then wraps it too tightly in a poorly cooled enclosure so it looks “cool”.

    Want to swap in a bigger SSD? Buy a bunch of specialized tools and plan on spending the whole weekend to do it.

    It’s make so much more sense to keep the computer and monitor seperate. If only Apple would sell a headless iMac instead of that silly headless laptop that is the Mac Mini.

    • Inaba-kun (@Inaba_kun) - 8 years ago

      Soon to be outdated? New NVidia GPUs have just come out, so I assume you’re referring to Haswell. Broadwell is a minor change targeted exclusively as laptops.

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 8 years ago

      Computers generally get replaced every two to three years. That fact alone undermines your entire argument.

      Add to that the fact that no one actually “maintains” or “fixes” their computers anymore and it’s a slam dunk. No offence, but you are living in the past my friend.

    • P. G. (@p_giguere1) - 8 years ago

      If this was a PC desktop I’d totally agree, but considering how easy it is to sell a used Mac and how much they keep they value, it’s easy to just sell your used iMac and get a new one with the new specs you want if you judge your older one is outdated. I myself own a regular desktop PC, and the cost of ownership isn’t really lower in the end even though it’s easily upgradeable.

  26. Andre Herzog - 8 years ago

    What Hz “do” this “Dell” screen have?
    Hope for 120Hz and not the current 60Hz.

  27. wvb22 - 8 years ago

    The only thing that bothers me is the expected price. According to Anandtech the price of the Dell monitor alone will be around $2500. Now add the other hardware and the Apple premium and you’ll end up comfortably above the $3500 mark. That’s not a consumer product anymore. So I’m truly wondering how Apple is going to pull this off. At a $3500 price point it’s going to be well beyond the price many consumers are willing to pay, even for an Apple product.

    So the only thing what sounds logical to me is that either Apple gets a great deal on these displays and can buy them ‘cheap’ or Apple is willing to sacrifice their margins by large to get this baby to market.

    • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

      The Dell displays do have Harmon Kardon built in speakers to increase the price, but don’t think this will be the display Apple uses. I’m not sure who Dell sources its displays from, but Apple usually uses LG displays.

      The first retina MacBooks had $400 premium over the non retina models. I see Apple only being able to do a $300 premium for an iMac. Who is going to buy a $2999 to $3499 iMac? With that price people would just buy a good monitor and a Mac Pro.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        Apple has used Dell, LG and Samsung

      • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

        What has Apple used Dell monitors in? As long as I can render the bulk of iMac moniors have been LG and some Samsung.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        The Apple Cinema Display 30 was a Dell panel (I owned one). I haven’t kept track of recent ones.

      • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

        And as I said it is an LG display. Thank you ifixit.

  28. Im replacing my 2011 Imac for sure! already sold it =D . Getting a 21.5” no retina with 1gb graphic card or more also fusion drive =) hope they upgrade the fusion drive from 128 to 256gb for the same price.. i wish…. sorry my english

  29. Wouldn’t that be great if Apple releases thunderbolt display with built-in display processor(s). Might not perform as good as PCIE but 80% of the performance is achievable via 20Gbps thunderbolt.

  30. “exactly double that of the current 27-inch iMac”

    Um, No. Do you even MATH bro?

    That resolution would pack FOUR pixels into the same space of just one previous pixel, making it “exactly QUADRUPLE that of the current 27-inch iMac”.

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 8 years ago

      No, the article is correct. Double the *resolution* (which is quadruple the pixels).

      • Well sorry, but Apple agrees with me. All their marketing materials including Phil Schiller during the Keynote claim it is 4 times the resolution.

    • P. G. (@p_giguere1) - 8 years ago

      Ah, this again. What you’re describing is total pixel count. “Resolution” is ambiguous as it’s sometimes used to denote linear resolution, sometimes the total pixel count. Wikipedia says the American, Japanese, and international standards encourage the use of “resolution” as a linear measure, exactly like the author has done. So twice the resolution, four times the pixel count.

  31. “It’s been a long time…”

    No one gets it, do they?

  32. Sven Paulsen - 8 years ago

    I’d prefer a new Thunderbolt Display with Thunderbolt 2 and Megsafe 2… Doesn’t even need to be 4K… I assume that a 4K display will also cost 4K… :-P

  33. Anh Pham (@ocpham) - 8 years ago

    17 inch 4k thunderbolt display please …

    • airmanchairman - 8 years ago

      Yeah, bring back the 17″ MacBook Pro and make it’s display Retina graphics…

  34. Roger J. Caldwell - 8 years ago

    Is anyone else annoyed by the Airwatch ad at the top that covers the title of the article with no way to dismiss or close it? BAD DESIGN!!!!!!!!

    • hmurchison - 8 years ago

      No. I’m here for the ads and hate when these stupid opinion pieces and articles get in the way


  35. spiffers - 8 years ago

    This will be perfect for coders. Web, app, you name it. Great screen estate, great resolution. Not all coders need a Mac Pro, or can afford one together with a Dell 5k display, so I guess tis one is perfect. Like the Mac Pro, this beauty will also be unbeliavebly cheap (the Mac Pro costs less than the sum of its parts on the open market) and Im sure this one will cost only a tad more than the screen itself (on the open market ofcoz).

  36. ricardogomez297167426 - 8 years ago

    A 5K iMac makes a lot of sense if you still want to continue that line. Many, if not most, photography professionals use an iMac. Or you have your tech monitoring images during a photo shoot.

    Personally, as a professional photographer, I don’t see myself upgrading to a 5K iMac. My late 2013 MBP is more than sufficient and an upgrade would have to give me double the performance. This performance comes in handy when having to batch process Photoshop files. It’s sufficient right now and probably will be for the next 2 – 3 years.

    A Thunderbolt 5K Retina display would be nice. But I don’t see 5K Retina offering a huge advantage over a good 4K monitor. And you know it’s going to be a $2,000 monitor. I was blown away by the SHARP 32″ 4K monitor. The Dell or Asus 4K currently $1000. That sounds good to me. Next year: $600 – $800…. :-) And the only way to use 5K Retina now is by using two TB2 ports. That’s simply not going to happen for me.

    If they can keep the price of the 5K Retina iMac between $2000 – $2500, I think it will be a big hit. It makes lots of sense for many people.

  37. airmanchairman - 8 years ago

    The Retina iMac would be less of a truck and more like a Stretch Navigator, Range Rover, or similar high spec SUV…

  38. Aarón Díaz Chávez - 8 years ago

    Why everytime you guys talk about pcs, immidiately you bring windows, like if linux didnt existed….

  39. I have been waiting to buy a beefed up MBP with parallels to run windows-based Office 2013 for my work. Another key advantage for me of this arrangement is that it will support my excel-based accounting software that only has windows based plugins. This whole arrangement is based on using a thunderbolt display as my key display on the desk. But, having looked at its details – thick bezel, no USB 3.0, no thunderbolt 2 – I was not impressed. I knew Apple would be doing something fairly soon. Current ATD is more than 3 years old after all. I didn’t want to spend many thousands of pounds buying an outdated piece of kit that I would have regretted within months of buying.

    So I bet on a new ATD coming with Yosemite – three months ago!

    I am holding my breath on my gamble.

    I can’t push back buying the MBP any more because my FY ends at the end of the month. I’ll lose my tax saving opportunity this year if Apple don’t release the new-look ATD tomorrow. I’ll be sorely disappointed.


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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