In every iMac review that I’ve produced in the last few years, there has been one common complaint among them all: after maintaining the same general look for the past decade, the iMac looks old and outdated.

Yes, it’s high time for the iMac to receive a substantial makeover, and it looks like we’re finally on the precipice of such a change actually happening. In this episode of Back to the Mac, I discuss this exciting development. 

New iMac 2020 refresh incoming

Although the current design of the iMac has long looked outdated in the presence of modern designs of the iPhone, iPad, MacBooks, and Pro Display XDR, recent rumors suggest that Apple is finally about to do something about it.

Recent happenings suggest that a new 27-inch iMac replacement is right around the corner. For example, supplies of 27-inch iMacs are largely unavailable at Apple Stores, and a new Mac model identifier was added to the EEC database, among other things.

But it was leaker Sonny Dickson’s recent tweet that really got people talking about an upcoming iMac refresh. Dickson says that we will see Apple’s refreshed all-in-one revealed during WWDC’s keynote event on June 22nd.

Video: Back to the Mac 018 – iMac 2020 refresh!

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Design

The biggest change to come to the upcoming 2020 iMac refresh has to do with design language. More specifically, it appears as though that the iMac will finally lose its huge bezels that surround the display, and might finally get rid of the aluminum chin, or at least feature a significant chin reduction.

Dickson specifically calls out iPad Pro design language with Pro Display XDR-esque bezels. After all, the Pro Display XDR looks like a blown-up iPad Pro when looking at the display head-on. This leads me to believe that there won’t just be reduced bezels, but may also suggest an outright lack of the metal chin altogether. This would be a welcomed addition from a design perspective, and instantly make the 2020 iMac look a lot more modern.

Of course, there are still loads of question marks to be addressed during Apple’s WWDC keynote in relation to the design of this new iMac.

  • How will they pack in internal components and keep it cool?
  • How thin will the new iMac be?
  • What screen sizes will it come in?
  • How will it look sitting next to a Pro Display XDR?
  • What will the stand be like?

And that’s just a few of the questions I have…

I could very well see Apple going back to the non-tapered iMac design of yesteryear while reducing bezels and eliminating the chin. This would give the machine the added thickness necessary to accommodate the needed internal components while giving the front of the machine a much-needed facelift.

This design makes sense to me, because who cares how thick an iMac is when it’s just sitting on your desk? Weight is hardly a factor like it is with MacBook. It’s possible that we’ve already seen exactly what the front of the new iMac will look like in the Pro Display XDR.

Of course, don’t expect the iMac’s display properties to be anywhere as nice as the $6000 (with stand) Pro Display XDR, but the basic design principles could largely translate over to Apple’s popular all-in-one.

Larger display

Back in April, there were rumors about a 23-inch iMac and I think that lines up nicely with the idea of reduced bezels. Apple currently produces iMacs with a 21.5-inch and 27-inch display, and could easily increase the size of each without increasing the footprint, or perhaps at the same time reduce the footprint of the iMac.

If Apple increases the entry-level iMac to a 23-inch display, it’s likely that the 27-inch iMac will be bumped up to a larger display as well, perhaps somewhere in the ballpark of 30-inches. For the record, the Pro Display XDR sports a 32-inch 6K display. Wouldn’t it be cool if the new 2020 iMac could sit side-by-side with the Pro Display XDR and not look out of place?

T2 Security Chip

The standard iMacs are the only Mac computers that lack Apple’s T2 Security Chip. The T2 chip is an ARM coprocessor that handles security among the many other hats that it wears.

A new T2 chip approach is needed

For example, it features an integrated System Management Controller, image signal processor (ISP), audio controller, and SSD controller. These features add to the performance of modern Mac computers, alongside the various security aspects they bring to the table like encrypted storage and secure boot.

The addition of the T2 security chip is a forgone conclusion for any major iMac refresh. Who knows, perhaps we’ll finally see Face ID appear on the Mac? The T2 chip makes that possible, and the iMac is an ideal candidate for Face ID given its always-available camera.

AMD Navi GPU

All of the current iMacs that Apple sells with dedicated GPUs feature older AMD graphics with Polaris architecture. If the rumor is true that new iMacs will feature GPUs with AMD’s Navi-based architecture, it will result in a significant graphics improvement across the board.

However, the improvement that I’m most looking forward to is in regards to consumer 10-bit HEVC encoding, which makes working with 10-bit video so much better in Final Cut Pro X. Upcoming cameras, such as Canon’s EOS R5 with internal 8K 4:2:2 10-bit H.265 (HEVC) encoding, will benefit heavily from a Navi-based GPU inside the new iMac. Built-in HEVC encoding could save users huge amounts of time just on exporting video from Final Cut Pro X.

No more fusion drive!

It’s ridiculous that Apple still ships Macs with mechanical hard drives in 2020, but the iMac lineup features both lackluster hybrid Fusion drives and even super slow standard mechanical 5400 RPM drives. With the 2020 iMac refresh, it looks as if mechanical drives, most notably the Fusion Drives, will finally be laid to rest.

Although Fusion Drives provide a nice “bang for the buck” by combining some of the speed aspects of solid state storage with the density of mechanical storage, they are a compromise and can quickly show their flaws when put to the test.

Apple’s SSD storage has slowly come down in price over the years, and are now available in high capacities up to 8TB. It’s well overdue, but I’m happy that Apple is finally ditching such antiquated tech.

What about memory upgrades?

One of the best things about the 5K iMac, and why I think it’s still one of the best values in the entire Mac lineup, is that its RAM can be easily upgraded. Indeed, Apple even includes an access door for memory upgrades and has published tutorials for performing such upgrades.

Because Apple-provided RAM costs a lot of money, I’ve always recommended holding off on RAM upgrades during the build-to-order configuration. Instead, you can purchase much cheaper RAM from Amazon and install it yourself, saving hundreds in the process.

But with this new iMac, and it’s supposed sleeker design, I have doubts that easy RAM upgradeability will remain as a holdover. For example, the iMac Pro, which necessitated a much different internal layout in order to dissipate heat, did away with the easy access door. While it remains possible to upgrade the RAM on an iMac Pro, such upgrades need to be performed by an Apple Authorized Service Professional.

What about I/O?

For several generations the 27-inch iMac has come bundled with the following I/O options:

  • 4 x USB-A ports
  • 2 x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet port
  • 1 x SD Card slot
  • 3.5mm headphone input

I don’t envision a lot changing with this layout, although I hope that Apple provides users with an extra Thunderbolt 3 bus, and two additional Thunderbolt 3 ports like you’ll find on the Mac mini, iMac Pro, and upper-tier models of MacBook Pro. Having four Thunderbolt 3 ports across two buses is a must for a desktop Mac.

What about iMac Pro?

The iMac Pro has received small upgrades since its debut, but hasn’t seen any major internal or external upgrades since the machine first appeared way back in 2017. The presence of a new baseline iMac with a new display and refreshed design will make the iMac Pro seem even more outdated. I suspect that we’ll see an iMac Pro upgrade based on this new design language not too long after the new baseline iMacs launch.

My most-wanted wildcard feature

If there’s one unlikely feature that I’d like to see come to these new iMac 2020 models, it’s the return of Target Display Mode. This was an element that appeared on older hardware that allowed an iMac to be used as an external display for another Mac computer. For example, you could use your iMac as a display for your MacBook Pro via a Thunderbolt connection.

Once the high-resolution 5K iMac came on to the scene, Apple eliminated Target Display Mode and it hasn’t reappeared since. Although I’d be shocked if Target Display Mode ever made a comeback, a redesigned iMac with slim bezels would be the perfect host machine for such a useful feature.

Ever since Apple discontinued the Thunderbolt Display, users have been wishing for a true replacement featuring Apple build quality at an affordable price. LG’s UltraFine 5K Display has acted as the de facto replacement for the Thunderbolt Display, but from a build quality perspective, it’s been a disappointment.

9to5Mac’s Take

It’s not often that Apple refreshes its desktop computers, so I hope they hit the design out of the park considering it’ll likely be sticking around for many years to come.

Although we have a general idea of what to expect from the upcoming iMac 2020 refresh announcement, there are still plenty of unanswered questions. I cannot wait until Monday to learn more.

What do you think about the upcoming 2020 iMac? Do the leaked design details sound appealing to you? Leave a comment down below with your thoughts.

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