iMac Overview Updated August 29, 2017

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November 2008 - August 2017


Originally released in 1998 with its most recent redesign in 2012, the iMac ($1,099 and up from the Apple Store) started life as Apple’s fun all-in-one computer, evolving into a more serious “right for practically everyone” option over time. Currently available in 21.5″ (1920×1080-pixel) and 27″ (2560×1440-pixel) versions, the iMac is effectively a non-portable MacBook Air or MacBook Pro with a larger screen. The lowest-end model ships with a slow Air-like 1.4GHz Core i5 processor, quickly stepping up to 2.7GHz and 3.5GHz i5 and i7 chips as the price climbs; hard drives range from a slow 500GB disk to a fast 1TB SSD, with better graphics processors at higher prices. You get most of the Mac Pro’s performance, ports, and features, plus an integrated screen, all at a lower price.

The iMac tapers to only 5mm thin at its edges, a design change that required the loss of optical drives and the movement of card readers to the computers’ rears, near their ports. It’s also impossible to upgrade the 21.5″ model’s RAM after purchase, so you’ll need to buy the machine customized with the amount you want. But those are the only compromises, as the thin iMacs feature top-grade internal specs like fast processors, USB 3 ports, and optional SSD or Fusion Drives. A Fusion Drive combines an SSD with a standard Hard Drive in order to provide the benefits of flash storage, while still providing the 1TB or 3TB of storage space that many customers would expect from the iMac.

Apple last updated the regular iMac in September 2013, but in mid-2014 introduced a minor update to the 21.5-inch iMac offering MacBook Air-quality chips at a more affordable price point. If you’re looking to save a comparable amount without compromising on performance, Apple sells refurbished iMacs at a discount, and they’re indistinguishable from new machines.

In the fall of 2014, Apple introduced a top-of-the-line 27″ iMac that looks identical from the outside, except for the addition of a “Retina 5K display.” With a $2,499 price tag from the Apple Store, the iMac with Retina 5K display includes a 3.5GHz Core i5 processor, and sells for a $500 premium over a comparably-equipped standard 27″ iMac. In addition to the sharper display, the 5K iMac can be customized with a faster 4.0GHz Core i7 processor, a 4GB graphics card, and up to 32GB of RAM. Like with the Retina MacBook Pros, it’s likely that the Retina iMac prices will come down over the course of the next few years. We expect to see a 21.5-inch Retina model in the future.

Need extra cash to upgrade? Sell your old iMac to Gazelle.

iMac Stories August 29

AAPL: 162.91

1.44

Apple adds 2017 21.5-inch iMac to online refurbished store, prices start at $1,099

Apple this evening has added the current-generation 21.5-inch iMac to its online refurbished store. The machine was originally introduced at WWDC 2017 and this marks the first time Apple has offered it in refurbished condition.

iMac Stories August 12

AAPL: 157.48

2.16

From 9to5Toys:

The 5K iMac features a great display, but it comes with no built in input options for connecting external media sources like gaming consoles. Yet, there is a way to play gaming consoles like Nintendo Switch and PS4 on the iMac’s display. By wielding the Elgato Game Capture HD60 S external capture device, it’s easy to direct video output from you favorite gaming console to your iMac’s display.

Normally thought of for its capturing abilities, the HD60 S, is headlined by its superior low-latency properties. The low latency makes the HD60 S an ideal solution for displaying the Nintendo Switch in full screen at up to 1080p at 60 fps. It’s not perfect, and at over $150 it’s definitely not cheap, but it’s the best solution that I’ve found for using the iMac as an external display. Watch our hands-on video walkthrough for an explanation.

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iMac Stories August 1

AAPL: 150.05

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For $1799, the entry-level 5K iMac is a very good deal for anyone looking for a powerful machine that can be upgraded to some extent. Of course, when it comes to an all-in-one machine like the iMac, the term “upgrade” is used loosely, but it’s still fairly remarkable how much headroom you can garner from Apple’s entry-level 27-inch 5K machine.

In this hands-on post and video walkthrough, we’ll consider several reasons why the base-model 5K iMac is such a compelling proposition for those in need of a new Mac. In fact, it’s arguably the best deal in Macs that Apple currently offers. expand full story

iMac Stories July 28

AAPL: 149.50

-1.06

Last year I went hands-on with a few Akitio Thunderbolt 3-enabled drive enclosures for 9to5Mac, but none of the previous enclosures came with out-of-the-box support for macOS. Instead, users had to rely on a hack in order to enable support for these enclosures, due to the fact that macOS wasn’t compatible with the Thunderbolt 3 chipsets being used.

In today’s world, things are a bit different. Much of the Thunderbolt 3 hardware shipping today is no longer “Windows only”, which is a great thing for recent MacBook Pro and Mid-2017 iMac hardware with Thunderbolt 3 I/O capabilities.

Akitio’s Thunder3 Quad Mini is one such example of Thunderbolt 3-enabled hardware made with the Mac in mind. This four-bay enclosure comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports in a small aluminum enclosure that supports passive cooling for noiseless operation. In other words, it’s a quiet enclosure that’s perfect for RAID 0 SSD setups for maximum speed. Have a look at our hands-on video walkthrough for more details. expand full story

iMac Stories July 17

AAPL: 149.56

0.52

iMacs can’t be upgraded, right? Tell that to YouTuber Quinn Nelson, better known around the Interwebs as SnazzyQ. Nelson performed some intense surgery on his less than-a-few-weeks-old, $1,799 base-model Mid 2017 5K iMac. The result? He came away with a machine that performs better in some respects than the most expensive ($5,299 before tax) iMac you can currently buy. expand full story

iMac Stories June 21

AAPL: 145.87

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I recently acquired the base model Mid 2017 5K iMac, and I have a post in the works that explains my reasoning for that decision. In a nutshell, I believe that this machine, at $1799, is by far the best bang for your buck as far as Macs go.

That said, it’s not perfect. One of the weakest points of the base model 5K iMac has to do with its stock RAM configuration. With only 8GB of RAM, the system struggles right out of the gate, and will start writing lots of data to disk in fairly short order. Thankfully, it’s ridiculously easy and relatively cheap to upgrade the 5K iMac’s RAM. In this brief video tutorial, we’ll show you how. expand full story

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