2015 iMac Reviews: 'Best All-in-One' Desktop, But Lacks USB-C and Fusion Drive Isn't Standard

iMac-4K-5K-2015Apple today launched new 4K and 5K iMacs alongside the Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2. The refreshed all-in-one desktop computers feature faster processors and graphics, two Thunderbolt 2 ports and more affordable Fusion Drive storage upgrade options.

Following the announcement, several media outlets have published hands-on reviews and first impressions of the new iMacs, including Ars Technica, CNET, Engadget, Macworld, Mashable, Tech Insider and The Wall Street Journal. Many of the reviews also provide a closer look at the new Magic accessories.

The early reviews of the new iMacs are generally favorable, with high marks awarded to their improved displays with wider color gamut. The 2015 models are widely considered among the best desktop computers available, but some critics view the lack of USB-C and base configuration of 5400 RPM hard drives as shortcomings.

Ars Technica

Then there are the frustrating choices Apple has made across the lineup: No Thunderbolt 3 or USB Type-C even though those technologies are apparently ready to go, and no standard Fusion Drive or SSD in any but the top-end 27-inch iMacs. At $100, the jump to a Fusion Drive (albeit a smaller one than in years past) is cheaper than ever, but Apple could really afford to stick that 24GB drive inside every single one of these iMacs to alleviate the unmitigated misery that is using a 5400RPM hard drive in a $1500 desktop computer in this the year of our Lord 2015.

If you're OK with the list of omissions and you can spring for the storage upgrade, the 4K iMac gets you a great professional-quality screen and a powerful quad-core processor for a pretty reasonable price. The 27-inch iMac is the computer that most blurs the line between consumer all-in-one and high-end workstation, but as long as you aren't gaming you can get some pretty serious work done on the 21.5-inch iMac. But if Apple can make Fusion Drives and 4K screens standard on all iMacs when the Skylake refresh comes around, we won't have much left to complain about.

CNET

For everyone else, even if you don't regularly view 4K content, a sharp-looking Retina-level display is one of those things that's nearly impossible to give up once you get used to it, and the new 4K iMac is competitively priced with the handful of 4K-display Windows PCs we've reviewed.

If you have a model from the past few years, this isn't a must-have upgrade, but it may certainly be worth picking up the new keyboard and mouse or trackpad to give your older iMac a facelift.

Engadget

The iMac is still the best all-in-one, with an attractive (if predictable) design, near-standard 4K and 5K screens, and even better color accuracy than before. The 21.5-inch version is in some ways the more interesting of the two models, as this is the first time the smaller Mac has been offered with a Retina display. […]

As you can see, then, the iMac mostly hits the right notes, although I wish Apple were more generous with the other specs -- besides display quality and resolution, that is. The 21.5-inch version is no longer offered with discrete graphics, not even on the 4K edition, which seems like a mistake. Meanwhile, hybrid Fusion drives only come standard on machines priced from $1,999.

Macworld

When four pixels are doing the work that only one used to do, the El Capitan interface really shines. Everything’s sharper. Photos look startlingly real, almost like they were printed on paper. And then there’s text, which looks razor sharp like it just rolled out of a laser printer. Even toolbars and Dock icons are more pleasant because all the on-screen graphics have added subtle details that were impossible at lower resolutions. […]

The base storage configuration of the 4K iMac is a 1TB, 5400rpm hard drive. It’s been a few years since I regularly used a Mac with a spinning disk as its primary hard drive, and man, did it feel slow. Starting up was slow. Launching apps was slow. Everything... just... took... longer. It’s disconcerting to take a brand-new, top-of-its-line Mac out of the box and be disappointed by how sluggish it feels, but that’s what I experienced, and it’s pretty much down to that slow hard drive.

Mashable

Apple did change how the Fusion Drive works in 2015. To allow for a lower-cost Fusion Drive option, Apple paired a 1TB hard drive with a 24GB SSD. In the past, the 1TB Fusion Drive matched a 1TB standard hard drive with a 128GB SSD. Now, if you want the 128GB SSD, you'll need to have a 2TB or 3TB Fusion Drive offering.

The upside of the new Fusion Drive configuration is that it makes the feature — and its faster response times — affordable for anyone. The downside is you don't see speed improvements of documents and apps offloaded to the SSD as much because the cache is smaller.

Tech Insider

It’s not just about resolution though. The new iMac screens can show color better too. […]

But the average person probably won’t notice. I had to look at side-by-side comparisons to really see what has changed. This feature is better for photo and video professionals, not necessarily regular users who just want to do some light editing of photos they took with their iPhone. Just know that you’re getting a really nice screen and that Apple took the extra step to make sure it keeps getting better. Nothing wrong with that.

The Wall Street Journal

iMacs:

When you look at these new iMac screens, reds and greens in particular look brighter or more vibrant, like somebody cranked up the saturation dial to 11. With 25% more colors to work with, there’s also more detail because the monitors aren’t eliminating certain hues.

With an old and new iMac side by side, I could spot the difference on some photos, but not all. One problem is that many of our photos—including ones taken with the latest iPhone 6s—are saved in a reduced color palette called sRGB. To take advantage of the new screens, you need images or video saved in a format called DCI-P3. (Not coincidentally, the Mac’s Photos app can now save to that format, but you’ll have to start with high-quality images, like from a DSLR.) […]

Amid this flurry of iMac improvements, two mysteries remain. First, amid the rabbit warren of ports at the back of the iMac, Apple didn’t include a port called USB Type-C—used on the new MacBook laptop (with some controversy) for charging and input alike. Not including USB Type-C on the iMac sends an odd message about Apple’s commitment to that burgeoning standard.

Magic Keyboard, Mouse 2 and Trackpad 2:

I haven’t had a chance to test how long the batteries last, but Apple reports all three can go for about month on a single charge, and the mouse can give you a nine-hour day’s worth of pointing and clicking with a two-minute charge.

Apple's new 4K and 5K iMacs, Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2 are available today.

Related Roundup: iMac
Buyer's Guide: iMac (Caution)

Top Rated Comments

FSMBP Avatar
70 months ago
Apple really needs to get rid of 5400RPM harddrives & 16GB base storage flagship iPhones. Both those standards haven't been upgrade since 2009...

EDIT: To reiterate, I don't like that Apple has become an "up-sell" company (like Frontier Airlines). Offering bare minimum products are terrible in the long-run.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
70 months ago
"Apple did change how the Fusion Drive works in 2015. To allow for a lower-cost Fusion Drive option, Apple paired a 1TB hard drive with a 24GB SSD. In the past, the 1TB Fusion Drive matched a 1TB standard hard drive with a 128GB SSD. Now, if you want the 128GB SSD, you'll need to have a 2TB or 3TB Fusion Drive offering. "

And there's me telling myself I wouldn't get riled up. What an absolute crock of ****, it's an utter joke that a company worth this much and who claim to be about user experience/specs dick their consumers so hard.

It's reminiscent of RIM, they're just taking advantage of their users who are already in the ecosystem. If they made pricing decisions/spec limitations that the user suffers for back in 2000, you'd be sure as hell that Apple wouldn't be where they are today.

It's getting beyond stupid now. **** off Tim Cook, bring back some passion to the products, screw the monsterous profits, and make every Apple product available as nice as it could be for that price point. You know, so people are comforted in the fact that any Apple product they buy is well thought out and not crippled with planned obsolecence. How it used to be, how it should be, and how you claim Apple is. Get your heads out of your asses.

(never thought I'd fall into the 'Steve wouldn't have done this' trap)
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
anubis Avatar
70 months ago
6th Gen Core Skylake processors with a 5400 RPM spinning disk? I mean, really, what's the point? It truly boggles the mind.

I've got a late 2012 iMac that I peeled apart and installed a 500GB Samsung SSD in. It's absolutely blazing fast.

This is 2015. In this day and age, spinning mechanical disks are an affront to humanity. Absolutely beyond barbaric.

I recently flirted with the idea of building my own desktop to replace my iMac by first building a super cheap HTPC. It works great.

My first Mac desktop was an LCII back in 1991, and it's been a continuous unbroken string of Mac desktops since then. In the past I've overlooked the "Apple Tax" when it comes to desktops. But really, 5400 RPM spinning disk in an almost 2-Grand computer? GTFO.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
StudyFlo Avatar
70 months ago
What? Apple downgraded the 1TB fusion drive from 128GB SSD to just 24GB SSD?
Just .... Why?
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gregarious119 Avatar
70 months ago
Apple was the first to get rid of floppy drives, CD/DVD drives, and is almost eager to get rid of technology that isn't moving forward at the same pace they are. Why they still have 5400RPM drives in the company anywhere in any line is beyond me.

It'd be a different story if you didn't have to disassemble the whole thing to upgrade the HDD/SSD. What a disappointment.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SpiderDude Avatar
70 months ago
I guess you got to leave it up to Apple to make a thousand buck "low cost" version of something...
5400 spinner.
Ridiculous.
And on top of that you can't even change it yourself at home.

I'd call this planned obsolescence, but I don't like angry mobs...
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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