iMac

iMacs last updated in June of 2017.
Roundup last updated on October 18, 2018

iMac

At a Glance

  • Apple's iMac is an ultra-thin all-in-one desktop computer, available in 21.5- and 27-inch sizes with an array of build-to-order upgrades. The iMac family was updated with Kaby Lake processors, faster SSDs, and improved displays in June of 2017.

27-inch Retina iMac

  • 5120 x 2880 Retina display
  • Kaby Lake processors
  • Faster SSDs
  • AMD discrete graphics
  • Pricing starts at $1799

21.5-inch iMac

  • 4096 x 2304 Retina display
  • Kaby Lake processors
  • AMD discrete graphics
  • Faster SSDs
  • Pricing starts at $1099, or $1299 for Retina

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What's Next for the iMac

Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says a refresh is in the works for the iMac, with the update to include a new, upgraded processor and a "significant display performance upgrade." No details were provided on what the display performance upgrade might entail.

Apple is planning to hold an event focused on Macs and iPads on Tuesday, October 30 in New York City, which is when we'll likely see the debut of new iMac models. The event will take place at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time at the Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn, and Apple is planning to live stream it.

Intel announced 8th Generation "Coffee Lake" chips appropriate for an iMac update in September of 2017. The chips could be used in a future iMac coming sometime in 2018, with Intel making the chips available for purchase as of October 2017.

The Coffee Lake chips feature more cores, with Intel introducing a 4-core Core i3, a 6-core Core i5, and a 6-core Core i7 with hyperthreading. Intel says its new chips are up to 32 percent faster compared to previous-generation chips. Additional chips suitable for iMac models were introduced in April of 2018.

According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on "at least three updated Mac models" that include custom co-processors for release as soon as 2018. Those machines include "updated laptops and a new desktop," but more specific information was not provided.

Custom co-processors are currently used in the MacBook Pro and the iMac Pro to power the system management controller, image signal processor, SSD controller, Secure Enclave, a hardware encryption engine, and more.

It's not yet clear which machines will gain new custom co-processors in 2018, nor what those co-processors will do, but possibilities include the MacBook, iMac, Mac Pro, and Mac mini.

Apple's 2017 iMac Lineup

On June 5, 2017, during the annual Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple refreshed its iMac lineup, introducing improved displays, new Kaby Lake chips, Thunderbolt 3 support, and faster storage options for its 4K 21.5-inch and 5K 27-inch desktop machines.

Apple also announced a new iMac Pro, which launched in December 2017. The iMac Pro is focused on pro users, with high-powered Xeon-W processors, up to 128GB RAM, and up to 4TB of solid state storage.The iMac Pro is covered in a separate iMac Pro roundup.

None of the regular iMacs received any external design changes in 2017 and they continue to offer the same "ultra-thin" slim-bodied design that was introduced in 2012. There are, however, some notable improvements to the display.

The new 4K and 5K iMacs are equipped with what Apple says is the "best Mac display ever," with 500 nits of brightness, which is 43 percent brighter than previous iMacs, and 10-bit dithering for reproducing up to a billion colors.

Inside, there are faster 7th-generation Intel Kaby Lake processors that introduce much better performance, along with next-generation VR ready AMD Radeon Pro graphics and 10-bit HEFC hardware-based decoding for improved video performance. For the first time, the mid-tier 4K 21.5-inch iMac includes a discrete graphics card.

All 27-inch models and the higher-end 21.5-inch model ship with Fusion Drives as a standard storage option, and there's an option to upgrade them with new SSDs that are up to 50 percent faster than SSDs available for previous-generation iMacs. The most affordable low-end 2K 21.5-inch iMac continues to use a traditional hard drive.

Both the 21.5-inch iMac and the 27-inch iMac feature a higher memory capacity. The high-end 21.5-inch iMac can be configured with up to 32GB RAM, while the mid-tier and high-end 27-inch models can be configured with up to 64GB RAM.

The new iMac models are equipped with two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, 4 USB-A ports, a headphone jack, an SD card slot, and a Gigabit ethernet port. A FaceTime HD camera, stereo speakers, and a microphone are also standard on all models.

Pricing on the 21.5-inch iMac starts at $1,099 for a 2K model, while pricing on the 21.5-inch iMac with a 4K display starts at $1,299, a new low price. Pricing on the 27-inch iMac with 5K display starts at $1,799.

Design

The design of the iMac hasn't changed since 2012, when Apple introduced a slim unibody design that features an ultra-thin 5mm display, black bezels, an aluminum border at the bottom, and an aluminum stand.

The 2017 models continue to use that same design, with a single plug at the back for power and several ports on the rear for connecting accessories. On 27-inch machines, there's a rear hatch for accessing the RAM.

Apple's 21.5-inch iMac measures in at 17.7 inches tall and 20.8 inches wide, with a stand depth of 6.9 inches and a weight of 12.5 pounds. The 27-inch iMac measures in at 20.3 inches tall and 25.6 inches wide, with a stand depth of 8 inches and a weight of 20.8 pounds.

All iMacs ship with a wireless Apple Magic Keyboard and an Apple Magic Mouse 2, with a Magic Trackpad 2 available as a $50 upgrade option. A new wireless Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keyboard is also available for an additional $30.

New iMac models configured with built-in VESA Mount Adapters for mounting the iMac on a wall are also available separately.

Display

All of the 4K and 5K iMac models feature upgraded displays that offer 500 nits of brightness, which is a 43 percent improvement in brightness over past iMac models. They support 10-bit dithering and P3 wide color gamut, allowing them to reproduce up to a billion colors.

According to Apple, with the new displays, content on the 4K and 5K iMac looks "more true to life than ever before."

The 5K 27-inch iMac has a resolution of 5120 by 2880, while the 4K 21.5-inch iMac has a resolution of 4096 x 2304. Apple also sells a low-end 21.5-inch iMac with a non-Retina 1920 x 1080 display.

27-inch iMac

All 27-inch iMacs feature upgraded 5K displays, a 1TB Fusion Drive as the standard storage option, and support for more maximum memory (up to 64GB) at the high end. 8GB of 2400 MHz RAM is the default in all 27-inch iMacs, however.

All models can also be upgraded with faster solid state storage, which is up to 50 percent faster than the solid state storage upgrade options made available in previous iMac machines. Up to 2TB of solid state storage is available. Thunderbolt 3 is standard in the 27-inch iMac, with two ports included.

CPU and GPU

The 27-inch iMac is equipped with Intel's 7th-generation desktop class quad-core Kaby Lake processors with Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz, which offers modest performance improvements over the Skylake chips in the previous-generation 27-inch iMac.

Based on Geekbench benchmarking results, the new 27-inch iMac are approximately 15 percent faster in multi-core CPU performance compared to previous-generation machines. As an example, the high-end 27-inch iMac with a 3.8GHz quad-core Core i5 processor has an average multi-core score of 14,886, while the equivalent 2015 model has a score of 12,953.

As for graphics, the 27-inch iMac is equipped with AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards with up to 8GB VRAM. The Radeon Pro 570, 575, and 580 are included depending on the model, with the 580 offering 5.5 teraflops of graphics compute power. According to Apple, the upgraded GPUs are up to 1.4x faster at video editing, 1.5x faster when gaming, and 1.4x faster when rendering 3D graphics.

With the Geekbench GPU Compute Benchmark, the new 27-inch machines also feature up to 80 percent better graphics performance compared to the 2015 iMacs.

The highest-end 27-inch iMac is VR ready and capable of allowing iMac owners to edit 360-degree video in Final Cut Pro and create 3D VR content.

Available Models

  • $1,799 - 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive, AMD Radeon Pro 570 w/ 4GB VRAM

  • $1,999 - 3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive, AMD Radeon Pro 575 w/ 4GB VRAM

  • $2,299 - 3.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 2TB Fusion Drive, AMD Radeon Pro 580 w/ 8GB VRAM

Build-to-Order Options

There are no GPU upgrade options for the 27-inch iMac, but memory and storage can be upgraded on the entry-level machine while memory, storage, and processor can be upgraded on the two higher-end machines. Opting for an SSD over a Fusion Drive in the highest-end machine costs more than it does in lower-end machines because a 256GB SSD is not an option.

RAM is easily accessible on 27-inch iMacs and can be upgraded after purchase.

Upgrade options for $1,799 iMac:

  • 16GB RAM - +$200
  • 32GB RAM - +$600
  • 2TB Fusion Drive - +200
  • 256GB SSD - +$100
  • 512GB SSD - +$300
  • 1TB SSD - +$700

Upgrade options for $1,999 iMac:

  • 4.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 chip - $+300
  • 16GB RAM - +$200
  • 32GB RAM - +$600
  • 2TB Fusion Drive - +$200
  • 3TB Fusion Drive - +$300
  • 256GB SSD - +$100
  • 512GB SSD - +$300
  • 1TB SSD - +$700

Upgrade options for $2,299 iMac:

  • 4.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 chip - $+200
  • 16GB RAM - +$200
  • 32GB RAM - +$600
  • 64GB RAM - +$1400
  • 3TB Fusion Drive - +$100
  • 512GB SSD - +$200
  • 1TB SSD - +$600
  • 2TB SSD - +$1400

A fully maxed out top-of-the-line iMac with all available upgrades is priced at $5,299.

21.5-inch iMac

Apple offers two versions of the 21.5-inch iMac, a $1,099 model that has a slower processor and a non-Retina display, and a more expensive model that includes a faster processor and a higher-quality 4K display.

The 4K 21.5-inch iMac features the same quality of upgraded display that's in the 27-inch iMac, along with a 1TB Fusion Drive as the default option on the highest-end model. Standard hard drives continue to be available for the low-end $1,099 model and the mid-tier 4K model.

All models can also be upgraded with faster solid state storage, which is up to 50 percent faster than the solid state storage upgrade options made available in previous iMac machines. Up to 2TB of solid state storage is available.

The high-end 21.5-inch iMac now offers up to 32GB of 2400 MHz memory, up from a maximum 16GB in the previous-generation iMac, but all 21.5-inch models ship with 8GB as the default. Thunderbolt 3 is standard in the 27-inch iMac, with two ports available.

CPU and GPU

Apple is using Intel's 7th-generation Kaby Lake processors in the 21.5-inch iMac, with the low-end model offering a dual-core chip and higher-end models offering quad-core processors with Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz.

For the first time ever, the 4K 21.5-inch iMac models are equipped with Radeon Pro 555 and 560 discrete graphics cards with up to 4GB VRAM. According to Apple, the new discrete graphics options make the 21.5-inch iMacs up to 3x faster than previous iMacs when it comes to the GPU.

The new GPUs are 1.5x faster at video editing, 3x faster when gaming, and 2x faster for rendering 3d graphics.

The non-4K low-end iMac features upgraded Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, which is 80 percent faster than the integrated graphics used in the previous-generation machine. It offers 1.8x faster video editing, 1.7x faster gaming, and 1.7x faster 3D graphics.

Available Models

  • $1,099 - 2K display, 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640

  • $1,299 - 4K display, 3.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, Radeon Pro 555 w/ 2GB VRAM

  • $1,499 - 4K display, 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive, Radeon Pro 560 w/ 4GB VRAM

Build-to-Order Options

The low-end non-4K iMac can be upgraded with additional RAM and a Fusion Drive or SSD, while the 4K iMacs can be upgraded with faster processors, more RAM, and better storage options. No graphics card upgrades are available.

Upgrade options for $1,099 non-4K iMac:

  • 16GB RAM - +$200
  • 1TB Fusion Drive +$100
  • 256GB SSD - +$200

Upgrade options for $1,299 4K iMac:

  • 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor - +$300
  • 16GB RAM - +$200
  • 1TB Fusion Drive - +$100
  • 256GB SSD - +$200
  • 512GB SSD - +$400

Upgrade options for $1,499 4K iMac:

  • 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor - +$200
  • 16GB RAM - +$200
  • 32GB RAM - +$600
  • 512GB SSD - +$300
  • 1TB SSD - +$700

A fully upgraded top-of-the-line 4K iMac is priced at $2,999. RAM is not quite as easy to access on a 21.5-inch iMac as it is on a 27-inch iMac, but the RAM in these machines can be upgraded after purchase.

Other iMac Features

Thunderbolt 3

All iMac models are equipped with two Thunderbolt 3 ports that are capable of driving one 5K external display at 60Hz, two 4K UHD displays at 60Hz, or two 4K displays at 60Hz.

The Thunderbolt 3 ports support DisplayPort, Thunderbolt (up to 40Gb/s), USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s) and Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI, and VGA using adapters.

Other Ports

All iMacs include a 3.5mm headphone jack, an SD card slot, four USB 3 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Kensington lock slot.

Camera and Microphone

There's a front-facing FaceTime HD camera available on all iMac models with 720p video support. All models also feature stereo speakers and a built-in microphone.

Connectivity

The iMac supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi that's backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.2 wireless technology.

How to Buy

The 2017 iMac models can be purchased from the Apple website or in Apple retail stores. Many third-party retailers are also offering the new machines, often at discounted prices.

In August of 2017, Apple began offering refurbished 21.5 and 27-inch 2017 iMac machines. Refurbished models are available for approximately 15 percent less than retail prices and are available in a variety of configurations. All of Apple's refurbished machines feature new parts and a one-year warranty that can be extended with the purchase of AppleCare+.

For Macs made in 2009 and later, Apple offers a trade-in program in partnership with buyback company Phobio, allowing you to get up to $2,500 when trading in an eligible Mac. Trade-in via Apple is convenient, but you can often get a better price selling a Mac yourself.

Best Prices
21.5-inch iMac (Mid 2017): 2.3 GHz, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB
21.5-inch Retina iMac (Mid 2017): 3.0 GHz, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB
21.5-inch Retina iMac (Mid 2017): 3.4 GHz, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB Fusion
27-inch Retina iMac (Mid 2017): 3.4 GHz, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB Fusion
27-inch Retina iMac (Mid 2017): 3.5 GHz, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB Fusion
27-inch Retina iMac (Mid 2017): 3.8 GHz, 8 GB RAM, 2 TB Fusion

iMac Timeline

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