IMac (27-inch, 2020) Review: A Powerful and Reliable Mac

The first and last time I used an iMac was in 2013, in the seedy office building that housed my college newspaper. Being an all-in-one computer, it didn’t take up much space – crucial, as the room was often filled like a can of sardines with student journalists. Its simplicity was striking compared to the bulky and economical Windows PC I had built for my dorm. He was adept at handling Adobe InDesign (which we used to layout news pages) and the dozens of Chrome tabs and Word documents that I had open at all times. All this while looking more stylish than any other piece of tech in the room.

The new iMac is no different. Literally. I’ve been using the new 27-inch model in the tiny bedroom of my New York apartment for almost a month, and unwrapping it brought a wave of memories of the many hours I spent in this old bathroom. writing. It looks the same and still looks stylish.

If you were hoping for a modern iPad Pro-style makeover, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. And if you were hoping for Apple’s silicon to power the iMac, that might take a while as well. However, if you need a desktop that doesn’t take up a lot of space and has enough horsepower to handle almost any task you throw at it, this iMac 2020 won’t disappoint.

You look familiar

Photography: Apple

It’s easy to love the iMac. The aluminum frame (recyclable) is elegant and the stitched support is graceful. Place it next to a Microsoft Surface Studio 2 or that Dell Inspiron and it won’t look as modern – the thick bezel and big bezels (edges around the screen) don’t help – but it is still an attractive machine.

Apple’s biggest mistake isn’t improving the stand. You still can’t adjust the height of the iMac at $ 1,799, just tilt the screen up and down. I used my test device on a standing desk so I could get around the limitation.

The screen also can’t rotate side-to-side, making it difficult to reach the ports on the back, especially if you have the iMac against a wall. There are also a few ports! Compared to what you get on a MacBook Pro, the iMac looks like a Swiss Army Knife. You get a headphone jack, an Ethernet jack (expandable to 10 gigabits), an SD card slot, four USB-A ports, and two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports. I would have liked at least one HDMI and two more USB- ports. C (see: the cheaper Mac Mini), but it’s still a solid and versatile selection.

Apple hasn’t changed the 27-inch display panel itself – you still get 5K resolution (5,120 x 2,880 pixels), which is incredibly sharp and the colors are wonderfully accurate. I prefer to edit photos in Adobe Lightroom on this rather than on the monitor I use with my personal PC. Movies like Project power also look stunning on the iMac.

Oddly enough, Apple still comes with its horrible Magic Mouse 2, which is not ergonomic and impossible to use while charging. (Pro tip: Pay an extra $ 50 for the Magic Trackpad 2. It’s well worth it.) The Magic Keyboard is also included, but it’s nothing special.

You will use this keyboard to type in your passwords each time you sign in to the iMac. You heard right. The $ 700 iPhone 11 and $ 800 iPad Pro can magically unlock the screen by looking at your face with their respective selfie cameras, but that’s too much for this expensive all-in-one. It’s not just about signing in to the Mac – neither can you use biometric authentication to quickly access Apple’s iCloud Keychain to sign in to all of your favorite websites and apps. It is a frustrating omission.

Apple’s response? Use an Apple Watch to sign in. You can use this $ 200- $ 400 iPhone accessory if you have it.

Improvements that matter

There are some modifications to the hardware. First off, the iMac comes with Apple’s T2 security chip, which does more than just encrypt your data.

The T2’s Image Signal Processor (ISP) improves the image quality of the built-in webcam. The camera itself can now shoot at 1080p (instead of 720p) to get a sharper picture. But the ISP can recognize your face for better exposure during video calls, and adjusts colors and lighting to deal with high-contrast scenes (like you’re sitting in front of a window). It’s easily better than more webcams built into all-in-ones or laptops, although a privacy shutter when not in use would have been helpful. Fortunately, they are inexpensive.

The T2 chip also improves the speakers a bit even though the hardware hasn’t changed. They get really loud and sound quite good, although the bass bass disappoint; it’s not punchy and feels very flat.

Apple replaced the old microphones with the same ones you’ll find in the 16in MacBook Pro – that’s a good thing. These mics do a great job of cutting out ambient sounds, and they were incredibly helpful when I joined my colleagues on the Gadget Lab podcast. My voice is very clear. You can listen for yourself if you want to hear the sound from the mics.

The biggest improvement is the one you will have to pay extra for: nano-textured glass. It covers the screen and is the same as that of Apple’s Mac Pro Display XDR. It’s much better than a matte finish because it doesn’t distort the colors on the screen while effectively eliminating any glare. I used the iMac right next to a window and the streaming sunlight never distracted my viewing experience. It’s an expensive $ 500 upgrade, but if you know your iMac will be sitting near a window, hang it up. Your eyes will thank you.

The display now also supports True Tone. Like on the iPhone, this changes the colors on the screen to match the ambient light around you. I never noticed a huge difference between on or off, but it might help your eyes adjust to the screen more easily.

More power

Apple sent me the top-of-the-line iMac with a Core i9, the most powerful graphics card (the AMD Radeon 5700XT) and nano-texture glass, which costs $ 4,500. This is overkill for most people.

There are four main configurations that you can get with the iMac. You should be fine with the base 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor, but if you’re doing 4K video editing or other CPU-intensive tasks, go with the Core i7 or Core i9 model. The most important is to upgrade the amount of RAM. The base 8 gigabytes is too little for such an expensive machine – 16GB is the way to go, or 32GB if you hang on to the higher tier versions.

Apple’s biggest performance improvement is its pivot to SSD storage. Fusion Drives have opted for the faster read and write speeds that come with SSDs, which are also more energy efficient and reliable because they have no moving parts. You’ll see super-fast load times to boot your Mac and launch apps. Loading screens in video games are also faster. The base model offers 256 gigabytes, but if you need more, you should go for the mid-level or higher processor options. You can go up to 8 terabytes, which is more space than I know what to do with.

This machine easily handled the tasks of 4K video rendering and photo editing. Macs aren’t known for their gaming prowess, but I’ve been able to play titles like Mad Max and Grave robber at 60 frames per second smoothly with maximum graphics settings. I just had to lower the screen resolution to 2560 x 1440 or less. Mostly I wish the games library on Mac was stronger – I have a large game library on Steam for my Windows PC, but the number of titles I can play on Mac (without using Boot Camp) is pitiful.

The future of Apple processors

Earlier this summer, Apple announced it would be switching to ARM processors, just like those found in the iPhone and iPad. This is a tectonic change for the Mac. Apple software will theoretically have a kind of synergy between all Apple devices like we’ve never seen before.

Your iPhone apps will run smoothly on a Mac, and Apple will be able to do a lot more with its own specially designed chips, improving energy efficiency, reducing heat, and improving artificial intelligence on board. The first ARM-based Mac will arrive later this year, and the transition of the entire lineup is expected to take two years (expect a few more Intel-equipped Macs during this time as well). Most likely, we won’t see the real benefits of transitioning to ARM for almost half a decade.

It could be a bumpy road. Developers will need to ensure that their applications will run on ARM as well as Intel processors. Not every app you own will transition quickly or smoothly. There is also a question of how powerful these machines will be compared to their Intel counterparts, especially at the high end. Fortunately, Apple has said it will support and release MacOS updates on Intel Macs “for years to come.”

The ARM transition is happening soon, but the lasting impacts might not be immediate. We think this 27in iMac is a safe bet, and by the time you want to upgrade, the ARM-based iMac lineup could look a lot rosier.

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