Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Behind the Scenes of the New iMac and ‘Magic’ Accessories

Steven Levy got a backstage pass for the quiet launch of the new iMac lineup and trio of “Magic” accessories: keyboard, mouse, and trackpad:

[Phil] Schiller, in fact, has a grand philosophical theory of the Apple product line that puts all products on a continuum. Ideally, you should be using the smallest possible gadget to do as much as possible before going to the next largest gizmo in line. […]

“[The desktop’s] job is to challenge what we think a computer can do and do things that no computer has ever done before, be more and more powerful and capable so that we need a desktop because it’s capable,” says Schiller. “Because if all it’s doing is competing with the notebook and being thinner and lighter, then it doesn’t need to be.”

It’s very refreshing to see that Apple still devotes considerable engineering talent and effort into building products that sell at a tiny percentage of the rate of the iOS device lineup.

The new 4K iMac looks really, really good. Apple has been pushing the precision and depth of their colour gamuts across their entire lineup for the past few years, and this year’s iMacs up the bar once again. It’s not just the size of the gamut, but the precision with which it is calibrated. Surprisingly, the 21-inch model is not available with discrete graphics, but Intel’s Iris Pro has been getting rave reviews elsewhere. It doesn’t sound like a big problem.

I’m not in the market for a new computer yet, but I’m always in the market for new accessories. I currently use Apple’s standard Bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad; though I don’t need to replace either, the new ones look very intriguing. All of the accessories now have built-in batteries that charge via Lightning cable. According to Jason Snell, all but the Magic Mouse work while plugged in to charge. I’m a little surprised that the mouse does not. I’m also a little bit disappointed that the mouse retains its plastic top; mine is extremely scratched.

The Magic Trackpad’s glass surface remains despite a change from an aluminum top to bright white. I think it looks great. The biggest change is the addition of Force Touch — strangely, not “3D Touch”, whatever the difference may be — instead of a fully-moving surface.

Finally, the new keyboard is kind of like a hybrid of the new MacBook’s and the old Bluetooth keyboard; the key travel is shorter, but not as short as the MacBook’s. The keys are bigger, but not enormous, and the caps are typeset in San Francisco.

These upgrades aren’t cheap. By building in the battery and new features, the price of these accessories has shot up. All three accessories used to be, in Canada, $69. Now, they range from the $99 Magic Mouse to the $169 Magic Trackpad. But my trackpad has lasted me many years since I bought it, and I trust that these should be around for longer, if Apple’s build quality is as great on these as I think it is. I’m looking forward to trying them in person.

Jason Snell reviewed the new 4K iMac for Macworld; you should check it out.

Update: It looks like the 4K iMac starts with a 5400 RPM drive, which was ludicrously slow in 2012, let alone 2015. On Newegg, going from a 1 TB 5400 RPM drive to a 1 TB 7200 RPM drive costs about $10, retail. It would be less than that wholesale. That seems like a small sacrifice for Apple on a $1,500 computer.