Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Today is iMac Day

Jason Snell:

After nearly two years of waiting, iMac fans can rejoice at the arrival of an update. Today is iMac day. Apple on Tuesday announced a new generation of 4K and 5K iMacs with big internal upgrades. The old iMacs had seventh-generation Intel processors, but these models have eight-generation processors — and in a couple of cases, the very latest ninth-generation processors. Apple has upgraded processor cores across the board, so that most models have six cores and there’s even an option for eight. And both sizes of iMac now have optional access to the more powerful Radeon Pro Vega graphics processor.

The $1099 base model non-Retina iMac remains unchanged, the desktop equivalent of the $999 MacBook Air—an old model anchored to a low price. But beyond that, things get more interesting.

I really like the way this week is shaping up.

The updated iMacs look like fantastic updates. For a start, the iMac previously topped-out with a quad-core processor; the new ones start at a quad-core in the 21.5-inch size, while the ground floor 27-inch model has a six-core processor. The differences between the top-of-the-line 27-inch iMac and the entry-level iMac Pro are shrinking — on paper, at least. These are seriously good Macs. They may be spec bumps rather than entirely new products with a T2 enclave and Face ID, but they feel current, and that’s important.

Jason Snell interviewed Colleen Novielli, Apple’s iMac product manager, on the latest Upgrade podcast. Snell and Novielli’s conversation is engaging and wide-ranging; as Snell and co-host Myke Hurley pointed out, it’s refreshing to hear more voices — and, in particular, more women at Apple — because the company can seem monolithic and entirely male. Novielli touches on this in her interview.

Snell asked Novielli about the base-model iMacs that retain a spinning hard drive. She acknowledged that it’s a cost-based decision; I still think it’s indefensible. The drives Apple uses in the base-model iMacs, and even the Fusion Drives in the step-up models, don’t perform acceptably running Mojave. The base model iMac is simply not a good product and should be purchased by nobody, so it’s hard to see why it’s still available.

Apple also made adjustments to the pricing of the higher-end SSD configurations in the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini, and gave the iMac Pro some even higher end options.