Apple has Decided all iMacs are Pro-Devices

2019 iMac

Typical. As soon as I bought my new Mac mini, Apple (finally) updated the iMacs. So predictable. So frustrating.

2019 iMac
2019 iMac. Image credit: Apple

My immediate reaction following this week’s announcement was a) to swear and, b) decide that I’d simply return what I had bought and swap it in for a new iMac. But then then I started comparing the cost and capabilities of the two devices. Suddenly I did not feel so inclined to rush back to the Apple Store.

The iMac is Freaking Powerful – at a Cost

Let’s be clear. The updated iMac is, to coin Apple’s phrase, “freaking powerful.” There is no denying that. But you arguably have to spend quite a bit of money to really get hold of that power.

The fairest comparison to my device is the new $1,299 iMac – it’s around the same budget I spent on the Mac Mini. That device has an Intel Core i3 processor. That is only a year old, but my Mac mini has an i5 processor. Furthermore, the iMac is quad-core, while the Mac-Mini is 6-Core. Even the $1,499 iMac comes with an 8th-gen i5 chip as standard. That is also with a 21.5 inch monitor. I have a 27.5 inch monitor.

The biggest win for the iMac is in terms of hard drive capacity. It has a 1Tb hard drive. However, it is a Fusion Drive. Although significantly smaller (256 GB), the Mac Mini comes with an SSD. With Dropbox and/or external drives, it becomes a non issue.

Spend to Win

To significantly, noticeably, beat what the Mac Mini has to offer you need to spend significantly, noticeable, more. I priced one up on the Apple website, with a 27-inch 5k display, an i9 chip, 8-cores and some of the other trimmings. It was pushing around £2,700.

Not everyone needs that kind of power, I appreciate that. But even slightly further down the line the first 27-inch iMac with a SSD costs $1,899, and that’s with an i5-chip. If you want a device with the new i9 chip and a SSD you’re easily clearing $2,500. And there are more upgrades you can easily add to that to customize a device that is significantly better than the Mac mini.

To my mind then, Apple has made a decision with these latest upgrades. The iMac is now a pro-device. It has made them hugely powerful, but consequently pushed them into a price range where it is just not compelling for a most users. If you are, say, a filmmaker, photographer or musician, I get it. The investment in a new iMac would undoubtedly be money well spent. However, for most people, it is neither financially viable nor necessary.

Arguably this shift is a good thing. It provides more differentiation across Apple’s range. But let’s be clear about what has happened – iMacs of all kinds are for pros now.

8 thoughts on “Apple has Decided all iMacs are Pro-Devices

  • My January 2002 iMac Flat Panel (800 MHz G4 soccer ball, highest price iMac) was $1799. That’s $2528 in today’s dollars.

    My mid-2010 iMac 21.5”(bottom line 3.06 GHz 500 GB model) was $1199. That’s $1685 in today’s dollars.

    Today’s pricing isn’t out of line with these. We’d just like the prices to be lower. Especially for me since I’m retired and making less.

  • It’s getting harder over time to pay any attention to Apple. I get it could just be me, for my expectations run high for the once great innovator. Positioning a product as a pro offering means nothing if it does not deliver and, once again, Apple fails. The value proposition just is not there for the feature set. I expect excellence when paying top dollar for a product. And, I’m willing to pay for excellence. What that means for me relative to an expensive personal computer is that it can be readily repaired, upgraded, and expanded. That’s why I continue to love and invest in my cheese grater Mac Pro. That was the pinnacle of Apple design, and I hope it returns to that model of design one day where it strives for excellence, giving the consumer the very best user experience possible. I doubt it will be when Tim Cook is at the helm as the focus is not on producing the greatest shareholder returns. That works for a short to medium range strategy, but does not serve Apple well for its long term outlook. I was passionate for Apple for decades as was many of my friends, and nearly all feel the same. So I am not alone.

  • So what your telling me is, I can spend 3 times the price of a discount Windows gaming PC that is Twice as fast for a mediocre upgrade to the processor and a proprietary OS….. It’s a good thing brand loyalty is a thing or Apple would have crumbled years ago…

    1. I’d go one step further: it remains to be seen whether Apple Arcade will have any success in the gaming market beyond iOS, but I don’t see them competing with “discount Windows gaming PCs” any time soon. (Or the PS4/Xbox/Switch for that matter.)

      On the other hand, “discount Windows gaming PCs” are useless to people who care about seamless hardware/software/media integration across an entire line of devices including watches, phones, tablets, streaming devices, laptops, and desktops.

  • Clearly, Apple has lost its mojo under Tim Cook. Steve Jobs understood that excellence sells itself. Under his direction, Apple gave its customers the best user experience possible for a modest premium. Now Apple simply wants to enrich its shareholders. Ironically, Jobs knew that shareholders would naturally be rewarded when Apple’s products exceeded customer expectations. Apple never exceeds my expectations any longer. Not even close.

  • For many years now (since around 2010) Apple has been a platform for the upper middle classes, with a range of products that aren’t really that robust or practical for many who need to do serious work but have small budgets: artists, crafts people, artisans. You know, those people that think different and are creative.

    Apple has always operated in the rarefied echelons of the exclusivity of premium products to set them apart. But, there was a time when, if you were dedicated, you could push to €2,500 and get a Mac Pro which, you could then service and upgrade yourself.

    After Steve Jobs died something went wrong and a pursuit of designer products at the cost of functionality started to creep in under Tim Cook’s accounting married to the zeal of Johnny Ives to make everything thiner. Where we had a pro Desktop that was the Porsche of computers in terms of industrial design, an icon that they could have run for ever, with incremental updates. we ended up with a Mini Copper of a design in the, now outdated version of the Mac Pro.

    There are also many small erosions of usability in the OS where it becomes married to the cloud to fit all thing Mac with portable iOS devices. For example one day I wake up to all my addresses gone from Address Book. Without my permission Apple decided that all these must now reside in the cloud. I did resolve this by re-connecting to to iCloud and but what a waste of my time when I want my information where I expect it to be.

    On the above, I heard a customer in a gallery recently say to the proprietor that they have gone back to Windows because of this presumptuous attitude of Apple on how we store our data, to which the gallery owner remarked that they were considering the same.

    Holding in with macOS for the last five years, I have gone the hackintosh route, but to be honest this is not very reliable and not for the faint hearted, what with the battles with the bootloader and finding compatible kexts.

    Back on the subject of premium product, I draw a comparison to big tech companies coming to the big city, paying premium salaries to people who need a shave and haircut, who then push up the cost of accommodation, pushing out the lower paid and the creatives who can’t afford a haircut. I see a lot of alienation in all this, some arrogance and a lot of software that isn’t really great shakes. We still are at the incunabula stages of this digital revolution.

    By the way BBC 4 ran some very good documentaries this last week on a lot of the dystopia caused by this technology.

  • You could argue that the Mac mini is more of a “pro” machine because of the T2 chip and flash storage. You won’t get stuck with a 5400 RPM hard drive in the mini.

    The $1099 21″ iMac has compromises that make it unacceptable for most “pros” (notably the 1080p display and slow hard drive, both of which are decidedly mediocre in 2019.)

    You may not like the pricing, but it’s not out of line with historical iMac pricing. I’m pretty sure Apple’s pricing wizards picked the prices that will make Apple the most money.

  • I get the feeling they are trying to position the iPad as their low end desktop/laptop. A 12.9 in iPad Pro with 256GB of SSD storage is $1149. It doesn’t have an Intel processor but the A12X is an 8 core with, I believe, a 5 core GPU. It’s very impressive.

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