One New iMac is Fabulous. The Other, Not so Much

new iMac is fabulous

On August 4, Apple announced a new iMac (27- and 21.5-inch) and a minor update to the iMac Pro. Of the two upgrades, only the new iMac is fabulous.

In the past, Apple has incrementally upgraded the iMac, on an irregular basis, with a newer CPU, GPU, storage and perhaps port technology. But the same basic design with tapered edges and a chin with the Apple logo has survived since 2012. Some have recently expressed hope that this final Intel-baed iMac would look more like a large, almost-bezel-free iPad resting on its side on a cool stand.

Alas, it was not to be. And that makes perfect sense when I think about it. It’s been surmised that the new Apple Silicon/ARM Macs would feature a new case design language in order to nicely differentiate them. So, that cool new design must wait for an Apple Silicon iMac.

That said, Apple pulled no punches in its design of the 2020 iMac. A rundown of (27-inch) specs is helpful. In no particular order:

  • 10th Gen. Comet Lake CPU, up to Core i9 (10 cores), Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz
  • Up to 128 GB memory
  • Up to 8 TB SSD
  • Up to Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB of GDDR6 memory
  • 1080p FaceTime camera (upgraded from 720p)
  • T2 security chip
  • Option for nano-texture glass (just like the Pro Display XDR)
  • Option for 10-gigabit Ethernet

This is a monster machine. Even in a base configuration with 16 GB of RAM, it comes in under US$2,500. Also, a 2019 iMac was benchmarked against a (2017) iMac Pro, and while the iMac Pro won overall, the difference wasn’t overwhelming. And given the significant price of the iMac Pro, a purchase decision was deemed difficult.

The choice would only be more difficult with this new 2020 iMac.

Why Such a Huge Upgrade?

I think the first reason was because Apple didn’t want to be “Osborned” by a weak 2020 upgrade, the last Intel iMac. A weak upgrade would have tempted many customers to wait for an Apple Silicon iMac—with anticipated huge performance gains. Sales would be disappointing.

The second reason is that the iMac Pro appears doomed. It has been neglected and too pricey for what was delivered. This powerful 2020 iMac is in effect 1) an affordable iMac Pro substitute (mea culpa) and 2) a worthy, marketable precursor to a (2021) Apple Silicon iMac.

iMac Pro with an Apple logo and a lock
iMac Pro (2017)

The Doomed iMac Pro

Some have opined, and I agree, that the 2017 iMac Pro was merely a high-performance place-holder for the delayed 2019 Mac Pro. (To placate defecting technical professionals.) Once the 2019 Mac Pro shipped, the raison d’être for the iMac Pro went away. Now, the 2020 iMac (and successors) seal its fate.

Why Apple even bothered with such a minor upgrade to the iMac Pro is a mystery to me. It verges on an embarrassment. At the least, a mystery. Plus, as our Bryan Chaffin argues, why pay 2020 dollars for 2017 technology?

I commend Apple for this stellar upgrade to the iMac line. With its rich list of powerful options, it will sell very well. Also, owners of the 2013 Mac Pro who can’t afford the 2019 Mac Pro have a drool-worthy option—assuming they can go back to (read: stomach) a 27-inch main display. (Large 2nd monitors remain an option for those blessed with ample desk space.)

How could such an amazing iMac be paired with such an odd, minor iMac Pro upgrade? Perhaps time will tell.

4 thoughts on “One New iMac is Fabulous. The Other, Not so Much

  • As one of those that saw the iMac Pro as a “What can we get out immediately while we’re getting the real thing running” system, let me say this does not surprise me at all. I really never expected it to have a long run.
    I am interested in the Nano-Texture glass. Not that I would get it mind you. The extra cost is way more than I’d want to pay, though I’d like a matte screen. More significantly the cleaning regime strikes me as way too fragile for most households including mine. You must only use the special Apple cleaning cloth to remove smudges. Nothing else. Sorry but sometimes my screen looks like a windshield after driving next to a swamp at sunset. At times I need to clean it and use product to get the accumulated dried on crud off. If that’s going to damage my special screen, well, it’s a non starter.
    There is speculation online that Nano Tech glass might find it’s way to the iPad Pro. That would be even worse. I actually have to touch that screen.

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