Now that we have a new 24in iMac it can only be a matter of time until the 27in iMac also sees an update that could result in a larger 30in - or even 32in - display, new colour options, and the inclusion of the successor to the M1 chip - the M1 Pro or M1 Max - as seen in the 2021 MacBook Pro, or perhaps something even better.
In this article we will look at the rumours and speculation about the successor to the 27in iMac. Read on to find out everything we know about the release date, specs, features and design of the new large-screened iMac.
Bloomberg's Apple expert Mark Gurman (in his July Power On newsletter) reports that Apple is developing another new iMac that is intended to replace the old 27in model, so it's not only us suggesting this is the case.
If you are on the market for a new iMac read: Should I buy a 27in iMac now or wait?
Apple announced its plans to transition the entire Mac lineup from Intel processors to its own Apple Silicon in June 2020 and at the time it said that the transition would take two years. So far we have seen Apple add its home-made processors to a number of Macs:
- The M1 Chip has been added to the smaller iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Air, and the 13in MacBook Pro.
- The M1 Pro and M1 Max are now powering the 14in MacBook Pro and 16in MacBook Pro.
This leaves only the 27in iMac, the Mac Pro and one Mac mini model still powered by Intel, and that is unlikely to be the case for long.
We are mostly concerned with the larger iMac in this article (although we do discuss the Mac mini and Mac Pro separately if you are interested). Based on Apple's self imposed deadline, we can surmise that there will be a new larger iMac by the autumn of 2022 (two years after the first M1 Mac arrived).
However, we could see something sooner than that, which would be good news, because by the summer of 2022 it will be almost two years since Apple last updated the 27in iMac (in August 2020). By the summer of 2022 Mac users will be chomping at the bit for a new model.
We don't expect to see a new larger iMac until March or April 2022 at the earliest though. While WWDC seems like a likely venue, which could mean a June launch.
However, there could be an even longer wait. In an August Power On newsletter Mark Gurman indicated that the last Macs to transition to Apple's own processors will be the iMac and the Mac Pro, and that this transition will happen just on the cusp of the two year deadline that the company set itself. So we could be waiting until November 2022. Read: Apple to complete M-transition by next November.
With the global component and chip shortages already causing Apple to have to delay the launch of various new Macs it's unlikely that the situation is any different with the new iMac.
New name - iMac Pro?
It is possible that Apple will give this new larger iMac the name iMac Pro - last used for the professional version of the iMac that Apple launched in December 2017 and discontinued in March 2021. Alternatively we may also see a new iMac Pro alongside the update to the 27in iMac, but we think it is more likely that the name will be revived rather than the workstation-style iMac model.
iMac (Pro)— Dylan (@dylandkt) October 30, 2021
Promotion and Mini Led
Base model 16gb Ram 512gb Storage
M1 Pro and Max
HDMI, SD Card, Usb C
Similar design to iMac 24 and Pro Display XDR
Starting price at or over 2000 dollars
Ethernet on brick standard
Face ID was tested (Not confirmed)
Dylan isn't the only one to mention a Pro variant of the iMac. The blog AAPL Tree also talks about how we could see the "rebirth of iMac Pro". In fact they describe the "iMac Pro's near certain return" saying that "simple math demands its return".
With the successor to the 21.5in iMac arriving with a larger 24in display boasting 4.5K Retina and seven different colours to choose from, it seems likely that the larger iMac will get a similar update.
We could see reduced bezels giving way to a larger screen (discussed in more detail below), and we could see different colour finishes.
We are hoping that Apple chooses a slightly different colour scheme for the larger iMac compared to the 24in model. The 24in iMac colour scheme includes the following variegated colours: blue, green, red, silver, orange, yellow and purple that blend from dark on the back to a lighter pastel finish on the front.
Apple could also choose a darker finish for the larger pro-focused iMac to distinguish it from the consumer level. This would be similar to the way that Apple offered a Space Grey iMac Pro (since discontinued).
Another change we could see on the larger iMac is a black rather than a white border around the screen. Read Why we are disappointed in by the new iMac design.
Indeed, in the 30 October 2021 tweet (above), Apple leaker Dylan does suggest that there will be "dark bezels".
We may also see a notch! Just like with the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro. This could allow Apple to extend the height of the screen as it has with these models.
The changes to the colour and design are likely to follow the 24in iMac, so our hopes for a further reduction to the size of the 'chin' probably won't be answered. The iMac screen isn't just surrounded by bezels, it has a giant chin at the base. With all the components squeezed in behind the display it seems a bit unfair to criticise this 2.5in aluminium section as it's a requirement of the all-in-one design, but with Apple boasting about the amount of room freed up due to all components being located on the M1 it does sound like they could have done more to reduce the size of the chin.
Apple could go much further with a redesign for a future iMac. In September 2021 Patently Apple spotted that the US Patent Office had granted Apple a patent that describes how Apple could use a single piece of curved glass for the computer and screen of a future Mac, with even the keyboard and trackpad being built into the curved glass.
"The electronic device may include a display coupled to the glass housing member and configured to provide a visual output at the display area. The electronic device may include an input device coupled to the glass housing member and configured to detect inputs at the input area," states the patent application (described here: Apple grabs patent for curved iMac.)
Here's what that could look like:
We had also hoped that Apple would adjust the iMac to make it more ergonomically friendly. It is possible that the hinged arm of the 24in iMac will answer the screen positioning challenge we have encountered with the older iMac design.
Screen tech and size
There are a couple of major changes we are expecting to come to the iMac display. We expect that Apple will, as it has with so many products, reduce the bezels to allow for a bigger screen - it did exactly that for the 24in iMac. Display technology has evolved in such a way as to accommodate smaller bezels, and smaller bezels is likely to mean an even bigger screen.
We'd also be surprised not to see the same screen tech on the iMac as Apple has added to the 2021 MacBook Pro. The 14in and 16in MacBook Pro boast Liquid Retina XDR displays, with an extreme dynamic range for 1,000 nits brightness and 1,600 nits of peak brightness, as well as a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, thanks to which you should be able to see detail in shadows and enjoy deeper blacks and more vivid colours.
The new 14in and 16in MacBooks also feature ProMotion, as seen in the iPad Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max. As with those devices, ProMotion allows an adaptive refresh rate up to 120Hz, which means it can refresh images 120 times a second, but it can also vary the refresh rate to much less than that when it isn't required, thereby saving battery life.
In his 30 October 2021 tweet (above) @dylandkt referrs to the new iMac (Pro) as having a backlight mini-led and the same ProMotion feature found on the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro (and the iPhone 13 Pro and Max, and iPad Pro).
How big will the new display be? We expect that the screen size will increase from the current 27in based on the fact that Apple was able to squeeze a 23.5in screen (measured diagonally) into the 24in iMac. That was an increase from the 21.5in display on the older model. And yet the size of the iMac only increased a fraction (the new model is 1cm taller and about 2cm wider. This new screen is a 4.5K Retina display, offering 4,480 x 2,520 pixels.
However, display analyst Ross Young tweeted on 20 October 2021 that a 27in mini LED screen is going to be used in an iMac in Q1 2022. We are disappointed that this seems to indicate that the screen won't be any bigger than it is currently.
OK, tweeted too early. The 27" MiniLED screen is going in an iMac in Q1'22, not an external monitor. May see a monitor later. Still 24Hz - 120Hz variable refresh...Sorry for the confusion!— Ross Young (@DSCCRoss) October 20, 2021
Despite this we still think that the new iMac will have a larger screen than 27in, and if it does we can also expect more pixels.
With the larger 4.5K display the smaller iMac is edging in on the 5K display of the 27in iMac. In that case the 5K Retina display offers 5,120 x 2,880 pixels. It's not only the 24in iMac making it look bad - many modern displays are larger than 30in so the 27in iMac display looks small by comparison.
Apple already makes one 32in display: the Pro Display XDR. That display offers 6K resolution. So Apple could theoretically equip the new iMac with a similar 32in display.
However, the new iMac wouldn't actually need to be that big to offer a 6K display. A 30in display with smaller bezels could still accommodate the 6,016 x 3,384 pixels for Retina 6K resolution and a 6K iMac.
Another screen tech that could be coming to the iMac is XDR - first seen on Apple's Pro Display XDR. The iPad Pro now has an XDR display and so do the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro, so it certainly looks like a tech that Apple is positioning for its pro users.
A quick look at the Pro Display XDR can give us an insight to some of the other features we could gain with the new iMac screen, although we may not see them all.
The Pro Display XDR offers:
- A maximum of 1,600 nits of brightness, 1000 nits brightness (sustained, full screen), 500 nits SDR brightness.
- XDR (Extreme Dynamic Range).
- 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.
- P3 wide colour gamut, 10-bit colour depth for 1.073 billion colours
- A superwide viewing angle at 89 degrees left, 89 degrees right, 89 degrees up, 89 degrees down.
- Monitor works in both landscape and portrait orientation.
- Standard screen is engineered for low reflectivity, but the optional nano-texture glass surface (which adds $1,000 to the price) etches a matt finish into the glass "at the nanometre level" to scatter light and avoid glare.
Another change we could see is an ultra-wide screen. Ultra-wide displays have become a bit of a thing over the past couple of years, and it might be something that Apple could adopt for the iMac, although it might be something we see for the new Apple display first. We'd love to see an ultra-wide iMac with a 21:9 aspect ratio, compared to the 16:9 aspect ratio currently seen (which is a standard widescreen aspect ratio).
One reason we may have a longer wait for Apple to update the larger iMac is if Apple wishes to transition the line up to mini-LED. Analyst Ming Chi Kuo has said that coronavirus-related delays have pushed Apple's plans to use these screens (which should allow for thinner and lighter products, deeper blacks and better HDR) back.
The larger iMac is generally designed with the creative pro in mind. It's tended to feature a more powerful processor and graphics option than the smaller model, and can generally be outfitted with more RAM (128GB) and storage (8TB). There is even a hatch via which a user can access RAM on the back of the iMac display, a usability feature designed with pro-users in mind.
But what can we expect to see in the next generation 27in iMac - or 32in iMac if that's what it is to become?
One suggestion is that Apple could offer dual chips in the iMac: two M1 Max for example. More details below.
The M1 has proven to be a very powerful chip, gaining outstanding benchmarking scores and rave reviews. But Apple hasn't stopped there. The company has now launched the M1 Pro and M1 Max, which are much more powerful variants of the M1 chip with more cores and support for more RAM.
It is highly likely we will see the M1 Pro or the M1 Max chips in the new iMac. These new processors are already being used in the 14in MacBook Pro the 16in MacBook Pro. It's also likely that they could make an appearance in a new Mac mini.
Indeed, in his 30 October tweet, Apple leaker Dylan claims that the new iMac (Pro) model offer the same M1 Pro or M1 Max options as the 2021 MacBook Pro models.
There is a 10-core CPU for both the M1 Pro and M1 Max - although there is also an 8-core version for the M1 Pro.
However, we could see more cores: the new chip could offer 16-core CPU. According to a Bloomberg report in December 2020: "For its next generation chip targeting MacBook Pro and iMac models, Apple is working on designs with as many as 16 power cores and four efficiency cores."
One way that Apple may be able to furnish the iMac with even more processor cores would be if it offered dual chips - two M1 Pro or two M1 Max inside the larger iMac. This could mean that there could be a 20-core CPU inside the new machine.
The M1 offered eight graphics cores (or seven in the case of the entry-level MacBook Air and entry-level 24in iMac). The GPU capabilities of the M1 Macs have proved to be impressive and beat the existing Intel Macs with integrated graphics. However, they are not beating Macs with high-end external GPUs, so we do expect a better solution for the successor to the 27in iMac.
There is good news: the M1 Pro and M1 Max look to be set to meet that requirement and they are likely to find their way into the iMac.
The M1 Pro offers a 14-core or 16-core GPU (14-cores on the entry-level). Apple claims up to 2x faster GPU performance compared to the M1 for this chip. The company also says the GPU is up to 7x faster than the integrated graphics on the latest 8-core PC laptop chip.
The M1 Max GPU is even better. It offers 32-cores. In that case, Apple claims that the graphics performance is up to 4x faster than M1.
The question is will Apple's new graphics solution match the discrete graphics the typical 27in iMac user requires, we will be able to find out when we receive the 2021 MacBook Pro models for review.
As mentioned above, the obvious solution would be for Apple to double up the chips inside the iMac. If Apple was to use two M1 Pro we could see 32-core CPU with a dual M1 Pro, or a 64-core CPU with a dual M1 Max.
One of the biggest limitations of the M1 Macs is the fact that they cannot support more than 16GB RAM. This just isn't going to cut it for those who need a high-end machine.
In his tweet above Dylan suggests that there will be 16GB RAM as standard in the new iMac. If the M1 Pro and M1 Max are included then that suggests that the new iMac will be able to support 64GB RAM, which is less than the 128GB RAM currently supported though.
Given that current 27in iMacs can be upgraded to 128GB of RAM respectively, what are the chances that the new iMac will have a similarly high RAM allocation. We anticipate some disappointment when Apple's new high-end Mac tops out at 64GB.
Apple will no doubt explain that it's M1 RAM isn't like standard RAM because of how it works so efficiently. But there's simply no way that 32GB of Apple's RAM can match 128GB RAM.
However, by using a dual M1 Max inside the iMac Apple may not need to argue the above. With a dual M1 Max the iMac could theoretically support 128GB RAM, and not only that, there would be a minimum of 64GB unified memory available to access, versus the 16GB of HBM2 discrete memory with the Vega 64 that featured in the iMac Pro.
Dylan's tweet suggest that there will be 512GB storage as standard with the new iMac (Pro).
That would be an improvement on the 256GB offered in the entry-level 27in iMac currently. But it would follow the pattern of the 2021 16in MacBook Pro which has 512GB and 1TB options for the standard machines (and 8TB as a build to order option, matching the 27in iMac).
Where the 24in iMac has just two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports on the entry-level and an additional two USB 3 ports on the other models, the larger iMac is likely to have a larger selection of ports. At least that's what the usual market for this iMac will be hoping for.
Indeed, with the MacBook Pro in 2021 seeing the return of many ports, the iMac looks likely to follow the trend.
As Dylan predicts in his tweet above: "HDMI, SD Card, USB C".
The traditional 28in iMac user requires a lot more connectivity than the typical 24in iMac user so there is hope that the SC card slot loved by photographers will make a return to the iMac as it has on the MacBook Pro.
Another thing that is likely to change - as on the 24in iMac it seems likely that the ethernet slot will move to the power brick.
The 24in iMac ships with a colour-matched keyboard with Touch ID, offers improved audio features - including a high-fidelity six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers, and features an improved 1080p FaceTime HD camera with M1 image signal processor.
It seems likely that the new larger iMac will ship with these same features. But what other new features might we see?
Face ID for iMac
The FaceTime camera seems sure to be updated as it was for the 24in iMac, but could Apple go a step further?
Many would like to see Face ID arrive on the iMac as an easy way to unlock and enter passwords and there is evidence that Face ID is coming to the Mac - the Big Sur beta contains code that references a TrueDepth camera. This suggests that Apple could be incorporating the TrueDepth camera technology that was introduced on the iPhone into the iMac display.
Mark Gurman writes in the subscriber edition of his Power On newsletter that he thinks Apple's Face ID will come to Mac within a couple of years. Gurman believes Apple's long-term goal is to provide Face ID on all Apple products.
There were reports in 2021 that Face ID will come to the iMac in 2022, although it could take even longer than that.
With FaceID we may have to accept that the notch will be a feature of the new iMac as well as the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro.
This is probably a case of wishful thinking, but we think that with the arrival of Apple Silicon processors and the ability to run iOS apps on the Mac it's high time that Apple rethought its stance on touchscreen Macs.