- Out of stock 27in iMac suggests a new model is coming soon!
- Geekbench benchmarks appear for 10-core iMac.
- Processor destined for new iMac already launched.
- iMac could get a redesign and bigger screen (but it could be pushed back to 2021 due to supply problems).
It's been more than a year since Apple last update the iMac (in March 2019) and even longer since the iMac Pro arrived (December 2018). This neglect is perhaps explained by the popularity of laptops, but creatives who rely on a decent desktop for their work are no doubt frustrated by the fact that the current crop of iMacs look underpowered compared to the MacBook Pro.
Therefore it's no surprise that many are hoping Apple will update the iMac soon. For example, those who don't want to spend £2,399/$2,399 to get a Mac with a discrete graphics card (that being the price of the 16in MacBook Pro - the only other Mac which offers that option) will be eagerly awaiting the new iMac (which could get you discrete graphics for just £1,249).
Others will be hoping that Apple does more than update the iMac with faster processor, better graphics and so on. There are calls for a complete redesign, including a bigger screen made possible by a reduction in the bezel size. There are hopes that the new design will be more ergonomic. And there are many who hope Apple will finally remove the sluggish hard drive option from the iMac.
In this article we'll look at when the new iMac might launch, what we can expect and whether there will indeed be a redesign.
New iMac release date
There were plenty of rumours suggesting Apple would release a new iMac during its WWDC keynote on 22 June 2020, although that didn't end up being the case.
However, a new iMac might still be coming in the near future. A big indication that this is the case is the fact that Apple's listing for 27in iMacs on its website is currently suggesting that they won't ship until mid-July - a clear indicator that something is about to launch.
Also, the latest Intel processors that we'd expect to see in the iMac are now available, so a new iMac is looking likely. In fact, with new benchmarks appearing in Geekbench for an iMac with a tenth-generation Intel Core i9-10910, it certainly looks like something will arrive soon! More on this below.
This aligns with predictions from prolific leaker Jon Prosser, who also thinks the iMac update will come soon. He claimed in a tweet in early May that new iMacs are ready to ship, suggesting that a new iMac could debut "at any time."
Heads up: There’s still an iMac and AirPods ready to ship. (Not sure which AirPods yet, only know codename)— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) May 6, 2020
Theoretically, since they’re ready, they could drop at any time.
I’ll let you know if/when I hear a date.
Let’s see if Apple can keep it a secret from me ????
Another leaker - CoinX - suggested in a tweet in March 2020 that the iMac and Mac mini would be updated "soon". The Mac mini was updated shortly after the tweet, but we are still waiting for the iMac.
iMac/Mac mini ??— CoinX (@coiiiiiiiin) March 4, 2020
However, a report out of China in April 2020 suggested that a new iMac may launch in the second half of 2020, which could push the launch date to July and beyond.
However, if you are hoping that this new iMac update will offer more than 10th generation processors in the 27in model you are likely to be disappointed: It looks like the rumoured redesigned iMac won't appear until later in 2020 or even 2021.
Will the 2020 iMac have a new design?
There are lots of reasons why we think it's time for Apple to redesign the iMac: it's not very ergonomic, the design looks dated, and the screen is no longer worth bragging about. Our main criticism is that the iMac design hasn’t really changed in over a decade. This is, in fact, the longest Apple has ever gone without refreshing a product’s design. We discuss why the iMac needs a redesign here.
So, on the assumption that Apple must be looking at redesigning the iMac, what do we expect to see?
We expect to see slimmer bezels and better display tech on the iMac in 2020 based on the redesigns that other Macs have undergone. By transitioning to slimmer bezels we could see a bigger screen on the iMac without the iMac itself getting any bigger. There are in fact rumours that a 23in iMac is destined to replace the 21.5in model (more on that below).
Although prolific leaker and Twitter user Sonny Dickson's prediction of a WWDC unveiling was incorrect, he does seem to indicate there will be a new look to the iMac.
New iMac incoming at WWDC. iPad Pro design language, with Pro Display like bezels. T2 chip, AMD Navi GPU, and no more fusion drive— Sonny Dickson (@SonnyDickson) June 9, 2020
With the new model taking design cues from the Pro Display XDR display and adopting "iPad Pro like design language" and "Pro Display like bezels".
However, if you were hoping for a redesign and a bigger screen you may have to wait a little longer: there may be a delay to Apple's iMac redesign plans caused by Apple's wish to transition the line up to mini-LED.
Alternatively, we could see this new look iMac but the company could choose to premiere the redesign on the iMac Pro first.
The idea that Apple will reduce the bezels to allow for a bigger screen seems likely. Display technology has evolved in such a way as to accommodate smaller bezels, and smaller bezels is likely to mean an even bigger screen.
However, as we've said above, we can't be sure that this change will happen as soon as June 2020.
Currently you’ll find either a 27in or 21.5in display on the iMac. With many modern displays larger than 30in, the 27in iMac display looks small by comparison and the 21.5in is just tiny.
With smaller bezels we could conceivably see a 30in display on the larger iMac without the display being much bigger, while our calculations suggest the smaller model could gain a 24in display. However the rumours (via the China Times) suggest that the new smaller iMac screen will in fact measure 23in diagonally. We have this article about the 23in iMac rumours.
We could potentially see a 32in screen on a larger iMac - similar to Apple's new Pro Display XDR which measures 32in and offers 6K resolution.
Although the new iMac wouldn't 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. It’s surely only a matter of time before we see this technology arrive on the iMac, although we have a suspicion we’ll see it first on the iMac Pro.
Currently the 27in iMac offers 5,120 x 2,880 pixels for a 5K Retina display, while the 21.5in offers 4,096 x 2,304 pixels for a 4K Retina display.
In addition to more pixels we could also see HDR. The iMac screen is already able to display one billion colours, which is great, it’s just that until Apple offers support for 4K HDR content on the iMac display all the new content that Apple’s produced for its TV+ streaming service (which is available on the Mac via the TV app) will be squeezed into the P3 colour profile. Surely Apple will want to make sure that this content will look its best on an iMac screen.
A quick look at the new Pro Display XDR can give us an insight to some of the other features we could gain with the new iMac screen, although we certainly wouldn't expect to 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).
We have this guide to the differences between the 21.5in and 27in iMac here.
FaceTime camera/Face ID
Just above the screen is the FaceTime camera. Apple's been criticised recently for the poor quality of the video cameras on Macs - highlighted by the proliferation of video calling during Coronavirus lockdown. The iMac Pro already features a superior FaceTime camera, offering 1080p compared to 720p on the iMac. It’s time for his camera to make its way to the iMac.
Many would also like to see Face ID arrive on the iMac as an easy way to unlock and enter passwords. We think that Face ID could find its way into the iMac, with Apple incorporating the TrueDepth camera technology that was introduced on the iPhone into the iMac display.
New iMac specs
It goes without saying that a new iMac will bring with it better specs. We expect to see improved processors, better graphics cards, and other changes.
As the tech inside the iMac gets more powerful it will get hotter. When Apple introduced the powerful iMac Pro in 2017 it was necessary for Apple to make some changes on the inside in order to incorporate the necessary cooling system. To make room for these changes Apple only ships the iMac Pro with an SSD and does not offer a Fusion Drive option.
In the future we expect to see similar changes to the standard iMac, but clearly Apple’s not felt it was necessary to do so yet. Below we'll discuss the various new components we might see in the new iMac.
Earlier we mentioned that we would like to see the back of one of the components inside the iMac. We think it’s time for Apple to switch to flash storage in the iMac.
We are excited that Sonny Dickson's tweet above indicates that this will indeed be the case!
It's about time. There are Macs that still ship with 5400-rpm hard drives - an ageing technology that has many more disadvantages than advantages. While shipping a Mac with a hard drive means that it’s possible to buy an iMac with 1TB of storage without it costing a fortune, we feel that isn’t worth the penalty of a far slower machine. (Here's why Apple should stop selling the iMac with a hard drive)
Another reason why the time is ripe for the demise of the hard drive is the fact that prices of SSDs have come down so much that now other Macs start with 256GB SSD as standard. While we realise some users will still think 1TB is better than 256GB we think that the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages of the smaller space. Especially because we don't think the average users really need that much space. Many years ago our hard drive was full of photos, music, videos and more. But these days nearly everything is stored in iCloud.
Of our 128GB of storage we are only using 90GB on our Mac while in iCloud there’s 270GB of storage space being used of the 2TB that we have available. The need for storage on the Mac is less than it was. Sure, if you are working with large files that need to be housed on the local drive a 1TB or 2TB hard drive might be what you need, but we still don’t think that’s worth the slowdown.
There’s another reason why we want to see the back of the hard drive and Fusion drive. The hard drive is probably the largest component inside the iMac and removing it would free up a lot of space. Space for a better cooling system that could enable Apple to use even more powerful processors and graphics cards.
The 2019 iMac ships with six core, 8th generation processors from Intel's Coffee Lake range in the 21.5in model, while the 27in model offers 8th and 9th generation Intel processors. Those 9th generation processors are the second generation of Coffee Lake, which arrived in October 2018 and bought up to eight cores option.
Then in July 2020 an unknown iMac model appeared on Geekbench with a tenth-generation Intel Core i9-10910, as discovered by Tom's Hardware. The processor featrues a 3.6GHz base clock and 4.7GHz Turbo Boost. Power is rated at 95W.
We had previously noted that Intel had already launched the processors likely to be used in the next version of the iMac. These 10th-Generation Comet Lake processors include the Core i9-10900K a 3.7GHz processor which has 10 cores with 'Thermal Velocity Boost' to 5.3GHz. This chip is the successor to the i9-9900K chip Apple uses in the current top of the range iMac.
In contrast to the eighth series these 10th generation processors support hyperthreading and turboboost. The i3 series offers four cores, the i5 processors six cores, the i7 has eight cores, and that i9 model mentioned above that offers ten cores.
These processors also support DDR4 memory chips - the i7 and i9 use slightly faster clocked versions. They support a maximum of 128GB RAM.
These offer a significantly higher power consumption (TDP) than the older models - 125 watts rather than 65 watts, but they can be clocked down to 95 watts.
Apple Silicon iMac
The company is said to have been frustrated with Intel’s delays and started designing its own chips as part of a project codenamed Kalamata. Read "Why Apple needs to ditch Intel" for more information.
The entry-level iMac could be one of the first Macs to adopt these new chips
However, there is another Apple processor we would expect to see in the next Mac even if it's not the main processor. Apple’s T2 chip is already used in the iMac Pro, Mac mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, where it powers the System Management Controller, image signal processor, audio controller, and SSD controller, as well as keeping Touch ID data secure and offering encryption and secure boot capabilities. It was a surprise not to see the T2 chip in the 2019 iMac so we expect to see the T2 chip this time around.
We expect incremental updates to the graphics cards used in the iMac. The graphics cards used in the current iMacs are the same graphics cards that were installed in the 15in MacBook Pro, so it follows that a new iMac will use the AMD 5000 series GPUs that feature in the 16in MacBook Pro
In that case we can expect to see the following options:
- AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory
- AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory
- AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory
- AMD Radeon Pro 5600M with 8GB of HBM2 memory
These GPUs have the new RDNA architecture, support GDDR6 memory and are produced using the 7nm process.
However, Sonny Dickson's tweet (above) suggests that the AMD Navi graphics card will be used in the new iMac line up.
Our main hope is that Apple continue to use discrete graphics in the iMac line up. Currently, except for the under-powered entry-level model, Radeon Pro cards are standard across the line up, with the addition of Radeon Pro Vega options if you choose to build-to-order.
It’s not always been the case that the 21.5in iMac has been equipped with discrete graphics, so our fears are founded. As recently as 2015 all the 21-inch iMacs, even the top of the range, 4K iMac, featured Intel Iris Pro Graphics 6200. That was the case until 2017, when all bar the entry level iMac got discrete Radeon Pro graphics cards.
Some 2019 iMacs got a nice boost to the RAM with Apple tweaking the RAM from 2400MHz to 2666MHz in every 27in iMac and the top-of-the-range 21.5in model. However, iMacs still come with 8GB RAM as standard, while the majority of MacBook Pro models now have 16GB as standard. We'd like to see a similar change in the iMac range.
In addition, the 2019 mid-range and top-of-the-range 27in iMacs offer up to 64GB RAM. While the iMac Pro can be configured to 128GB RAM, we don't expect to see such an option on the 27in iMac, not as soon as 2020 anyway.
What we would like to see in terms of RAM is an easier mode of updating it on the 21.5in model. Currently it is easy to update the RAM in the 27in iMac thanks to a hatch on the back of the display. The 21.5in model lacks this hatch.
Staying with the back of the iMac for a moment longer, we hope that we will still be able to find four USB-A ports on the back of the new iMac, alongside the two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, and ethernet port. We aren’t sure we can expect to continue to see the SD card slot for much longer though.
Read about how the iMac, iMac Pro and Mac mini compare here.
How the new iMac could look
We're hoping for a complete redesign but what might Apple have up its sleeve. There is some evidence that the company is considering a pretty dramatic new look for the iMac. A patent application discovered in January 2020 shows a Mac where the whole body is contrructed from one piece of curved glass.
We're not convinced by this design - it certainly wouldn't overcome the issues with ergonomics, but it does indicate that Apple is looking at alternative designs.
This patent has inspired a designer to create visuals of what the new iMac could look like if Apple chooses to use this patent.
Concept Creator (aka Dutch designer Jermaine Smitreated) has created a visualisation of how the new iMac could look based on the patent. The concept was shared on LetsGoDigital and shows what the new iMac - or iMac Pro - could look like if it was made from one sheet of glass as per Apple's Electronic Device with Glass Housing Member patent.
You can watch a video showing what Smitreated thinks the new iMac might look like here.
Speaking of which, the iMac Pro is available in Space Grey, could we see a Space Grey standard iMac? The original iMac was famous for its fruity selection of colours but over the past few years the iMac has been available in initially white, and then silver. In comparison, Mac laptops are available in Space Grey (like the iMac Pro), Silver and Gold. It is time for Apple to spice up the iMac colour palette!
Now that we have Dark Mode how about a black iMac?
How could Apple adjust the iMac to make it more ergonomically friendly? We mentioned the angle-poised lamp design above, might the company bring back the hinged arm? Would a longer arm with more flexibility just look unsightly or could Apple’s head of design Jony Ive work his magic and come up with something both beautiful and functional. We hope so.
Returning to the display, 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 there is one component that we’d like to see the back of, and removing this could mean that space is freed up. We’ll talk more about these changes below.
Shaving off part of the chin could go some way to giving us the bigger screen we want, however, what we wouldn’t want to see is the iMac screen lose any more of its height, since that would just make the ergonomics even worse.