Apple iMac 27-inch 5K 2019 review


Largest all-in-one desktop's changes are all on the inside.

Optioned-up for action


Apple’s most popular iMac is still silver, it’s still 27-inches large and it still looks the same. The changes, however, are all on the inside. 

The everyman's iMac (not the darker-skinned iMac Pro version) has the same elegantly minimalist shape and gorgeous 5K screen. What you might not expect is just how much extra punch this Mac has when kitted out with a few optional upgrades to the standard configuration. We take a hands-on look at one of the latest models, supplied by Apple with a few optional extras.

CHOICE verdict

The 27-inch 2019 iMac retains all the good things that have made it so successful, such as its slimline profile and impressive 5K screen, then added extra punch with upgrades to its key components, including all-round faster processor, RAM and video graphics, and storage.

It’s a class-leading big-screen all-in-one desktop that can be configured to cater for demanding users. Explore the upgrade options in the online store before buying.

Price: From $2799

Contact: apple.com.au

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Same look, more power

The bigger brother to the 21.5-inch 4K iMac, the latest 5K iMac comes for the first time with 6-core or 8-core Intel 9th-generation processors and Radeon Pro Vega graphics. It runs quiet and the single power cable and wireless accessories means that it takes up surprisingly little room for such a large-screen computer. Its stylish, svelte silver aluminium exterior means it can look at home in any room.

The display is the equal of any on the market, whether in an all-in-one or a standalone screen. Perhaps the only way to improve the iMac’s overall look would be to do away with the silver 'chin' running under the screen, to make it even more elegantly minimalist. But then, where would you put the famous Apple logo?

For now, Apple seems content with internal upgrades. And there is surprising scope for such a slim machine. Our review iMac packs a surprisingly powerful punch. But then, this is not quite your standard configuration – it’s had some significant options added (which you can specify on order).

Standard features

Common to all the 27-inch iMacs is a 5K Retina screen (5120 x 2880 pixels) with 500 nits brightness and wide (P3) colour gamut for realistic colour. They can support an external 5K display or two 4K displays. All come with two high-speed (40Gbps) Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C shape) ports, four USB 3 (Type A shape) ports, full-size SDXC card slot and Gigabit ethernet. Plus 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. They come with a wireless keyboard and mouse, but you can swap out the mouse for the trackpad for an extra $60, or have both for an extra $119.

Apple gives you three standard 5K iMac models in the online store, which you can customise. The entry-level starts at $2799 for a 3GHz six-core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM and 1TB Fusion drive for storage, but you can’t upgrade the processor (for that you need to start with at least the mid-range model).

Optioned up

The model we tested was the high-end model, optioned-up a fair bit by Apple to show what a modern iMac can do. It came with:
  • CPU: Intel Core i9-9900K at 3.6GHz (8 cores and 16 threads).
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro Vega 48 (8GB)

To get this powerhouse as tested, you have to start with the high-end model of three standard configurations offered ($3549) and spend an extra $1840: add the i9 CPU option for $640, double the RAM to 16GB for $320, swap Radeon Pro 590X graphics card for a Radeon Pro Vega 48 card for $720, and swap the standard 2TB Fusion drive for a 512GB SSD ($160), taking the total to $5389.

There's a lot more you can do too, with RAM that can go to 64GB and SSD storage up to 2TB, but that fully-optioned Mac would set you back $8269.

That's starting to push into iMac Pro territory, where the entry-level model ships with a workstation-class Intel Xeon CPU, Radeon Pro Vega 56 for graphics, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD and 10Gb ethernet as standard for $7299. The iMac Pro has far more potential for expansion too, with a fully-optioned fire breather costing $24,419.

Performance

We found our review iMac as configured performed exceptionally well for a non-Pro iMac, especially when multi-tasking, and while all its processor threads were being used.

Mac video and audiophiles will love this model, as will gamers. The AMD Radeon Vega graphics adapter is adept at processing 3D graphics and accelerating animation, which is what you need for video, drawing, and gaming software.

The solid state drive (SSD) is very fast indeed, with our benchmarking tests showing its read speeds at up to 2.7GBps, and write speeds at 1.8GBps. This is up there with the fastest desktops we’ve ever seen. 

Of course, buying a Mac of any kind isn’t just about the hardware, it’s also about the Mac operating system and buying into Apple’s multi-device and cloud-connected computing eco-system that offers seamless ease-of-use and data interchange between devices, along with strong security and a host of built-in software applications that you get right out of the box.

For non-pro Mac desktop fans the 2019 iMac offers some good performance gains and the option to take it a lot further, depending on your hunger for power and the depth of your pockets.

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