Apple is announcing updates for both the 27-inch and 21.5-inch iMacs. It’s updating the processors inside to Intel’s 10th Gen Comet Lake processors and also switching out the webcam to a higher-resolution 1080p HD sensor instead of the low-res 720p found in other Macs. SSDs are now standard across the line, and there will be a bunch of new configuration options — including a “nano-texture” version with less reflective matte glass.
The 27-inch iMac starts at $1,799, is available to order today, and will ship this week. The 21.5-inch iMac starts at $1,099 and will ship next week. Apple is also giving the iMac Pro a small spec bump, making the 10-core Intel chips the new baseline for $4,999 — also shipping next week. (Oddly, the iMac Pro is not otherwise getting updated.)
This is not the major redesign that has been rumored (and hoped for), nor is it the first ARM-based Mac. Instead, the 2020 iMacs look identical to the last generation, including the large black bezel all the way around the screen and the big metal chin at the bottom. Apple says that, as it noted at WWDC, it intends to support Intel-based Macs for many years to come.
The webcam might be the biggest day-to-day upgrade for most users. It’s 1080p, but Apple says that the new T2 chip enables some new features beyond the improved resolution like tone mapping, exposure control, and face detection. We’ve asked Apple if the improved camera features will work in any videoconferencing app or just FaceTime, and we will update if we hear back.
Don’t get too excited about that face detection, though. It’s just for ensuring your face is properly exposed in video calls. It can’t unlock the iMac. In fact, despite the new T2 chip inside, the new iMac doesn’t have any biometric login options; there’s no Face ID nor is there a fingerprint sensor. Apple says many of its customers use the Apple Watch to automatically log in.
The T2 chip does allow for some other new features, though, including support for “Hey Siri,” a new audio controller that should improve audio bass and fidelity at lower volumes, and True Tone for the display. Note that the actual hardware for the speakers and display is unchanged. The updates come from the T2 controller. The microphones are updated, though, with a three-mic “studio quality” array.
Even though it’s not a big redesign, the fan-favorite option might be the new nano-texture coating, which finally brings a matte option back to the iMac. Apple says it’s the same treatment as on the Pro Display XDR. And because it’s the exact same treatment, it will have the exact same benefits (minimal haze) and downsides (requiring a special cloth to clean it).
As far as core specs go, Intel’s 6- and 8-core versions will be standard, with a 10-core i9 that turbo boosts up to 5.0GHz available as an option. Standard graphics configs have AMD’s Radeon 5300 or 5500XT, with the 5700XT with 16GB VRAM available as an upgrade. These iMacs can have up to 128GB of DDR4 RAM as well.
The switch to SSDs instead of Fusion Drives in the standard configs is long overdue — they’ll be 256GB in the base configs. However, if users want more storage without ponying up for bigger SSDs, a 1TB Fusion Drive will be available as a no-cost option. If users do want to spend more for a bigger SSD, they can go all the way up to 8TB if they’d like. Apple says the SSDs should support up to 3.4Gbps read/write speeds
There are various other config options and upgrades: 10-gigabit Ethernet is an upgrade option, and the SD card reader (blessedly still present) can support UHS-II speeds.
The spec bumps for the iMac don’t seem like quite enough to entice users who have the last-generation iMac to upgrade. But if you’ve been waiting for an update for the all-in-one system, they might be worth a look. We’ll be putting one through its paces as soon as we can.