Close to perfection: Apple’s late-2015 27 inch iMac reviewed

It’s only been a year, but Apple’s 27 inch 5K iMac is already in its third version, with an updated processor, graphics chip, and even a new screen. Is this the ultimate all-in-one, and the last desktop you’ll ever need?

Features

Apple’s 27 inch iMac is undergoing a refresh, and if you’re shopping for a new computer, there’s a good chance this is one you’ll want to consider.

This time, Apple is taking the design it has had for a few years now with an ultra-thin aluminium chassis and updating the important bits, providing a new processor, new graphics chip, and refreshed screen.

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New to the computer is a choice of Intel quad-core processors, starting with the quad-core Core i5 clocked at 3.2GHz, configurable all the way up to a 4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7. These processors sit under the sixth-generation of Intel processors, also known by the codename of “Skylake”.

This processor works alongside 8GB of RAM standard, though this is configurable to 32GB RAM, while the hard drive choices include either a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive, a 1 or 2TB Fusion drive (conventional hard drive with solid state memory to speed it up), or choices of solid-state drives.

Regardless of what you choose, Apple’s Mac OS X 10.11 “El Capitan” is found on the computer out of the box.

Graphics for the computer will be handled by either an AMD Radeon R9 M380, M390, M395, or M395X depending on the model you opt for, with either 2 or 4GB graphics RAM.

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Connection options are standard for an Apple iMac, however, with wireless handled via 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, while wired ports are found on the back, providing four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, one SDXC card slot, and a single 3.5mm headset jack for your headphones and microphone.

You don’t necessarily need a microphone, either, because along the front, you’ll find a FaceTime HD camera sitting above the display, with two microphones and stereo speakers built into the aluminium body of the 27 inch iMac.

Finally, there’s the screen, and this is a 27 inch In-Plane Switching (IPS) display offering a resolution of 5120×2880, which technically constitutes the 5K resolution Apple mentions in the model name.

Apple provides both a keyboard and mouse in the box, with the new Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2 included by default in the box, complete with a Lightning cable.

The iMac reviewed in this article was equipped with a 3.3GHz Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, a 2TB Fusion Drive, and AMD’s Radeon R9 M385 graphics processor with 2GB RAM. Based on these specifications, the iMac we’re reviewed is priced at $3599.

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Performance

Laptops and notebooks may serve most of the population, but there are plenty of people out there that prefer the stability of the desktop. Bigger, more powerful, and designed generally not to bet moved, the desktop isn’t for everyone, now that laptops are almost as powerful as these once massively faster juggernauts.

In recent years, this power shift has caused the desktop to take a bit of a backseat to the laptop, but with all-in-ones now taking over from the traditional monitor-less desktop, some people — particularly those who love a big screen — are returning to the desk for a big machine they don’t necessarily have to or want to move.

Apple’s iMac is probably the leader in this category, and ever since the first one arrived in 1998, you could see that Apple was on a path to change the desktop category.

Apple has certainly introduced quite a lot of improvements to it over the year, as well, with aluminium one-piece bodies, Fusion Drive hybrid hard drives, and last year’s Retina 5K display boasting more pixels in a 27 inch screen than an all-in-one has ever held.

This year, we’ve already seen one refresh of the unit as Apple embraced the fifth-generation Intel Core processors earlier on, and now that Intel has rushed ahead with a sixth generation, Apple is ready, too.

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That’s part of what you’ll find in the late-2015 iMac 27 inch with Retina 5K display, and now it’s no longer just one variant of the 27 inch iMac that gets this screen, but every 27 inch iMac across the board, making it easy to pick a new big iMac again and basing the experience solely on performance.

Let’s talk performance, though, because in the new generation of Apple’s iMac, that’s part of the reason someone would look at upgrading.

We need to be real for a moment, though, and say that given there’s so little change between the early-2015 iMac with Intel’s fifth-generation (Broadwell) and this one with Intel’s sixth-generation (Skylake), we wouldn’t recommend upgrading from the previous generation to the new one. There’d be little to no reason to do so, and the performance increases would be marginal.

That being said, performance was stellar on the Intel Core i5 we tested on, with the 3.3GHz processor cruising along with no problems and working with the 8GB RAM that Apple equips the machine by default. Paired with Apple’s latest operating system — Mac OS X 10.11 “El Capitan” — and everything just purrs, though good luck getting the computer to really feel like it’s working hard.

Thanks to Intel’s improvements to the processing technology, the iMac 27 for late 2015 handles its own without any issues, and that’s great news for the photo editors, filmmakers, and creative types keen to have the next best thing to a Mac Pro without spending the five grand minimum not including the screen.

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