Now even better: Apple’s slightly updated iMac 27 inch with Retina 5K reviewed

It hasn’t even been six months since we reviewed the first 5K Retina iMac, and yet here we are with a new model. What’s changed, and does Apple still have the edge in desktop design?

Features

Apple’s all-in-one desktop iMac might not seem like the perfect candidate for an update since its refresh late last year, but here we are again if you can believe it.

The 2015 refresh isn’t much of a change, though, with most of it focused on processing as Apple and Intel join forces for a bit of an update.

That update means the new computers brings the Apple iMac up to Intel’s very latest processors, with the fourth-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors updated to the fifth-generation, or from Haswell to Broadwell if you’ve memorised your Intel codenames.

The Apple 2015 iMac 27 inch with Retina 5K now starts with a quad-core 3.3GHz Intel Core i5 fifth-gen, offering that on the base model without a configuration path, or the secondary model which offers either a quad-core 3.5GHz Core i5 to start with configurable to a quad-core 4GHz Intel Core i7 processor.

Memory is the same, starting at 8GB in all the models, but with configuration options including 16GB and 32GB RAM, while the hard drive now starts with a 1TB basic hard drive (base model) and can be configured to include either a 3TB standard drive, 1 or 3TB Fusion drive, of solid-state options catering for 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB.

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Graphics options are also semi-configurable, with the base model stuck with the AMD Radeon R9 M290 with 2GB graphics, but the secondary model set to the slightly faster R9 M290X with 2GB graphics, configurable before purchase to the M295X with 4GB graphics.

Apple’s Mac OS X 10.10 “Yosemite” arrives on this computer, and no matter which version of the 27 inch with Retina you select, you still get the 5K Retina display, which brings a 5120×2880 In-Plane Switching display to the 27 inch size.

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As far as connections go, Apple’s 27 inch iMac remains unchanged, offering up four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2.0 ports, an SDXC card slot, one Gigabit Ethernet port for wired networking, and a 3.5mm headset jack, all of these located on the back.

Wireless connections are also unchanged, with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac offered up for wireless networking, as well as Bluetooth 4.0.

You’ll also find a FaceTime HD 720p camera above the screen, with two microphones sitting above this and at the back.

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A wireless keyboard and mouse are included in the box.

The model used in this review was the $2799 base model, featuring an Intel 3.3GHz quad-core Intel i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, AMD Radeon R9 M290 with 2GB graphics, Mac OS X 10.10 “Yosemite”, and the 5K Retina display.

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Performance

You have to feel a little sorry for anyone who decides to buy something new and impressive the moment it’s announced.

Take the Apple iMac 27 inch with 5K Retina, a machine that only saw release around seven months ago, but brought some pretty impressive technology with it for its $3000 starting price.

Granted, Apple didn’t update the Intel processors inside, keeping it strictly fourth-generation despite the fifth-gen chips being out (Apple didn’t officially get them until this year, 2015), but it did find a way to make its 27 inch iMac even more impressive, with a screen the likes of which no one else had, and even managed to best many of the 4K monitors out there with a 5K screen — that’s a resolution of 5120×2880 for those of you playing at home.

That was just seven months ago, and if you bought one in that time, you didn’t just feel like you had bought something amazing, but also something cutting edge.

Not anymore.

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Just a week ago, Apple announced a follow-up: the early-2015 edition of the iMac 27 inch with Retina 5K.

Again, this is another machine bringing that very sharp and high resolution 5K display, but while the late-2014 model was about updating the screen, this year’s edition is about updating the specs to bring it more in line with modern computing.

In a way, you’d kind of like both to happen at the once, but that wasn’t to be the case, possibly due to some exclusive agreements with Intel and some other computer makers, or another reason altogether. Regardless, the iMac now has the rights to the new Intel chips, and this is the update.

So what does the 2015 edition of the iMac 27 inch with Retina bring to the table?

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New processors, a slight change to the video card, and a smaller price tag.

That’s mostly it, though there are some catches.

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