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Review: Apple's new 5K iMac -- powerful, pixel-ful and pricey

Michael deAgonia | Dec. 17, 2014
There are 14.7 million reasons to want Apple's latest iMac -- the 14.7 million pixels that make up its stunning 27-in. 5K Retina display. At $2,499, the new iMac isn't cheap, but its screen makes this desktop a great value -- if you can afford it.

You can upgrade the processor to a quad-core 4GHz Intel Core i7 (with a Turbo Boost of 4.4GHz) for an additional $250; memory can be upgraded to 16GB for an additional $200 or to 32GB for $600 more. This iMac includes a port that allows access to four SO-DIMM slots. If you can swing it, I would recommend going with the upgrade to the Core i7, since you can always add memory down the line.

During the time I spent with the iMac, performance was pretty consistent, and the onscreen graphics hardly ever dropped any frames when playing videos or working through operating system animations. But if you think you're going to want more performance, you should opt for the AMD Radeon R9 M295x 4GB GDDR5 graphics card. That upgrade will cost you $250 more.

Storage choices

The iMac comes standard with what Apple marketing calls a Fusion Drive — a 5400rpm mechanical hard drive combined with 128GB of flash storage. Managed by background software, the Fusion Drive automatically figures out what files you use most often and puts them on the faster flash drive for quicker access. (The operating system and frequently used applications are also stored on the flash drive.) Larger data files — or files that are infrequently accessed — reside on the slower mechanical drive. The difference is pretty noticeable if you're constantly working on large files; I really wish there was an option for a 7200rpm hard drive.

If you want more storage, you can configure the iMac with a 3TB Fusion Drive for an additional $150.You can also can swap the 1TB Fusion drive for a 256GB flash storage drive for no change in price — trading storage space for consistent speed. You can also purchase a 512GB SSD for $300 more or a 1TB SSD for $800 more.

You can also add an external SuperDrive for an additional $79 if you intend to view or create CDs and DVDs, and you can swap out the Magic Mouse for a Magic Trackpad, which supports gesture and touch input. (I highly recommend the Magic Trackpad, by the way; if you're already using an iPad or iPhone and are accustomed to gestures, the trackpad is the choice — even if you have been wronged by trackpads in the past. This Apple trackpad is different; trust me.)

In the rear, the iMac has a headphone port, SDXC card slot, four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. As for wireless, the iMac supports 802.11ac, and is a/b/g/n compatible; there's also support for Bluetooth 4.0.

The speakers sound good, considering the sound comes from the bottom of the iMac. You won't be throwing any high-powered raves, but it's more than sufficient for filling the immediate area.


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