27-INCH iMAC (2020) REVIEW THE LATEST INTEL iMAC LEAVES A LASTING IMPRESSION
Macworld|October 2020
THESE COULD BE THE LAST VERSIONS OF THE iMAC AS WE KNOW IT.
ROMAN LOYOLA

This could be it, you know. There’s a pretty good chance this is the last version of the iMac as we know it, with its iconic all-in-one design and Intel processors. Maybe there’s a chance that those Intel processors get a speed bump upgrade before switching over to Apple silicon (go.macworld.com/swth), but regardless, they’re on their way out.

The iMac isn’t going out quietly, though. The 2020 27-inch iMac gets your attention by being a top performer with a CPU boost, SSD storage, and updated graphics. It has other features to take into consideration—namely, a new nano-texture glass front—but the emphasis is on speed. If you rely on software that takes advantage of multiple processing cores (video editors, graphics software, databases, etc.), the new iMac will satisfy your need for speed.

The iMac in this review is a built-to-order model with upgrades to the graphics card, processor, memory, storage, and the nano-texture screen. With those upgrades, the price of our review unit is $4,499.

WHAT’S INSIDE: INTEL, MORE MEMORY, FAST GRAPHICS

At the heart of the 27-inch iMac are new 10th-generation Intel Core processors, replacing the 9th-generation CPUs introduced in 2019. The processor in our review unit is a 3.6GHz 10-core Core i9 with Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz. This is a build-to-order option, which adds $400 to the price of the high-end $2,299 standard configuration model.

This generation of the 27-inch iMac now has Hyper-Threading standard in the CPU across all models. Hyper-Threading allows each processing core to run two threads simultaneously and should help CPU performance. Before, only the 27-inch iMac with a build-to-order 9th-generation 3.6GHz 8-core Core i9 processor supported Hyper Threading.

To get an idea of the speed our review iMac is capable of, we ran several benchmark tests. To start with, we ran Geekbench 5 (go.macworld.com/rng5) and compared the results to other Macs that Geekbench has on record on its website.

In Geekbench’s single-core tests, the new iMac was 10 percent faster than the built-to-order option in its predecessor, a 3.6GHz 8-core Core i9. A little more impressive is the 19 percent increase over the current entry-level iMac Pro with a 3.0GHz 10-core Xeon W, or the 26 percent improvement over the 3.5GHz 8-core Xeon W in the base model Mac Pro.

In Geekbench’s multi-core tests, we saw an 18 percent improvement by the new iMac over its predecessor, and a 20 percent boost over the base model Mac Pro. The new iMac and the iMac Pro come close in performance, with the iMac being 6 percent faster.

Apple still offers only 8GB of RAM in the standard configurations, but the maximum amount of memory supported has increased from 64GB to 128GB. However, Apple’s prices for the higher RAM upgrades are insanely expensive; upgrading to 128GB is $2,600.

You can find cheaper RAM prices from third-party sellers, and fortunately the 27-inch iMac’s RAM is user-accessible and you can add more RAM yourself. At the time of this writing, a 64GB memory kit (which includes two 32GB DDR4 2666MHz SODIMMs) at Crucial is $310 (go.macworld.com/c310). Buy two of those to fill the iMac’s four memory slots, and you’ll have 128GB for $620 (before shipping and taxes). That’s a savings of nearly $2,000, even if you consider the cost of dumping (or maybe selling) the standard 8GB.

What you can’t upgrade on your own is the solid-state drive that comes with the 27-inch iMac, because the SSDs are part of the iMac’s motherboard. Apple used to offer Fusion Drives—combination SSD and hard drives that compromised on speed (but were still faster than just a stand-alone hard drive) while offering spacious capacity. This time, Apple decided to prioritize speed, ditching the Fusion Drive.

SSDs are more expensive than hard drives and Fusion Drives, so to keep the prices of the standard configurations at the $1,799/$1,999/$2,299 levels Apple likes to sell, the amount of storage is lesser than previously offered. That means you have to pay for an upgrade if you want more space—if it’s available. The $1,799 model includes a 256GB SSD and has no upgrade options. The $1,999 and $2,299 models have 512GB SSDs, and you can upgrade to 1TB for $200, or 2TB for $600. (The $2,299 model also has 4TB [$1,200] and 8TB [$2,400] SSD options.) You can also connect an external drive via Thunderbolt 3/USB-C or USB-A.

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