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iMac with Retina 5K display review: New US$1999 model almost as good as its predecessor

Roman Loyola | June 16, 2015
When Apple released the first 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display late last year, all it took was just one look at the gorgeous images on the display and you knew you wanted it. Then you took a look at the $2499 price tag and suddenly you didn't want it as much as you thought.

When Apple released the first 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display late last year, all it took was just one look at the gorgeous images on the display and you knew you wanted it. Then you took a look at the $2499 price tag and suddenly you didn't want it as much as you thought.

So maybe you forgot about the Retina 5K iMac, until Apple announced a new, lower-priced model in May. The new Retina 5K iMac is $1999, which isn't as scary a price. (Also, the $2499 Retina 5K iMac was reduced to $2299.)

How to make it more affordable

There are three major differences between the new $1999 Retina 5K iMac and the $2299 Retina 5K iMac. These three components are slightly slower than the ones found in the more expensive model.

Quick reference chart: Apple's current Mac desktop lineup

The first is the processor. It's still a quad-core Core i5 processor but it's a little slower: 3.3GHz with Turbo Boost up to 3.7GHz , compared to 3.5GHz (3.9GHz Turbo Boost) in the $2299 model.

The second is storage. The $1999 Retina 5K iMac comes with a 1TB hard drive. Even though it's a 7200-rpm drive, it's not as fast as the 1TB Fusion Drive in the $2299 model. (You can upgrade to a Fusion Drive for an additional $200.)

The third is graphics. The $1999 Retina 5K iMac has a 2GB AMD Radeon R9 M290 graphics, which is a notch down performance-wise from the $2299 Retina 5K iMac's 2GB AMD Radeon R9 M290X.

Everything else about the $1999 Retina 5K iMac is the same as its more expensive sibling. You get 8GB of RAM installed as a pair of 4GB SO-DIMMs, leaving two of the four slots open for upgrades. You get a built-in FaceTime camera, four USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a gigabit ethernet port, a SDXC card slot, a headphone jack, and a Kensington lock slot.

The Retina display is gorgeous

Of course, there's the marquee feature of this iMac, the display. The same 27-inch IPS display is used in both Retina 5K iMac models. It has a native 5120 by 2880 resolution, and in case you're wondering, Apple's default resolution setting in the Displays system preference is 2560 by 1440 (which you can turn up or down).

What Chris Breen wrote in his review of the 3.5GHz Retina 5K iMac still holds true for the $1999 Retina 5K iMac. To summarize: Compared to a 27-inch iMac with a standard display, text looks much crisper, and images are smoother .The differences are more noticeable on high-resolution images and video.

When I switched to using a Retina MacBook Pro everyday, I thought, "Yeah, the display is nice, but really, what's the big deal?" After a long period on the Retina MacBook Pro, I switched back to using a laptop with a standard display, and I finally realized what the big deal was all about. With the Retina 5K iMac, the crispness and clarity was much more immediately noticeable to me, perhaps because I'm much more attuned to using a Retina display, or because the size of the screen makes a bigger impression.

 

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