Apple iMac with Retina 5K 27in (2015) – Stuff

If you want to intensely edit high bit-rate 4K video, you should consider the basic spec as much as the screen. You see, the entry-level specs of the 27in iMac are quite ordinary. Just as they should be. The version I’m using is one of these all-purpose beasts.

It has 8GB DDR3 RAM, a 3.1GHz Intel Core i5 CPU and a 1TB fusion drive. All the CPUs are Skylake-generation models, bang-up-to-date and with slightly better core performance than the last set. It’s reasonably muscular, but no crazy powerhouse.

What’s a fusion drive, though? It’s a 1TB hard drive with a bonus 128GB SSD attached to let it read and write data at higher speeds than a HDD, without the almighty cost of a 1TB SSD. However, giving it a test run I did find find it substantially slower than the full-blood 256GB SSD in my now-ageing MacBook. Where the iMac’s fusion drive writes at up to 350MB and reads at 700-800MB but frequently downshifts to read/writing at 170MB/s, the MacBook writes at 676MB and reads at 690MBish all day long. And that’s not a latest-gen SSD either. Those in some of the latest MacBooks are much faster.

Still, if you think the extra SSD performance really matter to you, a 1TB full SSD upgrade costs a whopping £560. What’s the benefit here? Other than speed, it’s noise. Like any mechanical hard drive, the fusion drive does emit some quiet clicks while it’s writing data. However, it’s a very good storage/performance trade-off and those clicks are hushed.

Ultimately, you’ll find the base iMac’s specs in fairly affordable PCs. If you want a true Core i7, 16GB RAM powerhouse with full-SSD storage, you’ll pay almost £3000. And the top configs go even higher than that.

Even the most basic spec of the iMac would suit my needs, though. And would probably do the trick for a lot of you too. Our review spec scores 11953 in Geekbench 3, almost double that of my day-to-day Core i5 MacBook. It’s not a world-changing improvement over the last-gen iMac. Intel’s new chipsets care as much (if not more) about efficiency as power.

Under pressure, the iMac is masterful at managing heat. Most of the time the fans are silent, only kicking in when you’ve taxed the system for a little while. In testing, this ended up being after 10 minutes of gaming. Even then they’re pretty quiet, kicking out much less noise than your average gaming PC. After zooming about for a couple of hours in Elite: Dangerous, the fans were still just kicking out a fairly light whirr.

Whether you think the iMac expensive or not, you have to agree it’s an engineering marvel.


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