Mini-review: How much faster have high-end iMacs gotten in the last 5 years? – Ars Technica

Apple seems committed to the Mac Pro and iMac Pro for now, but the company says that its most popular desktops with pro users remains the 27-inch iMac.

Unlike phones and tablets, which can still post big performance gains from year to year, desktops age more slowly and gracefully. A typical replacement cycle in many businesses and schools is three or four years, and, as long as they don’t break, you can easily keep using them for years after that.

Apple has lent us its top-end 5K iMac to test, but instead of just sticking to year-over-year performance comparisons, we’ll be going all the way back to 2012 to compare it against some of the older iMacs that it might end up replacing (we’ve also included the 2011 iMac in a few cases, though it can’t run all of the benchmarks that newer iMacs can). A lot has changed in five years, but how much faster have things really gotten? We’ll also get into the handful of technological updates Apple has made since the last new iMacs came out in late 2015.

CPU performance: Taking the Ivy Bridge to Kaby Lake

Between 2012 and now, Intel has introduced four new CPU architectures. Some of those were more important than others, but the commonality they share is a focus on low-power chips and integrated graphics performance. As much as these improvements helped make systems like the Retina MacBook and MacBook Pros possible, the chips in high-end iMacs improved only gradually.

The scores below were collected from a variety of sources. We had the 2012 and 2017 iMacs on hand to test ourselves, but the recent update to our benchmark suite meant that we had to look elsewhere to gather some of the other figures. They come primarily from the results browsers for Primate Labs’ Geekbench and Kishonti’s GFXBench.

The five CPUs we’re comparing here are all the fastest Core i7s Apple offered for these respective iMacs. Check the table below for model numbers, clock speeds, and architectures.

At a high level, single- and multi-core CPU performance has increased by around 40 percent since 2012, or by somewhere between 50 and 60 percent if you go back to 2011. Much of that comes from architectural improvements, but the clock-speed boosts deserve some of the credit, too.


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