A Week with the Retina 5K iMac

ImacIt’s been just about a week since I got my 5K iMac (whose official name is iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014)). I wrote about my first impressions, and it’s time to give a one-week report.

From time to time, a computing device comes along that changes everything. The 5K iMac does just that. Granted, Apple started with other retina devices: first the iPhone, then the iPad, then the MacBook Pro. But bringing a retina display to the desktop is a paradigm shift.

I’d been spoiled working with a retina MacBook Pro for a couple of years, and had been longing for a desktop display of the same quality. I’m not a photographer, I don’t work with video, but I do work with text, and look at my display most of the day. While a retina display is excellent for those working with visuals, I think it’s just as important for those working with text. I find it more comfortable to work with this display, and the crispness of the text has actually allowed me to move it a bit further away from my eyes than before, and still see it very clearly.

Apple promotes the 5K iMac on its website. It is in a category of its own; not lumped in the general iMac category:


This won’t last, I’m sure; in a couple of years, they’ll all be retina, but for now, they do make it stand out, and rightly so.

Compared to the Mac Pro, which I bought in June (and which I’m selling; hey, want to buy a Mac Pro?), the iMac is, for my use, very similar. The only noticeable difference is an audible fan when the processors are working hard. With the Mac Pro, the sound is just a whisper; this is because of the way that computer is designed. It is essentially a heat sink with an exhaust column around it. The iMac has an exhaust vent on the back-center of the computer, so when the fan gets going, it’s more audible. However, in normal usage, it runs at 1200 rpm, and I don’t hear it, any more than I heard the Mac Pro.

Compared to my 27″ Thunderbolt display, the iMac is very cool. The Thunderbolt display gave off a lot of heat – though this may be because of a power supply problem; this was just repaired, and I haven’t unboxed it yet to check – but the iMac is cool, unless, of course, it’s working hard, something it doesn’t do often. Even then, it’s only warm on the back, in the area near the CPU.

But the Thunderbolt display’s exhaust is at the bottom-left of the device, meaning that the heat blows out onto your desk; with the iMac, any heat blows out the back, so you don’t notice it. And I could feel a bit of warmth radiating from the front of the Thunderbolt display, if I put the back of my hand near it. Apple has mentioned how much less power this new iMac users, and much of that power difference may be in the display part of the computer.

The 5K iMac is a premium computer. It’s not for everyone. But if you work with a computer all day, you’ll appreciate how much better the display is. I’m very satisfied with this Mac, and I hope to keep it for several years. If you get a chance, go see this new display in an Apple Store; you’ll probably want to buy one too.