First Impressions: 5K iMac (Spoiler: Wow!)

I got my 5K iMac early this morning, and immediately migrated my data from my Mac Pro. My first impressions of this Mac are simply this: Wow!

I haven’t done much yet; nothing that taxes the processors to be able to see how fast it is. I did get the faster processor and better video card, though; I want this Mac to be future-proof for a few years.

About imac

What really stands out – and the reason I wanted this iMac – is the retina display. I’ve been using retina MacBook Pros for a couple of years, and I always missed the crisp display when I came back to my 27″ Thunderbolt display.

This display is simply amazing. If you’re thinking of getting this iMac for the display, you have to see it; it will blow you away. Finally, with a display like this, computing is moving to a new level. When you work on a computer all day long, as I do, especially with text, it should look like this.

I’m a bit perplexed about the number of pixels in the display. The Displays preferences say it has the same relative number of pixels as the 27″ Thunderbolt display, but when I fired it up, after transferring all my data from the Mac Pro, all the windows show more than before.

One thing I’ve had to do is up the size of the sidebar icons (System Preferences > General > Sidebar Icon Size) and the iTunes list font (iTunes > Preferences > General > List Size). It seems that everything, at the default resolution, is smaller than before, even though the Displays preferences says the relative resolution is 256 x 1440. On the other hand, I haven’t changed my font sizes in Mail; they look fine, perhaps because they are so crisp.

The display is also very bright. With my Thunderbolt display, I usually had the brightness at the highest setting (during the day); with the iMac, I’ve got it about two thirds of the way up.

I’ll do some real-world testing later, when I get the additional RAM I’ve ordered (I’m adding another 16 GB, though, so far, even with 8 GB, everything seems to run just fine; I could probably have settled with only adding another 8 GB, but I’m thinking ahead.) For now, if you have a chanced to see this Mac, go take a gander at the display. It’s amazing!

Update: I decided to convert a video with Handbrake and see what happens. The fan is quite audible; not “loud” as such, but getting there. The Mac Pro, on the other hand, is ventilated better, so even when doing the same type of activity, you can barely hear the fan. The vent is on the back of the iMac, in the center; this may have been the case with other iMacs; I haven’t had one in years, but my Thunderbolt display had a vent at the bottom left of the display.

The noise is loud enough that I wouldn’t want to do this kind of activity while I’m working, whereas, with the Mac Pro, it didn’t bother me. It quiets down within about 30 seconds after Handbrake stops.

Update: After using the iMac for a while with only 8 GB RAM, I started running into a few issues: I couldn’t past graphics into Messages without it beachballing; I had typing lags in an app; and there were some graphics glitches. I got my additional RAM late in the day, and now have 24 GB in the iMac, but this underscores an interesting point. Apple shouldn’t sell a Mac like this with only 8 GB RAM. Sure, they want to upset you on more factory-installed RAM at a high price, but this leads to a bad customer experience. The Mac Pro, which is a tad slower than the iMac (in its base configuration) comes with 12 GB; the iMac should come with more. I probably don’t need 24 GB; 16 would be sufficient. But 8 is not enough.

16 thoughts on “First Impressions: 5K iMac (Spoiler: Wow!)

  1. I’m interested to see what sort of heat this behemoth pumps out under load. The Apple stores should all be that extra bit warm in the winter.

    • It’s been running now for an hour and a half, and it’s barely warm in one spot on the back; my TB display would be pushing out hot air from its vent on the lower left. I’ll do some DVD ripping later and see how it fares.

      • The Apple keynote claimed the new iMac uses 30% less power than the previous model. Less power, less heat… (from memory, so I may have the percentage wrong).

  2. I’m interested to see what sort of heat this behemoth pumps out under load. The Apple stores should all be that extra bit warm in the winter.

    • It’s been running now for an hour and a half, and it’s barely warm in one spot on the back; my TB display would be pushing out hot air from its vent on the lower left. I’ll do some DVD ripping later and see how it fares.

      • The Apple keynote claimed the new iMac uses 30% less power than the previous model. Less power, less heat… (from memory, so I may have the percentage wrong).

  3. I just tested a base-model iMac 5K in an Apple Store, using 50MB NEF RAW files from a Nikon D800. 8GB RAM is simply not enough (I have 16GB in my own 27-inch i7 iMac), the system lags switching from image to image in Aperture 3.6 unless I turn on Quick Preview. I suspect 32GB RAM and all-SSD storage will eliminate this lag, but I won’t know until I can test such a configuration. Other than that caveat I agree that the screen is utterly gorgeous, in this aging photographer’s eyes. šŸ™‚

  4. I just tested a base-model iMac 5K in an Apple Store, using 50MB NEF RAW files from a Nikon D800. 8GB RAM is simply not enough (I have 16GB in my own 27-inch i7 iMac), the system lags switching from image to image in Aperture 3.6 unless I turn on Quick Preview. I suspect 32GB RAM and all-SSD storage will eliminate this lag, but I won’t know until I can test such a configuration. Other than that caveat I agree that the screen is utterly gorgeous, in this aging photographer’s eyes. šŸ™‚

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