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iMac 2020 review

Apple’s new 27-inch iMac 2020 is a fantastic all-in-one PC for creative professionals.

iMac 2020
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The new iMac 27-inch (2020) is an ideal all-in-one machine for creatives, combining cutting-edge performance, great new features for working from home, and that iconic design.

For

  • Powerful
  • Slimline
  • Improved webcam
  • Configurable

Against

  • Pricey
  • Design hasn't changed
Specs

CPU: 3.6GHz Intel Core i9-10910 (10-core, 20MB cache, up to 5.0GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5700 XT (16GB GDDR6 VRAM)
RAM: 32GB DDR4 (2,666MHz)
Screen: 27-inch 5K (5,120 x 2,880) Retina display (P3 wide color) with nano-texture glass
Storage: 1TB SSD
Ports: 4x USB 3 (Type-A), 2x Thunderbolt 3 (Type-C), SDXC card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, Gigabit Ethernet, Kensington lock slot
Size: 25.6 x 8 x 20.3 inches (65 x 20.3 x 51.6cm; W x D x H)
Weight: 19.7 pounds (8.92kg)

The new Apple iMac 2020 27-inch, is the company’s latest all-in-one PC, and comes with some choice hardware upgrades that make this one of the best devices creative professionals can buy right now. So much so, in fact, it takes the top spot in our round up of the best computers for graphic design

Keeping that iconic look that has made previous iMacs such a hit with creatives, the iMac 27-inch 2020 now includes cutting edge components from both Intel and AMD, as well as super-speedy solid state drives (SSDs) across the board and an increase in RAM, leading to performance that blows the competition – especially Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2 – out of the water.

It does all this while also launching at the same price as last year’s model – a commendable step by Apple that serves to make the Surface Studio 2 seem even more over-priced.

And, while it’s not quite the powerhouse workstation that the iMac Pro is, with the ability to order a configuration with a 10-core processor (a first for the standard iMac), and a new AMD Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB of GDDR6 memory (which is the model we’re testing here), it’s not far off.

The Apple iMac 27-inch (2020), then, is a serious machine for creative professionals who are looking for a compact yet powerful all-in-one – with some great new features that will appeal to people working from home as well.

iMac 27-inch 2020

(Image credit: Future)

iMac 2020 review: Price

As with previous models, the 2020 model comes in a number of configurations, and you’re able to tweak these further to get a specification – and price – that suits your needs and budget.

The entry level model comes with a 3.1GHz six-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with a Turbo Boost of 4.5GHz, 8GB of 2666Hz DDR4 RAM, 256GB SSD and a Radeon Pro 5300 GPU with 4GB of GDDR6 memory for £1,799.

Then, there’s a mid-range model with a 3.3GHz six-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor (with a Turbo Boost of 4.8GHz), 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD storage and a Radeon Pro 5300 with 4GB of GDDR6 memory for £1,999.

There’s also a high-end iMac that comes with a 3.8GHz eight-core 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor that boosts to 5GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD storage and an AMD Radeon Pro 5500 XT with 8GB of GDDR6 memory for £2,299.

While these are all expensive options, they are actually the same price as last year’s models, which means Apple is offering upgraded internals for no extra money – a welcome decision these days.

It’s also worth pointing out that these models are still cheaper than the Microsoft Surface Studio 2, and come with more modern hardware.

For most creatives, the entry model will be plenty powerful, with that six-core processor and 8GB of RAM offering excellent multi-tasking performance – ideal for people who like to run numerous apps at once. It also has a discrete graphics card, which means it can handle photo and video editing, and 3D animation and rendering, well.

Of course, if you need more power, Apple has options for you, and you can further kit out the new iMac with a nano-texture screen (the same found in the Apple Pro Display XDR monitor) for £500 more, and you can further boost the processor, GPU, RAM and storage as well.

If you go for the maximum configuration, with a nano-texture screen, a 3.6HZ 10-core 10th generation Intel Core i9 processor (with 5GHz turbo boost), 128GB RAM, an AMD Radeon Pro 5700XT GPU with 16GB of GDDR6 memory, 8TB of SSD storage and 10 gigabit Ethernet, you’ll be looking at a price tag of £8,799. It’s certainly expensive, but it comes with the kind of fire power most people won’t need. And, if you do buy it, you’d probably not need to get a new machine for another decade.

iMac 27-inch 2020

(Image credit: Future)

iMac 2020 review: Power and performance

We were lucky enough to get one of the most powerful iMac 2020 configurations in to test, with a nano-texture screen, a 3.6HZ 10-core 10th generation Intel Core i9 processor (with 5GHz turbo boost), 32GB RAM, an AMD Radeon Pro 5700XT GPU with 16GB of GDDR6 memory and 1TB of SSD storage, which would cost £4,499 if you bought it right now from Apple.

Straight away, we were impressed with how fast macOS Catalina boots, and no matter how many apps or windows we had open, the iMac 27-inch (2020) kept up. It allowed us to continue working while it transcoded a video file in the background, without any noticeable impact in performance.

While this is great for people who like to flick between apps and tasks, it can also prove to be invaluable to creative professionals, as it means they can get working on other projects while the iMac completes tasks in the background. This can have a big impact on how much work creatives can comfortably take on.

Of course, as we mentioned earlier, this is with one of the more powerful – and expensive – iMac 2020 configurations, but even the base model should do a great job of handling pretty much any creative task with ease.

Apple has kept the slimline design of the iMac – which it has been using since 2012 – and that’s a pretty impressive feat considering the powerful components housed in this machine. Throughout our time with the new iMac, it did not appear to overheat, nor did the fans kick up an almighty roar (as some PCs do), which is a testament to Apple’s thermal design prowess, which keeps the powerful hardware nice and cool, despite the thin design and lack of airflow.

As an all-in-one device, it means it’s easy to set up – you only need to plug in a power cable and wirelessly pair up the mouse and keyboard – and you’re away. It means the iMac 27-inch (2020) will look great in any office, studio or home as well.

However, for anyone who was hoping for a radical redesign after 8 years, you’ll be disappointed. If you didn’t like the look of older iMacs, this new model isn’t going to change your mind.

iMac 27-inch 2020

(Image credit: Future)

iMac 2020 review: Display

Apple’s iMacs have long been lauded for their fantastic screens, and with the new iMac 2020, not much has changed – and for most people that’s a good thing.

The 27-inch screen is a Retina 5K display with a 5,120 x 2,880 resolution, along with a brightness of 500 nits and support for the wide colour P3 gamut. This makes it a particularly good device for video editors – especially when working with 4K footage, as it means you can view the footage without having to have it take up the full screen – as you would with a 4K monitor.

So, if you’ve been impressed by the bright and vivid image quality of previous iMac displays, you’ll be similarly impressed with the iMac 2020’s screen.

There have been two key upgrades, however. First, the screen now offers True Tone functionality. We’ve seen this in MacBooks – it adjusts the colour temperature of the screen depending on the light conditions you’re working in. The idea is that no matter what the ambient lighting is like, images on screen will be bright and vibrant.

It can work well, but whether or not you use it may be a personal thing (it’s quite easy to toggle on and off). However, if you’re a creative professional that requires accurate colours, you’re best off with this feature disabled.

The other big change to the screen is again optional. As we mentioned earlier, for an extra £500, you can get the screen with nano-texture glass. This material scatters light "at the nanometer level" to reduce reflections and glare, even when working in direct sunlight.

Our test iMac came with the nano-glass coating, and we have to say we were impressed. With a matte-like quality to the screen, we found that we were able to comfortably work on the new iMac even with bright sunlight coming in from the window – something we’ve struggled with when using monitors with more reflective screens.

It’s an impressive feature, which is why it’s a shame you have to pay extra for it – though we can understand. After all, this material was previously only found in Apple’s Pro Display XDR professional monitor, which cost a whopping £5,499 on its own.

Still, adding £500 onto the overall cost of the device may be asking a bit too much for people, and it’s worth remembering that the standard iMac display does a good job at minimising reflections and glare as well – though not quite as well.

iMac 27-inch 2020

(Image credit: Future)

iMac 2020 review: Features

The way many of us creative professionals has changed recently with the Covid-19 pandemic, and there are a lot of people who are now working from home for the first time, and with the iMac 27-inch (2020), Apple has included some new features that could really make a big difference to remote workers.

For a start, the iMac 2020 now has a new FaceTime HD camera, which now records in 1080p resolution. For anyone who has started taking part in more video calls recently, be it with co-workers, clients or friends and family, the new and improved webcam of the iMac will be a big selling point.

Not only does it have a higher resolution than last year’s model, but the iMac 2020 also comes with the Apple T2 Security Chip, which works with the webcam to help improve video quality further, with an Image Signal Processor that controls tone mapping, exposure and face detection as well. During our time with the iMac 27-inch (2020), we took part in a number of video calls with people who commented on how good our video quality was.

The iMac also now includes a new studio-quality microphone array which means you can be comfortably heard without needing an external microphone. While you’d probably still want a dedicated microphone if you’re recording music, for example, as well as podcasts, for day-to-day tasks the microphone works well, with impressive noise cancelling thanks to the position of each microphone.

The speakers in the new iMac remain the same as last year’s models, but the aforementioned T2 Security Chip handles variable EQ to improve sound quality, including deeper bass. They do a good job without needing external speakers, though again if you’re working in music production, you’ll still want a decent monitor. But these new features all means the iMac 2020 is an all-in-one device which can be used without needing to plug in any additional peripherals (there’s also the card reader for photographers) – making it a convenient device that keeps your desk free from clutter as well.

That T2 Security Chip also – as the name suggests – deals with the security of your data on the iMac as well, with on-the-fly data encryption, and ensures that any software loaded during the boot process hasn't been tampered with.

This will bring peace of mind to people who have important and private data, such as customer information, stored on their device.

iMac 27-inch 2020

(Image credit: Future)

iMac 2020 review: Should you buy it?

The new iMac is an improvement over last year’s model in almost every respect – except design, as that remains largely unchanged – and all for the same price. If you’re looking for a powerful and stylish all-in-one PC that can handle pretty much any creative task you throw at it, then we can heartily recommend the iMac 27-inch (2020).

Also, if you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, then this iMac is a great purchase. It’s a great showcase for everything Apple does well, and as it runs macOS Catalina, it means the most popular creative apps are available.

As far as all-in-one PCs are concerned, it’s also well priced, but it is expensive. If you’re on a budget, then a regular PC may be a better bet. You can get just as powerful a machine for less, though you need a separate monitor.

Plus, if you’d like to be able to upgrade the internals over time, to prolong the life of the device, then go for a regular desktop PC. Apple’s devices are notoriously difficult to open up and tweak.

But, even if you’re more of a Windows user than a Mac fan, the iMac 27-inch (2020) does a brilliant job of showing off why Apple’s devices are so beloved by creatives. This is an excellent machine for working from home on, as long as you have the budget for it.

The Verdict
9

out of 10

Apple iMac 27-inch (2020)

The new iMac 27-inch (2020) is an ideal all-in-one machine for creatives, combining cutting-edge performance, great new features for working from home, and that iconic design.

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