Apple Updates iMacs With Faster CPUs, AMD Vega Options
Apple has made some updates to its iMac product family, with improved CPU options and faster AMD Vega GPUs baked-in. The updates are only for the Retina-class versions of the product; the non-Retina entry-level model wasn’t updated.
Apple’s new 21-inch iMac starts at $1,299 now, but you’ll pay an additional $300 premium to upgrade to a Core i7-8700. The machine still comes with just 8GB of DDR4-2666, and stepping up to 16GB will run you another $200. Overpriced upgrade fees are, of course, absolutely nothing new, but they ought to impact the overall attractiveness of the system. $1,299 also buys you nothing but a 5400 RPM HDD — a 256GB SSD is a $200 upgrade. Just for reference, NVMe 500GB drives are now available for under $100. 1TB drives are available for $150, retail. At Apple, a 1TB SSD is an $800 investment.
The top-end 21.5-inch iMac now has an option to use a custom Vega part with 20 CUs and 4GB of HBM2 RAM for $350. This will, at least, be vastly faster than the Radeon Pro 560X the system ships with by default.
The 27-inch Macs have picked up some new CPU options as well, but the major gain is the addition of a Radeon Vega 48 with 8GB of HBM2 memory for an extra $450 over and above the RX 580 the system ships with. Apple claims this will improve performance by 50 percent over and above that configuration.
These spec bumps are the only changes in the new Mac lineup. The new systems don’t use Apple’s T2 security chip, likely because it’s incompatible with Fusion Drive, and Apple wants to continue to use that technology. Overall, Apple has meaningfully improved the product line, offering a new six-core option on the iMac 21.5-inch, and making six cores default with eight-core options on the highest-end 27-inch iMacs.
The pricing of various upgrades can still make one blanch. The high cost of GPU upgrades, in particular, have always made the iMac a tough sell for me. Apple insists on restricting its GPUs to the highest-end product SKUs, then prices them at a substantial premium. We’re also not fans of the 5400 RPM HDD base configuration or the 8GB RAM limit on base systems that have four-figure starting prices. This virtually requires customers to pay for expensive upselling in the first place — and we suspect that’s part of the point.
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