The best Intel-based iMac you'll ever see

27-inch iMac 5K (2020)

iMac 27-inch (2020)

The smallest iMac you can currently buy

21.5-inch iMac 4K (2019)

iMac 21.5-inch (2019)

The iMac (2020) is probably the last 27-inch model ever to feature Intel processors inside. This one has new features that will keep it future-proof for many years to come.

From $1,799 at Apple

Pros

  • Many new features & options
  • True Tone display, optional nano-texture glass available
  • Can upgrade to 10th-generation Intel Core i9 processor
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera

Cons

  • No more Fusion drives
  • What about Apple Silicone?
  • Should you get a laptop instead?

This model is just over a year old, but compared to the 27-inch iMac, it feels much older. With a new model probably coming before the end of 2020, it might be best to hold off right now.

From $1,299 at Apple

Pros

  • Various price points
  • Ideal size for many
  • Still offers a Fusion drive

Cons

  • 2020 update is likely coming soon
  • Is the display big enough?

Display size isn't the only thing different between the 27-inch iMac 5K (2020) and 21.5-inch iMac 4K (2019). Internally, they are different beasts entirely. Much of this is because one was just refreshed, and the other has not. It's because of this that we're recommending one model over the other. It's time to take a look at the most current iMacs on the market!

Break it down now

Each year, Apple usually releases new iMacs at the same time. That way, internals between both options are mostly the same. In August 2020, however, only the 27-inch iMac received an update. The 21.5-inch iMac, by contrast, was last refreshed in March 2019.

The 17-month time difference between the two release dates means two important things. First, there's no doubt Apple is also about the update the smaller iMac. Second, you should probably hold off on making a new purchase if you have your heart set on a smaller display size. If you want a 27-inch iMac, however, now is the time to buy.

iMac (2020) iMac (2019)
Cost From $1799 From $1,299
Display Size 27-inch 21.5-inch
Weight 19.7 pounds 12.1 pounds
Processor Starts at 3.1GHz 6-Core Processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz Starts at 3.6GHz quad‑core Intel Core i3 Processor
Graphics Starting at Radeon Pro 5300 with 4GB of GDDR6 memory Starting at Radeon Pro 555X with 2GB of GDDR5 memory
5K Retina Display Yes No
4K Retina Display No Yes
True Tone Yes No
Optional nano-texture glass Yes No
Storage Starts at 256GB SSD, configurable up to 8TB SSD storage Starts at 256GB SSD, but you can also purchase 1TB Fusion Drive
Memory 8GB up to 128GB 8GB up to 32GB
Camera 1080p FaceTime HD camera 720p FaceTime HD camera
Ports
3.5 mm headphone jack
SDXC card slot (UHS-II)
Four USB-A ports
Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports

3.5 mm headphone jack
SDXC card slot
Four USB-A ports
Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
Microphone Three-mic array with directional beamforming one microphone

As you can see, there are significant differences between the two iMac models starting with the display size and resolution. All 27-inch iMacs offer a 5K (5120‑by‑2880) resolution with support for one billion colors. All but one of the 21.5-inch models includes a 4K (4096-by-2304) resolution with support for one billion colors. There isn't a 5K model available with a 21.5-inch display.

Looking on the inside, it's clear the larger iMac offers better specs even at the entry-level.

On the 2020 and larger iMac model, there's also True Tone built into the display. With True Tone (carried over from MacBook and many iPads), the color temperature of the screen automatically adjusts to match a user's ambient lighting.

The newer and larger model also offers an optional nano-texture glass option for the first time. Previously introduced on the Pro Display XDR, nano-texture glass offers even better viewing under various lighting conditions, such as a bright room or indirect sunlight.

Looking inside the iMacs

Looking on the inside, it's clear the larger iMac offers better specs even at the entry-level. Here, you'll find up to a 10th-generation 10-core Intel Core i9 processor and 128GB of RAM. It's also the first iMac with a 1080p FaceTime HD camera.

In terms of storage, Apple is only offering all-flash SSD on the 27-inch model. By contrast, the older 21.5-inch version still provides a 1TB Fusion Drive as an option, besides SSD. With SSD, overall, you get to experience higher capacity and lightning speed. Plus, because SSD means there are no moving parts, making it less like you'll damage your machine. SSD also offers much faster read-write speeds.

Price, not surprisingly, is the one thing the smaller computer has going for it right now. It's much cheaper than the larger model and could soon be more so were it to get discontinued. Still, you can't forget an update is probably coming soon.

What about Apple Silicone?

Back in June, Apple announced plans to ditch Intel processors for native Silicone over the coming years. The move probably means the current 27-inch iMac is the last to ship with Intel inside. The next 21.5-inch iMac refresh could be one of the first to feature Silicone. However, it's more likely that distinction will come to an upcoming MacBook model first.

Who should buy the 27-inch iMac (2020) model?

If you're a graphics artist or someone who wants the next big thing, go with the iMac (2020) and upgrade it to the spec levels you can afford. No doubt, this will be the best 27-inch Intel-based iMac you'll ever see (and the last for this display size), and it's the one full of new features, standard and optional.

Who should buy the 21.5-inch iMac (2019) model?

If you're in the market for a smaller iMac, you should wait until the rest of Apple's 2020 plans are revealed. There's nothing wrong with the current 21.5-inch iMac. And yet, it could soon be replaced by something much better in just a few weeks. Therefore, you should wait.

Look at that display and the internals!

iMac 27-inch (2020)

27-inch iMac 5K (2020)

You're going to love this iMac 5K

The last Intel-based 27-inch iMac ever to arrive on the market is finally here. It's packed full of great features.

Time to say goodbye

iMac 21.5-inch (2019)

21.5-inch iMac 4K (2019)

A replacement is coming

Hold off purchasing this model until Apple's plans for the rest of the year are known. Otherwise, you could find yourself with an outdated device in just a few weeks.

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