In last year’s review of the 5K iMac, we told you guys to wait until next year, and if you’re one of the people who did, congratulations because the 2020 5K iMac was worth the wait! So let’s get into this review!
We’ve been using the $2300 model for about a week while we’ve been patiently waiting for the high-end iMac with the new 10-core CPUand the 5700 XT graphics card to get delivered, and during all of our testing, we’ve realized that this less expensive model is so GOOD that for the first time ever, we’re actually recommending this one for a lot of people.
But before we get into why the iMac is so much better this year, and on the other hand, why some people should actually avoid this 2020 iMac despite the massive improvements, I want to first talk about why we told you guys to skip last year’s iMac.Even though it outperformed the $5,000 iMac Pro in many of the common tasks that we do on a daily basis, while also being over $2000 less expensive, there were 3 reasons why we told you to wait.The first was the fact that the ports didn’t change at all. It still came with the slow SD card reader and there wasn’t an option to get a 10gigabit ethernet port even though Apple added it to the less expensive Mac Mini.And thankfully, we now have that option on the 2020 iMac, and the SD card slot now supports much faster UHS-II transfer speedsbut it would’ve definitely been nice to have a couple of extra Thunderbolt 3 ports.
The second reason was the fact that the 2019 iMac was the only Mac that didn’t come with Apple’s T2 chip, and that was very important because it caused the 2018 15” MacBook Pro to destroy the iMac in terms of HEVC video editingeven though the MacBook was significantly less powerful in terms of raw performance. And now, we finally have that T2 chip, and not only that, but the 2020 5K iMac now comes with AMD’s Navi-based graphics which come with their own hardware accelerators for HEVC footage, as well as allowing us to connect not one, but two of Apple 6K Pro Display XDRs.
And the last reason was the lack of a redesign after 8 long years, and while the iMac obviously didn’t get redesigned this year, at least Apple gave us a 1080P webcam which definitely looks much better than before.
So a lot of our issues with the 2019 5K iMac were thankfully fixed this year, but some unfortunately weren’t, like the lack of a redesign, which is very important to a lot of people, so I’m gonna talk about this as well as the significance of Apple switching to their own Apple Silicon Macs later on in the article.
But how about we start with the GOOD news first :) The 2020 5K iMac comes with a few very important features that make it so much better than last year’s iMac, including the new 10th-gen processors, the new Navi-based graphics chips, Apple’s T2 chip, and a couple of other cherry on top features that I mentioned earlier like the updated ports, the 1080P webcam and a couple of display features, so let’s get into those.
Apple is now offering a nano-texture glass option for $500, which is basically a high-end way of getting rid of glare and reflections on the display without messing with the colors of contrast, and other reviewers have been loving it. But we don’t recommend it since we’ve personally never had any major issues with reflections and we personally think that $500 would be much better spent on upgrades.
Another new feature is the addition of Apple’s True Tone technology which automatically adjusts the white balance of the display to match your surroundings, which could be helpful for using it at night, but we don’t recommend using it while editing photos or video since it can throw you off while color grading.
And interestingly, the 2020 iMac is the first one ever that supports HDR video playback. Other than that, you won’t be able to tell this year’s iMac from last year’s model, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so let’s get into that.
We initially ordered the higher-end iMac with the brand new 10-core CPU and the top-of-the-line 5700 XT graphics card, but we were disappointed to see that it wouldn’t ship for another two weeks, so we did something we’ve never done before. We ordered another one which this Review is all about.
This iMac is the $2300 model with the 3.8GHz 8-core CPU, the 5500 XT graphics card with 8GB of VRAM, and a 512GB SSD which actually comes included this year compared to having to pay $100 for it last year, so that’s definitely a plus. And as far as the RAM, we left our iMac with only 8GB because Apple lets you upgrade it yourself without voiding the warranty, and it only takes a couple of minutes, so instead of paying Apple $600 for 32GB, we bought a 32gig kit on Amazon for only $120.
What really impressed us was that Apple pushed this i7 8-core CPU to its limits, allowing it to use up to a massive 161 watts of power, compared to only 120 with last year’s 8-core i9 iMacand instead of running at a stabilized clock speed of 3.75GHz, this one ran at a consistent 4.45GHz.This allowed this year’s $2300 iMac to destroy last year’s high-end iMac and even the $5000 iMac Pro in terms of Cinebench R20’s stress test.And in terms of graphics power like in Unigine Heaven’s gaming test, this iMac was nearing the performance of those two iMacs at a much cheaper price.Those are just benchmarks. Where it really gets impressive is when you look at real-world performance like for photo editing with Lightroom and video editing with Final Cut Pro X. This iMac destroyed a similarly priced 16” MacBook Pro in terms of exporting in Lightroom Classic, and it was right behind the iMac Pro, which is really impressive.But for video editing, this iMac absolutely killed both of those machines in almost every single test.The only area it was succeeded by the iMac Pro was for C200 RAW exporting since it’s very graphics heavy, and the iMac Pro has more raw graphics power.But of course, you can easily upgrade the graphics if you have some extra cash and still be well below the price of even a used iMac Pro.
What makes this year’s iMac really special is the addition of the T2 chip and Navi-based graphics, so let me show you how important that is. Last year’s iMac got absolutely killed by the 16” MacBook Pro in terms of HEVC video editing, because it lacked the T2 chipso we actually recommended the MacBook Pro for a lot of people, but this year, the iMac wins in basically every test thanks to that chip.And the Navi-based graphics now have new hardware accelerators that can decode 4K HEVC at up to 90FPS instead of the T2 chips 60FPS, and 1080P video at 360FPSand it can even decode 8K video so you can watch it on YouTube without putting any kind of stress on your processor.
You might be asking, why does HEVC video editing matter? Well, H.264 is currently the most widely used standard video format, but HEVC, or H.265 is quickly becoming the new standard because it gives you the same video quality while using significantly less storage space.In fact, your iPhone now defaults to recording in HEVC video format, and HEIF photo format. And very recently, Canon’s New EOS R5 records it’s highest quality video using HEVC, and Sony’s brand new A7S3 camera supports HEVC recording in ANY mode, which is one of the reasons why Max ordered not one, but three of those cameras for us to use.
If the 2020 iMac didn’t have a 10gb ethernet port, I would 100% stick with my iMac Pro until the larger Apple Silicon iMac came out. So basically, we’ve just established that these new iMacs are BY FAR, the best iMacs we’ve seen in years in terms of performance. However, there’s the Apple Silicon Mac switch which I’ll get into in a minute, and there’s also a chance that Apple will release just one more Intel-based iMac Pro before the end of the year. Now you might be asking, why? Who in their right mind would buy an Intel-based iMac Pro knowing that Apple Silicon is coming soon? Well, the only way I can see this making sense is if Apple makes it so good that high-end developers will be swept off of their feet.
So this if it does in fact get refreshed, it’ll most likely come with AMD’s Big Navi graphics cards, it’ll come with Intel’s recently leaked 10nm Ice Lake Xeon chips with up to 28 cores, it’ll come with Wi-Fi 6, and most importantly, it’ll be the very first Apple product other than the Pro Display XDR to come with a Mini-LED display.
But if it does get refreshed with a Mini-LED display, Big Navi graphics and new 10nm Xeon chips, you can bet that people are gonna be buying it, despite the Apple Silicon mac transition. But it’s also gonna be priced at at least $5,000, so for a lot of you guys that aren’t high-end developers, it really doesn’t make sense, so let’s finally get into the most important topic for this review, Apple’s switch from Intel CPUs to their very own ARM-based custom Silicon chips.
The great thing about those future Macs is that they’ll have all of that great hardware accelerators like the T2 chip built into the Main SoC, or system on a chip. This means that even the lower-end Macs will likely handle HEVC editing incredibly well. In fact, our 2020 iPad Pro handled Canon’s unconventional 4:2:2 format perfectly well while our $15,000 iMac Pro struggled. And I can guarantee you that the brand new family of Apple Silicon chips will be a whole different beast compared to that A12Z chip in the iPad Pro, likely packing hardware acceleration for a variety of different formats. And those chips will also come with Apple’s custom Neural Engine and machine learning accelerators which you just can’t get on a Intel-based Mac, and I’m almost 100% sure that Apple will implement the same hardware accelerators from their Mac Pro’s afterburner card into the higher-end Apple Silicon Macs.
So basically, those new Macs are gonna handle every Apple app including Final Cut, Logic Pro, xCode and more and they’ll likely do it BETTER than the previous Intel-based versions of those Macs. And what’s really reassuring is that Apple has been working directly with Adobe and Microsoft for months now, making sure that not one, but ALL of their apps will be running natively on Apple Silicon.
So if you’re like us and you mostly only use those apps, then Apple Silicon Macs will be great for you, especially since they’ll be totally redesigned and fresh, so it may be a good idea for you to avoid this 2020 iMac and wait for the Apple Silicon model, but if you use other third-party apps, I’m honestly not sure how well they’ll work during this transition period.
And of course, bootcamp support is going away, so if you’re a Windows 10 gamer, waiting for Apple Silicon is a bad idea.
The biggest dilemma we have right now is that a lot of people like the high-end 27” iMac, and I’m 100% certain that the redesigned Apple Silicon iMac that’s been rumored to come later this year or early next year is actually gonna be a replacement for the 21.5” iMac, and I’ve been telling you guys that for months now. And it’s been basically confirmed by the fact that Apple, for the first time ever, updated the 27” iMac without making any real change to the 21.5” iMac except for ditching the hard drive.
So we should expect a totally redesigned 24” Apple Silicon iMac probably within the next 6 months, and I actually have a pretty good idea of what it’ll look like.
But as for the 27” iMac getting redesigned with a larger display and an Apple Silicon chip, it’ll probably be at least another year until that gets released, or maybe even longer, so you definitely could wait for that, but you can’t spend your whole life waiting to buy something, because there will always be more leaks and rumors.
So just like Dave Lee said in his review, if you need an iMac right now, you buy one right now, and this 2020 iMac absolutely kills in terms of performance, especially for what we need them for, so that’s why we bought two of them even though we plan on buying the Apple Silicon models on day 1.
And we’re extremely excited to test the performance of the 10-core model which is gonna be delivered, so hopefully you guys enjoyed this review.