Review: 27-Inch iMac 5K with i5 processor - 2012 on the outside, 2019 on the inside

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in Current Mac Hardware edited April 9
The new iMac 5K may look the same as the old one, but even at the low-end with new faster internals, this will be the go-to machine looking for a monstrous Apple display and solid performance.

2019 iMac 5K base model
2019 iMac 5K base model


We already reviewed the 21.5-inch iMac 4K, so here will focus our efforts on the 27-inch iMac 5K. In particular, we're looking at the base model which has historically been the dominant choice for those want to make the jump to the larger display but don't need the power and graphical capabilities of a tricked out machine, like the i9 and Vega graphics provide this year.

This isn't the 2012 iMac

The iMac is an iconic design that has graced designers, students, and families desks for years. Throughout that time, Apple has iterated on the design just a few times. In 2012 -- the last time Apple updated the aesthetics -- it was much needed. It slimmed up the body to a new tapered physique but was otherwise the same, tried and true design.






This year, Apple once again updated the internals but passed on making any exterior changes. The adage "if it's not broken, don't fix it" comes to mind.

A big concern surrounding the refreshed line is the thermal limitations of this aging case, especially with the beefy -- and hot -- processors that the line can hold, especially on the high end.

2019 iMac 5K design
2019 iMac 5K design


Otherwise, the design still holds its own well enough after seven years. The chin is a bit large and those bezels can be eyesores, at least according to Internet chatter, but otherwise, the 2019 iMac is a standout within the all-in-one market.

The all-aluminum build quality is still second-to-none, proving how far ahead Apple was when this design debuted.

Specs & performance

This review is focusing on the iMac 5K base unit with a 3.0GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 processor, but configurations are available all the way up to a 3.6GHz 8-core Intel Core i9 processor. Most people won't need that i9, so in this review, we will be discussing primarily that base unit.

Aside from the Core i5 processor, this model also comes equipped with 8GB of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM, a Radeon Pro 580X GPU with 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM, and a 2TB Fusion Drive.

A few worthwhile upgrades we may consider include swapping out that 2TB Fusion Drive for an SSD or increasing the RAM. Going with an SSD gets you faster boot times, faster file transfers, and faster editing -- whether photo, video, or audio. By swapping the Fusion Drive for an SSD you could opt for external Thunderbolt 3 media to offer additional capacity with a faster machine.

iMac RAM door
iMac 5K RAM door


As for the RAM, if you'd like more, you can do so through Apple's configuration or you could do it yourself. The process is simple and straightforward when you pick up some aftermarket RAM. OWC offers capacities up to 128GB -- double what Apple offers, and at lower price points.

2019 iMac 5K base model Geekbench 4 scores
2019 iMac 5K base model Geekbench 4 scores


Intel's processors here haven't hugely changed, but the higher frequency and added cores has led to some solid increases in speed. Geekbench 4 results were 5335 and 20919 on the single and multi-core tests respectively. Comparatively, that is a 32 percent gain on the multi-core test against the base 2017 27-inch iMac.

2019 iMac 5K base model Cinebench R20
2019 iMac 5K base model Cinebench R20 results


Cinebench R20 has replaced the R15 benchmark we've run in the past and is incompatible when comparing. We ran the test many times back-to-back-to-back to not only gauge the results, but see how the hardware handled when pushed to its thermal limits.

The thermal headroom on these iMacs was a concern to us, with the thermal cooling system designed for processors from 2012. There was a very real chance that the machine would be inefficient in cooling itself and require lowering the clock speed of the processor below the rated speed, resulting in less-than-promised performance while under load.

Luckily, that wasn't the case. Using Intel Power Gadget to monitor the CPU temperature and clock speed, even as the temperature increases the processor never dipped below the advertised speed of 3.6GHz.

In the test, we pulled an average of 2383, which was well above the 1472 we earned on the base iMac 4K.

In other testing, we ran the Unigine Heaven gaming benchmark which resulted in a score of 1104 with an average FPS of 43.8. The Blackmagic disk speed test also gave us write speeds of 876.9 MB/sec and read speeds of 1450 MB/sec -- but longer transfers beyond the 32GB of flash storage in the drive will be slower. Like we said, a SSD would do wonders.

A daily workhorse

The iMac has always been a great desktop. It is absurdly popular and has remained best-in-class. The 2019 iMac 5K is no different. The ports on the back are solid, though in this day and age we are looking for less USB-A and more USB-C on the iMac 5K, if perhaps not the iMac 4K.

2019 iMac 5K ports
2019 iMac 5K ports


Considering the mass-market appeal, we get Apple's choice but don't love it. This was ok in 2017, but in 2019 it should really be all USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. We've said it before, ripping off the USB-A band-aid is the only way to go, here.

2019 iMac 5K vents
2019 iMac 5K vents


Unlike on the iMac 4K, we were able to get the fans to kick in on the new iMac 5K, particularly when running the benchmarks or pounding on the CPU. The fans were noticeable but not too loud. Compared to a tower PC that can be placed off the desk, it can be annoying at times in a quiet room having the fans kicking in. For everyday use, in a typical office environment, you probably won't ever hear them spin up.

This iMac, like all the others, comes with a wireless Magic Keyboard and a Magic Mouse 2, though you can opt for a Magic Trackpad 2 or both together. We do love Apple's peripherals but are yearning for more.

The lack of Touch Bar is noticeable, good or bad, depending on your inclination. While many dismiss the Touch Bar, we did find ourselves missing it. Filling in forms, working in pro apps, and using our customized shortcuts were all less convenient than they otherwise would be.

More problematic is the lack of Touch ID and the T2. One aspect of this can be offset somewhat by wearing an Apple Watch, and using that for authentication.

But, without the T2 chip, there is no "Hey Siri" support, nor hardware-assisted video encoding beyond Quicksync native to the CPU. In our tests, we saw large boosts in video encoding performance with Macs that had the T2 rather than those that didn't.

The display in the iMac is still excellent, grabbing your attention the moment you sit in front of it. With its 16:10 resolution of 5,120 x 2,880, sitting at a normal distance pixels are still indiscernible. Colors are excellent and it makes us still yearn for that Apple-designed display that was promised long ago.

A meaningful, if not showy, upgrade

From the outside, the iMac is the same. We've stressed that point enough. That means it doesn't grab a lot of headlines and if you skimmed the text, this could be a review from five years ago. However, that doesn't mean that this isn't a powerful, and capable machine in 2019.

2019 iMac 5K base model
2019 iMac 5K base model


The speed increase from the 2017 base model to the 2019 base model is fairly substantial and while it doesn't warrant an upgrade from the 2017 models, it will appease anyone shopping for an iMac today.

There aren't huge differences in performance from the top 21.5-inch iMac to the base 27-inch iMac so either option is entirely suitable based on your space requirements. There is plenty of upgrade potential at purchase here, most tantalizing is that fast 8-core i9 processor -- but we will leave that for another review.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Where to buy

Apple's new 2019 27-inch iMac 5K is currently $50 to $150 off at Apple authorized reseller Adorama with coupon code APINSIDER. Prices start at just $1,949 for the CTO models after the coupon discount, with full step-by-step instructions for redeeming the code available in our savings guide.

For a full rundown of the latest deals and product availability, be sure to visit our 27-inch iMac 5K Price Guide, which is updated throughout the day.

Need help with the coupon? Send us a note at [email protected] and we will do our best to assist.

Six-core models

8GB RAM, Radeon 570X 16GB RAM, Radeon 570X 32GB RAM, Radeon 570X 8GB RAM, Radeon 575X 16GB RAM, Radeon 575X 32GB RAM, Radeon 575X 64GB RAM, Radeon 575X 8GB RAM, Radeon 580X 16GB RAM, Radeon 580X 32GB RAM, Radeon 580X 64GB RAM, Radeon 580X 8GB RAM, Vega 48 16GB RAM, Vega 48 32GB RAM, Vega 48 64GB RAM, Vega 48

Eight-core models

8GB RAM, Radeon 575X 16GB RAM, Radeon 575X 32GB RAM, Radeon 575X 64GB RAM, Radeon 575X 8GB RAM, Radeon 580X
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 62
    Somehow the it isn't broken don't fix it didn't seem to be on their minds when it came to the MacBook Pro's....

    Also it's a disgrace that Apple still sells it's high priced machines with a hard drive.  
    chemengin
  • Reply 2 of 62
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,622member
    those bezels can be eyesores

    Yeah no. Do not care. It's not a small mobile where I want all the screen space I can get in the same shell. Nor is it a living room television sitting in a prime location where I likewise want slim. It's a freaking 27" AIO computer/screen on my desk 
    for doing work.
    edited April 9 randominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 62
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,622member

    Also it's a disgrace that Apple still sells it's high priced machines with a hard drive.  
    A disgrace! By my mother's pearls! 

    lol. Fusion is more than fine for most people. You complain like you believe Apple would give you the SSD for free, rather than simply up the entry-level price to cover it, thus forcing everyone to upgrade the option that you want.  If you want performance, absolutely nothing is barring you from paying extra for that option. 
    edited April 9 lkruppmac_dogmacplusplusrandominternetpersoncornchipMDChopswatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 4 of 62
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 681member
    Somehow the it isn't broken don't fix it didn't seem to be on their minds when it came to the MacBook Pro's....

    Also it's a disgrace that Apple still sells it's high priced machines with a hard drive.  
    Haha! Your handle says it all. You’re still stuck in the 80’s. 
    cornchipchristopher126watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 62
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 665member
    I would rather have a 31 inch screen with a two inch bezel than a 27 inch screen with a 1 inch bezel or a 23 inch screen with a 0 inch bezel. Hmm, but with a zero inch bezel I could put four monitors together and have a 46 inch screen so maybe I would prefer that.
  • Reply 6 of 62
    those bezels can be eyesores

    Yeah no. Do not care. It's not a small mobile where I want all the screen space I can get in the same shell. Nor is it a living room television sitting in a prime location where I likewise want slim. It's a freaking 27" AIO computer/screen on my desk 
    for doing work.
    I'd prefer not to have the bezels, as I use it for flight simulator work, so (for now) I just imagine the bezels as window frames.
  • Reply 7 of 62
    thttht Posts: 3,212member
    This review is focusing on the iMac 5K base unit with a 3.0GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 processor, but configurations are available all the way up to a 3.6GHz 8-core Intel Core i9 processor. Most people won't need that i9, so in this review, we will be discussing primarily that base unit. 

    Aside from the Core i5 processor, this model also comes equipped with 8GB of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM, a Radeon Pro 580X GPU with 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM, and a 2TB Fusion Drive.
    ...
    Luckily, that wasn't the case. Using Intel Power Gadget to monitor the CPU temperature and clock speed, even as the temperature increases the processor never dipped below the advertised speed of 3.6GHz.
    This is totally confusing. 

    The base model 2019 iMac 27 is $1800 with an Intel Core i5-8500 with 3 GHz base clocks and 4.1 GHz turbos and a 4 GB 570X GPU. As far as I can tell, the CPU and GPU cannot be upgraded from this SKU. The only way for a buyer to have the Radeon Pro 580X GPU is to buy the highest SKU starting at $2300. Then, “advertised speed of 3.6 GHz” in the base model?

    There are copy-paste errors between the review of the fully optioned iMac 27 with Core i9-9900K and the review of the base model with the Core i5-8500?
    escargot
  • Reply 8 of 62
    camccamc Posts: 27member
    The question is: will this iMac overheat in a non-conditioned office running Adobe software? The mid-2015 MacBook Pro I'm currently on starts making noisy games with its fans as soon as Acrobat opens. In summer days it overheats on a regular basis, becoming slower and slower...
    I'm stuck with a couple of these machines because I can't figure out if a brand new iMac or a brand new MacBook Pro will do the same – any of you guys has suggestions? Should I go for an iMac Pro instead? (throwing away Adobe suite is not an option)
  • Reply 9 of 62
    frank777frank777 Posts: 5,792member
    Agreed on the port situation. Apple should have found the "courage" to go all USB3/Thunderbolt.

    If a future rev can go all USB-C, add SSD standard and a T2 chip, it would be pretty much perfection.
    edited April 9
  • Reply 10 of 62
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,069member
    I agree that the number of USB-C ports should be increased even if it means dropping the number of USB-A ports to one. I would also prefer that a drive access door or a drive compartment be incorporated into the chassis to improve repairability. Move the SD card slot and audio jack to the edge or (OMG) even the front, perhaps behind a door in the chin. The bezels don't bother me except for the fact that whenever I've had to bring my iMac into the Apple Store for repair they inevidably create smudges in the bezels that cannot be removed because they're under the glass.

    One thing I'd like to see Apple add to the iMac and a new Pro Monitor (if they do one) is bias lighting on the back of the unit that can be varied in brightness (or turned off) to match user preferences.   

    Generally, I love the iMac design but I think I'd love it even more if it were a little bit less sealed up without compromising the all-in-one convenience. Sometimes a little less than perfect is better than perfection, or at least better than the strive for perfection.
    edited April 9 MDChopswatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 62
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 608member

    Also it's a disgrace that Apple still sells it's high priced machines with a hard drive.  
    A disgrace! By my mother's pearls! 

    lol. Fusion is more than fine for most people. You complain like you believe Apple would give you the SSD for free, rather than simply up the entry-level price to cover it, thus forcing everyone to upgrade the option that you want.  If you want performance, absolutely nothing is barring you from paying extra for that option. 
    He's referring to Fusion-less HD-only models. By modern standards, they work so slowly that many would wonder if the computer was broken.

    John Siracusa went on a pretty good rant about these. http://atp.fm/episodes/319
    edited April 9
  • Reply 12 of 62
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 608member

    frank777 said:
    Agreed on the port situation. Apple should have found the "courage" to go all USB3/Thunderbolt.

    If a future rev can go all USB-C, add SSD standard and a T2 chip, it would be pretty much perfection.
    The iMac Pro really got this right. 4 C's and 4 A's, freakin awesome.
    cgWerkswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 62
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,622member
    > those bezels can be eyesores

    Yeah no. Do not care. It's not a small mobile where I want all the screen space I can get in the same shell. Nor is it a living room television sitting in a prime location where I likewise want slim. It's a freaking 27" AIO computer/screen on my desk for doing work.
    I'd prefer not to have the bezels, as I use it for flight simulator work, so (for now) I just imagine the bezels as window frames.
    I didn't say I prefer bezels. I said they're not an "eyesore". The iMac is one of the most attractive desktop computers in existence, the presence of bezels doesn't change that. It's not like it has an abscess on it's face.
    edited April 9 escargotcgWerkswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 62
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,622member

    Eric_WVGG said:

    Also it's a disgrace that Apple still sells it's high priced machines with a hard drive.  
    A disgrace! By my mother's pearls! 

    lol. Fusion is more than fine for most people. You complain like you believe Apple would give you the SSD for free, rather than simply up the entry-level price to cover it, thus forcing everyone to upgrade the option that you want.  If you want performance, absolutely nothing is barring you from paying extra for that option. 
    He's referring to Fusion-less HD-only models. By modern standards, they work so slowly that many would wonder if the computer was broken.

    John Siracusa went on a pretty good rant about these. http://atp.fm/episodes/319
    No he isn't, because that isn't even an option on these 27" iMacs.



    He's complaining that Fusion is the default on this 27" (the article we're reading) instead of upgrading everyone to SSD (which they would build into the price). Tho of course I'm sure what he really wants is the SSD for free.
    edited April 9 randominternetpersonescargotmacpluspluscornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 62
    dewme said:

    One thing I'd like to see Apple add to the iMac and a new Pro Monitor (if they do one) is bias lighting on the back of the unit that can be varied in brightness (or turned off) to match user preferences.   

    Ok, I looked up bias lightning, but I'm not sure that's relevant for a desktop computer.  Doesn't everyone sit close enough to their 27" monitor that they wouldn't even see the light behind it?  Especially with those huge unsightly bezels, right (kidding about huge and unsightly; not kidding that they further mitigate the "need" for bias lighting).
    edited April 9 watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 62
    xyzzy01xyzzy01 Posts: 33member
    frank777 said:
    Agreed on the port situation. Apple should have found the "courage" to go all USB3/Thunderbolt.

    If a future rev can go all USB-C, add SSD standard and a T2 chip, it would be pretty much perfection.

    Absolutely no. It's a pain on the MacBook Pro, and it would be even more pointless on a desktop where you have plenty of room. If more USB Cs are needed (yes, please) just add extra ports. I'm not looking for pointless pain on premium products.

    And while we're at it:
    • The iMac misses 802.11ax (WiFi 6)
    • Less bezel, more screen please. Massive bezels have gone the way of the dodo, so just replace it with screen - yay, 29 inches in the same space.
    • Revisit the storage situation. Go SSD only, so T2 can be added. Given the price of SSDs, halving the price of 2 TB would still give more than 100% markup on Intel SSDs... Less complexity, less moving parts, less service - and no people who buy a premium priced product with 5400 RPM HD only which will give a really bad impression.
    • I'd pay more for Nvidia graphics... they've beaten AMD handily for many years now. Why can't we get the good stuff?
    • And fix touchid/faceid

    I've wanted to buy a new maxed iMac to replace my 2013 27" maxed out iMac, but the last releases have disappointed me so I'm still waiting...

    cgWerks
  • Reply 17 of 62
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 350member
    "The ports on the back are solid, though in this day and age we are looking for less USB-A and more USB-C on the iMac 5K, if perhaps not the iMac 4K... Considering the mass-market appeal, we get Apple's choice but don't love it. This was ok in 2017, but in 2019 it should really be all USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. We've said it before, ripping off the USB-A band-aid is the only way to go, here."

    Speak for yourself. My MIDI controller, BluRay Drive, Canon scanner, Focal speakers, the charging for my Apple Watch, the charging pad for my iPhone, Pluggable HD thingy and ProBox use USB A type connectors. I already had to buy a couple of USB type B to USB C cables for the new Mac mini because of the shortage of USB A connectors.

    USB A is going to be with us for a long time and not much is crying out for USB C.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 18 of 62
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 608member
    If any of those cables are removable, they can be replaced with a C cord.

    https://www.amazon.com/Cable-Matters-Printer-USB-C-Black/dp/B00VKSF39O
    https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Type-C-Micro-B-Gen2-Cable/dp/B01GGKYIHS
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01GGKYF9Y

    I know it's not fun to just throw money at shit but really we're not stuck on A for the most part
    fastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 62
    thttht Posts: 3,212member
    > those bezels can be eyesores

    Yeah no. Do not care. It's not a small mobile where I want all the screen space I can get in the same shell. Nor is it a living room television sitting in a prime location where I likewise want slim. It's a freaking 27" AIO computer/screen on my desk for doing work.
    I'd prefer not to have the bezels, as I use it for flight simulator work, so (for now) I just imagine the bezels as window frames.
    I didn't say I prefer bezels. I said they're not an "eyesore". The iMac is one of the most attractive desktop computers in existence, the presence of bezels doesn't change that. It's not like it has an abscess on it's face.
    I’ll raise my hands and say I prefer bezels. Don’t understand how some people don’t have their eyes wigged out from trying to focus on the screen versus the background at the edge of the screen, especially in high contrast backgrounds. My work monitor is not along a wow, and when I had my monitor by the window, yowsers the brightness outside sometimes.

    There needs to be some bezel, and while it may look cool and all if it was 3 or 4 mm thick, it makes it little harder to use for me. Heck, On the iPhone, I definitely prefer the sharper edges of the 4 to 5S models over the rounded edges of recent vintage. Maybe 10 to 15 mm bezels would work for me.
    randominternetpersoncgWerkscornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 62
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,622member
    camc said:
    The question is: will this iMac overheat in a non-conditioned office running Adobe software? The mid-2015 MacBook Pro I'm currently on starts making noisy games with its fans as soon as Acrobat opens. In summer days it overheats on a regular basis, becoming slower and slower...
    I'm stuck with a couple of these machines because I can't figure out if a brand new iMac or a brand new MacBook Pro will do the same – any of you guys has suggestions? Should I go for an iMac Pro instead? (throwing away Adobe suite is not an option)

    What other machine - Mac or Wintel - with decent to big CPU's will run in a non-AC room without the fans eventually kicking in?
    cornchipwatto_cobra
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