Apple iMac gets mid-2020 Intel upgrade

Apple has updated the iMac, giving the all-in-one desktop a processor bump and other improvements, though not changing the familiar styling of the macOS computer. The refresh – a longstanding rumor – comes ahead of the switch to Apple Silicon, the Cupertino company's in-house Arm-based chipsets which it officially confirmed at WWDC 2020 earlier this year.

That process – expected to take around two years, Apple CEO Tim Cook said – will see macOS and all of Apple's hardware transition from Intel processors to Arm chipsets. It'll mean much tighter integration between macOS and the hardware it runs on, echoing the advantages seen already on iPhone and iPad. At the same time, it'll also allow iOS and iPadOS developers to more readily port their apps to run on macOS devices.

Apple did confirm that it would still have new Intel-based machines on the roadmap, and today's mid-2020 iMac 27-inch refresh is a good example of that. Outwardly, the desktop looks just the same as its predecessor. Though there have been rumors of a significant aesthetic shake-up that would follow the style of the Apple Pro Display XDR, it looks like that – if it happens – will have to wait until a future iMac reinvention.

Instead we get a range of upgrades under the hood. There are new 6- and 8-core 10th-generation Intel processors on the options list, and for the first time a 10-core Intel processor. That supports Turbo Boost speeds of up to 5.0 GHz, Apple says.

There's also double the memory capacity, with support now for up to 128GB for significant workloads. Apple says that, compared to its 8-core 27-inch iMac, this new model can run up to 65-percent more plug-ins in Logic Pro X, or transcode 8K ProRes video up to 40-percent faster in Final Cut Pro X.

On the graphics side, there are new AMD options. There's now Radeon Pro 5000 series GPUs, using AMD's newer RDNA architecture. Up to 16GB of dedicated graphics memory is available, another first for iMac, doubling the maximum previously available.

Compared to the old 27-inch iMac with the Radeon Pro Vega 48 GPU option, that means up to 55-percent faster rendering in Maxon Cinema 4D ProRender from this 2020 iMac, Apple suggests. Timeline rendering in Final Cut Pro X could be up to 30-percent faster.

Gone are the old Fusion Drives – which combined HDD with flash memory for acceleration – and now SSDs are standard across the board. There's now an 8TB SSD option, too, quadrupling the old maximum SSD capacity. Apple says to expect up to 3.4 GB/s speeds from its new drives. The Apple T2 Security Chip is standard too, for encryption and other security needs.

While the Retina 5K Display has the same resolution, it's 500 nits of brightness and P3 wide color support now has True Tone on the 27-inch iMac. That automatically adjusts the white balance and color temperature according to the ambient lighting conditions in the room. A nano-texture glass option – borrowed from the Pro Display XDR – has been added to the spec sheet, too. That uses glass etching to reduce reflections and glare.

Above the display is an upgraded FaceTime HD camera, which now clocks in at 1080p resolution rather than 720p. It's likely to be welcome in this age of working-from-home and video calling. The T2 Security Chip also has an Image Signal Processor which can be used to adjust exposure, do face detection, and tone map the webcam in real-time. There's also a new microphone array for improved audio, and the T2 also weighs in with variable EQ.

For the 21.5-inch iMac, meanwhile, that's also coming standard with SSD storage across the board. A Fusion Drive will be an option for those wanting maximum storage capacity.

Finally, the iMac Pro is getting the 10-core Intel Xeon processor as standard. Up to 18-core Xeon processors will be optional, as will up to 256GB of quad-channel EEC memory. The 27-inch Retina 5K display is standard.

The mid-2020 27-inch iMac will start at $1,799 and ship from this week. The 21.5-inch iMac ships from next week, priced from $1,099. Finally, the iMac Pro starts at $4,999, and ships from next week. All three are up for order from today.