iMac with 5K Retina Display Review

Product Specifications

Processor - 3.5GHz Quad Core Intel Core i5 with 6MB L3 cache (Turbo Boost up to 3.9 GHz)

Display - 27 Inch (5120 X 2880)

Graphics - AMD Radeon R9 M290X 2048 MB

Memory - 8GB DDR3 SDRAM (supports up to 32GB) & 1TB Fusion Drive

FaceTime HD Camera

Two Thunderbolt 2 ports

SDXC card slot and four USB 3.0 ports

Built in stereo speakers

802.11ac WiFi & Bluetooth 4.0

Price - Starts at $2499

Review by Fernando Lyons


I produce a lot of professional art and media projects using my computer.  As you can imagine, a pretty powerful machine with a high resolution display is needed to produce high quality artwork, and videos.  When my old PC started to show signs of its age by slowing down, and/or freezing in the middle of major projects, I knew that it was time for me to upgrade.  Because I tend to buy machines with high technical specifications, I knew that this would be an expensive proposition.  I wanted to get more bang for my buck, and find a machine that would last me for a few years.  During my research, I came across the iMac with 5K Retina Display, a very powerful machine with the highest screen resolution on the consumer market.  I own iPhones, iPods, iPads, and an Apple TV, so, after years of holding out, it was only natural that I broke down and bought an Apple computer. 

One of the first things that you will notice about the iMac is it’s screen size.  At 27 inches, this is one massive display.  The size is put to good use, as this is an all-in-one computer, which means that the massive screen houses all of the computer’s components (including the speakers).  There is no hulking tower to find a place under your desk for.  This is quite impressive, considering that the computer is remarkably thin.  I’m not sure if it was sacrificed to maintain the slim profile, but there is no physical (CD/DVD) drive on this machine.  Consumers will have to either buy an external drive (which can be connected to one of the four USB 3.0 ports), or download their software from the applicable software companies’ websites, or the app store.  A lot of newer machine are going this route, so although I prefer a built-in physical drive, I wouldn’t consider this a significant omission.  As far as construction, the iMac is a well-built, and solidly constructed machine.  It is made out of a durable aluminum allow, and is a beautiful machine to behold.  This computer will look great on the top of anyone’s desk.     

One thing that I hate about Windows machines, is that they take forever to boot up.  I actually had time to go make a cup of coffee, and get back to my desk before my old PC was at the logon screen.  Fortunately, I can say that is not a problem with my iMac.  The iMac completely boots up within a matter of seconds.  This is even faster than my smartphone and tablet starts. Once the iMac is up and running, you will be greeted by a beautiful, better than high definition desktop display.  The high-end graphics card was definitely needed for this machine.  The best ultra high definition (UHD) televisions on the market sport 4K (3840 X 2160 or 8 million pixels) screen resolution.  The iMac retina display easily trumps the UHD standard with it’s healthy 5K (5120 X 2880 or 14.7 million pixels) display.  Your photographs and videos will look better than ever on this computer, as you will see crisper images, with great contrast, more accurate colors and significantly more detail.  If you are an photographer, artist, or video producer looking for the best screen resolution possible, then this is your machine.

The overall performance on this machine has been great.  When you click on an icon, things open up immediately, and I have yet to experience any significant hang-ups or crashes on this machine so far.  Despite having a high-powered graphics card, which usually tends to overheat on most machines and requires a fan to keep cool, the iMac doesn’t run hot.  Scrolling is smooth, there is no evidence of choppiness or lag.  The WiFi performance has been very good.  The signal strength was good and consistent, and my upload/download speeds were very impressive.  The iMac has integrated Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities, which allows users to connect compatible devices such as Bluetooth-enabled printers and speakers.  I opted for the Magic Mouse mouse instead of the trackpad (since I already own a Wacom Bamboo tablet).  The Magic Mouse provides multitouch capabilities, which allows for multidirectional swiping, and some smooth overall desktop and website navigation.  The multitasking screen is accessed by a gentle double tap on the Magic Mouse with two fingers. Somewhat surprisingly, the mouse doesn’t allow for pinching, so you should opt for the trackpad (or a drawing tablet) if this is a must-have feature for you.  Also, surprising is the omission of touchscreen capabilities.  There are several touch screen all-in-one computers on the market, so I don’t why Apple has not included this feature on any of its computers to date.  It would seem only natural for the touch screen innovators at Apple to at least include this feature in their flagship computers, even though it would be a shame to see fingerprints on the beautiful 5K display,           

Built-in computer speakers usually produce poor audio quality, forcing those who want good sound to purchase an external speaker system.  Fortunately, the built-in speakers on the iMac produce high quality sound, with a good mix of highs and lows.  Audiophiles and or those who produce music on their iMac may still want to purchase some external speakers, but for most users, I think that the built-in speakers will more than suffice.

With the addition of the iMac, I am totally invested in the Apple eco-system.  The eco system allows for shared functionality across devices, from the iPhone to the iPad.  For example, you can start an presentation, spreadsheet, or document (using Keynote, Numbers, or Pages apps), email, or text on your iPad, and finish it on your iMac, or vice versa.  You can even receive phone calls, that someone makes to your iPhone, while working from your iMac (FaceTime works great), and respond to iMessages from your iMac.  Since all photos can be automatically shared across Apple devices, you can view, and edit photos taken on another Apple device on your iMac.   With AirDrop, you can share photos, documents, etc., with anyone within a specified range with a compatible Apple device.  Notifications for reminders, new emails, iMessages, etc. pop up on the screen as they do on your iPhone or iPad.  The Notification Bar that is present on the iPhone and iPad is also available on the iMac.        

If you are a long time Windows PC user like myself, then there will be a slight learning curve associated with moving on to the Mac.  Some of the Windows compatible software is not compatible with the Mac OS, so you may need to seek an alternative.  Microsoft Office is available for Mac, but they come at a healthy price, and the Pages (Word), Numbers (Excel), and Keynote (PowerPoint) software included with the iMac provide good alternatives.  The commands, desktop navigation, gestures, and folder structure take a little getting used to, but once you become comfortable with them, you will clearly see the advantages that a Mac provides over a PC.  One area where the iMac has a disadvantage in comparison to Windows based machines, is in its price.  The iMac with 5K Retina Display comes at a healthy price.  A $2500 price tag may be difficult to justify for casual users, but if you are a professional artist, photographer, or videographer, then consider it a business expense and make the plunge.  You won’t be sorry.  Now that I have experienced the Mac, it will be difficult for me to purchase a Windows laptop or desktop again.


Bottom Line:

+ Quality Build, Size, Aesthetically Pleasing, Quick Start Up, Navigation, Fast and Responsive, Excellent Screen Resolution, Good Built-In Speakers, Good WiFi Performance & Apple Eco-System

- No Optical Drive, No Touch Screen Capabilities, & Price

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