iMac Retina 5K Display PC Review

Apple’s event on the 16th October wasn’t just about the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. The big surprise of the night was the impressive new iMac all-in-one with a Retina 5K screen. It’s the most high-resolution display that’s ever been made commercially available – and it fits into the same sleek aluminium body as the iMac 2013.

The internals have also had an upgrade. The basic model comes with a 3.5GHz core i5, 8GB RAM, a 1TB Fusion Drive and an AMD Radeon R9 M290X with 2GB of video RAM. That’ll set you back a cool £2000/$2499, but if you opt for the top-spec combo of 4GHz core i7, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD and AMD Radeon R9 M295X with 4GB GDDR5, you need to shell out £3519/$4399. Any version you get will, of course, come with OS X Yosemite preinstalled.

It’s the fastest iMac we’ve ever seen, and to power that incredible screen, it needs to be. And it’s the display that is the star of the show here.

The iMac with Retina 5K Display comes with a resolution of 5120 x 2880, doubling the number of pixels along the axes of the 2560 x 1440 older model. To put that in a bit of context, the iMac 5K has 14.7 million pixels – that’s seven times the resolution of the 1080p full HD TV you’ve got at home. All in a 27-inch display.

What this high-res screen means in practice is that you’ll be able to edit a 4K video in real size with all the controls of whichever app you’re using – such as Final Cut – surrounding it. Apple market this as a consumer desktop, but the reality is that it’s more of a prosumer computer – you’ll probably need to have a good reason to shell out that much on a computer just to check your emails and create presentations.

Apple claims that the contrast ratios are better than ever, too, and we can’t refute that based on our time with the 5K iMac. Dark scenes look detailed and showed zero banding. The lack of colour bleeding or banding is down to what Apple calls organic passivation – a technology we first saw on the iPad 3.

Organic passivation separates the signals to light up from the pixels. This eliminates cross talk and stops pixels leaking colour into each other. And it works. Colours looked superb – bright and vivid, but realistic. It’s also a lot more energy efficient. Apple claims that the screen on the iMac Retina 5K is 30% more energy efficient than its non-5K counterpart.

Some of that added efficiency comes from the new oxide-based TFT layer. This sends the charge to each pixel, charging them and keeping them charged. According to Apple this was essential to enable the new iMac to deliver consistent and uniform brightness across the whole 14.7 million-pixel display.

Apple has had to manufacture a bespoke TCON for the iMac 5K. The TCON, or timing controller, tells every pixel what it needs to be doing – it’s the brains of the operation. With four times the pixels of the previous iMac, the TCON on the 5K display needed to be four times as powerful.

It’s remarkable that Apple has managed to get a screen that can show this much detail into a body that’s only 5mm thick at its edge. In fact the display panel on its own is just 1.4mm thick.

iMac with Retina 5K Display | Early Verdict

The iMac is still a winner in terms of design, but there’s only one real talking point with this desktop, and that’s the 5K screen. It’s hugely impressive, even at first glance, and will make graphic designers, video editors and camera buffs froth at the mouth with anticipation.

With a starting price of £2000/$2499 this is not a computer for the masses. But when you consider that the price of a good 27-inch 4K screen is upwards of £1000/$1500, the iMac Retina 5K doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Next read: Best Monitors

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iMac Retina 5K Display PC Review | TechNina | 4.5

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