Apple’s first Retina iMac is better than 4K, and the result is truly astonishing. The stand-out feature is obviously the display; otherwise, this iMac is outwardly no different to the other 27-inch models, including its selection of ports. At a resolution of 5,120x2,880, its screen is easily the highest resolution display Apple has ever used, yet doesn’t compromise on brightness, viewing angles or color reproduction.
There are over 14.7 million pixels here, and the level of detail is simply mind-blowing. A photo from an iPhone’s measly 8-megapixel camera doesn’t even fill up two thirds of the total space. We’ve been throwing up huge 36-megapixel images to test it, zooming and picking out things like the license plates in cars in wide city shots. It often leaves you shaking your head in wonder — it feels ridiculous.
You might ask, in fact, if it isn’t too ridiculous. You might ask if it isn’t for you — how many people will actually make use of that kind of resolution, after all?
Well, more pixels doesn’t just mean more detail, it means more space. With this being a Retina Mac, Apple makes sure that most interface elements actually appear at roughly the same physical size that they would on the non-Retina 27-inch iMac, but everything is much smoother and more detailed.
In single-core performance, our benchmarks show the 5K iMac to be the fastest machine Apple makes — and we didn’t even have the faster 4GHz CPU option in our review unit. On the graphics side, it’s a little more complicated. The standard GPU in the iMac is not especially impressive on paper considering the price and the number of pixels it has to push, but in our everyday use, it seemed more than up to the task.
The Retina iMac comes with 8GB of RAM as standard: enough for basic use, but pretty meager for a $2,500 computer. You can upgrade the RAM yourself — there’s a panel on the back and two slots are empty — but only up to 32GB.
The bottom line. If you’re tempted — and you should be — and if you can afford it, this is a brilliant desktop.