iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2017) Review


It has been almost 2 months and thought that this is the time I should start writing the review that I promised but keep putting off but I’ve finally got myself motivated to actually write the review. I had a brief flirtation with Windows 10 when setting up my mothers new computer over Christmas (keeping in mind that I had always planned to upgrade so the move was merely a detour on my way to where I was going to end up to see what the alternatives were) and although Windows 10 had made some big strides it still was the glorified unmitigated mess that it had always been not to mention the lack of any sort of integration between Android and Windows in much the same way that the iPhone and iMac/MacBook Pro integrate together so that I can send text messages via my mobile or answer telephone calls on my computer rather than having to pick up my hand set to make it possible. As I’ve noted in the past, it isn’t those big noticeable things but the small niceties that make a platform attract your attention and keep you in the fold for the long term.


Hardware Specifications (more thorough specifications available here):

Monitor: 27″ 5K

CPU: Intel Core i7 4.2 GHz Processor (i7-7700K)

Memory: 16 GB

Graphics Chipset Model: Radeon Pro 580 (8GB VRAM)

Storage: Apple SSD SM0512L (500.28GB)

My previous iMac was the 2015 version but the leap leap in terms of specifications has been the die shrink for the GPU from 28nm to 14nm. This die shrink has allowed greater performance and cooler operation which has made the iMac even more quiet even under a heavy load so for me it was a choice of wanting the refinement rather than a major change. I’ve seen people online clambering for some revolutionary change but personally I’m someone that believes that when you’ve found a good thing you’re better off refining rather than throwing it out and starting a gain simple to scratch an itch resulting in the fiasco that the ‘Rubbish Bin’ Mac Pro created for Apple engineers when they wanted to upgrade the specifications but the design left them very little wiggle room. The one aspect I do love about the iMac is the fact that it can sit on my desk and take up hardly any space whilst also giving me a very powerful computer when compared to when I had a Dell XPS tower series which took up 1/5th of my desk then the screen itself make the desk crowded with trying to fix in the speakers not to mention the mouse since no touch pad is offered like one is able to choose when buying an iMac.

Setup, configuration, review and conclusion:

Setup was relatively easy as it included the latest version of macOS but once fully booted up I installed the latest combo update (downloaded it on my laptop to a USB stick) and it rebooted. With the reboot I checked out the System Profile to see if anything had change in terms of firmware where by I noticed that the firmware had been updated along with lots of updates to kernel extensions and so on. I then installed all my software through the store; Pages, Keynote, Numbers along with a few other pieces and download my all time favourite transcoding application XLD. When it comes to performance the thing you’ll notice with the move forward with 10.13.4 and the inclusion of Metal has been the move over to AMD based GPU’s along side Intel GPU’s not to mention the relationship that AMD has built up with Intel with their NUC enthusiast range by creating an SoC which concludes an AMD GPU side by side with a Intel CPU.

With 10.13.4 the Window Server was re-written on top of Metal and I would hazard to guess that as Metal becomes more feature complete that eventually OpenGL will be deprecated and then eventually removed which brings me to the position that maybe the next lot of Mac’s on the chopping block in terms of finishing support will be the ones with nVidia GPU’s given that the more parts of the operating system move to Metal and the less co-operative nVidia are when it comes to fixing their drivers (Apple doesn’t write the nVidia drivers but rather nVidia does with the added ‘bonus’ that Apple get none of the specifications of the hardware where as AMD give them everything they want – the reason why Sony and Microsoft decided to go with AMD over nVidia when it came to the consoles). The net result is a very snappy computer that doesn’t have any lag especially when operating under a heavy load then combine that with the massive work being done when it comes to Compressor, Motion and Final Cut Pro X (plus all their other creative focused applications) being moved over to Metal and optimised I’d say that as time goes on the benefit of having a Mac with an AMD GPU will be increasingly more apparent.

When it comes to playing games I am not a big gamer but I do play Civilisation VI and Simcity but for those games the performance is great especially when it comes to Civilisation which has a tendency to slow down over time as the game goes on but so far the experience has been pretty good. I also use Affinity Photo and Design (I used to be a big fan of Pixelmator but decided to go with Affinity instead) and the performance has been great which is due in part to the optimisation work being done by the programmers over at Affinity along with the work that Apple has also done (with its partners) on the LLVM project where improvements to x86/x86-64 binary output take advantage of the new features found in the newest CPU’s that Apple ship with their iMac’s.

In terms hardware accessories, I was rather disappointed that I could no longer get a standard USB keyboard however with that a being said I am happy that the full size keyboard with number pad is being offered (which I opted for) along with being able to swap the mouse for a Magic Pad – both accessories utilise the USB to lightening connector along with having a built in battery so there is no need to have an extra battery recharger etc. not to mention that if you want have them plugged in all the time you can do that if you want – I did that for the first month until I decided that I preferred having a cleaner desk with less cables. The keyboard itself does take a while to get used to especially if you’re more used to the only design which was at a higher angle but if you’re like me and you switch between using a keyboard on a laptop (MacBook Pro) and start using the keyboard on an iMac then you should find the experience isn’t all that jarring.

When it comes to the wi-fi performance it maintains a very strong connection as well as connection to the router at the maximum speed it can since my router broadcasts on the 5GHz channel. The set up that I use at home is of the following:

UFB ONT -> Unifi Security Gateway -> Unifi Switch -> Unifi AP HD

I am able to pretty much flood my internet connection (100mbps down, 20mbps up) and the latency is pretty good which is probably more a reflection on the hardware I have installed rather than something magical about the chipset that Apple makes use of but it is still good that the chipset is able to work reliably with the router (goes back to what I’ve said when people complain about wi-fi reliability and people insist on buying the cheapest junkiest router on the market then wonder why it is disconnection central).

In conclusion the iMac balances practicality with looks but the price tag is high if you look at device by itself but if you consider the fact that you get a suite of services in the form of iCloud where your personal details are kept private and free of ads along with first class integration between the cloud and the operating system rather than the ‘you must do everything in the browser’ approach that Google takes. When you buy a Mac you’re essentially getting 4-5 years of service thrown in (4-5 years being the typical cycle length for how long Mac users keep their Mac’s for) as part of the deal not to mention Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iMovie and GarageBand which are thrown in so that you get, out of the box, a first class experience of being able to start using your computer without any delays.

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