Mini-review: 5K iMac

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 14, 2016, 6:38 PM | comments: 0

After having a 2009 iMac for six years or so, the last of which was relegating it to Simon's domain, I finally replaced it with one of the new 5K versions. In my case, this is the second generation with the crazy high resolution screen, and wanting this one to last a very long time, I did an online custom order with the best i7 CPU at 4 GHz, and the second-best GPU option with a Radeon M395. I also optioned a 512 gb SSD (to match my laptop for easy migration), and added an extra 16 gigs of RAM ($60 on Amazon) for a total of 24. Surprisingly, it was still several hundred dollars cheaper than the 2009 computer. I toyed with building my own PC, but the fact is that there is no other way to get a display with that resolution.

I spent the last year in kind of a goofy state with my desktop. I plugged in my laptop (a 2014 MacBook Pro, 13") to the Thunderbolt Display I've had since early 2012, which in turn was connected to a 1 gig Thunderbolt hard drive. This was weird because I kept all of the files I didn't want to be carrying around on that external drive, as well as my entire photo collection since I didn't have the drive space on the laptop. It worked, but sometimes it meant closing stuff down so I could disconnect it all and take the laptop with me. Also, on the rare times I wanted to play games or work with video, the heat would cause the fan to spin up to jet engine mode, as is often the case with laptops.

So it was time, I put it off for a year. As expected, the speed is insane with the fast CPU, fast graphics, fast SSD and fast memory. Sometimes it's little things, like the in-browser animations of the Fitbit web site. Best of all though, the Windows 10 VM that I use for development (in Parallels) boots fast, and runs Visual Studio like a dream. You don't wait for Resharper. Being able to throw 16 gigs at a VM is also convenient. While I'm going to ditch it soon in favor of Lightroom, my Aperture collection is so quick to cycle through, even with the photos still on the external drive. Photoshop and Premier Pro are snappy in a way I've never known, and these are older versions that aren't optimized for the newer CPU's and GPU's. I can run the alpha builds of Parkitect, full screen, at the highest resolution and quality with no frame rate issues.

What is most amazing though is that screen. Most people have been living in a world without visible pixels on their phones and tablets for awhile, and to some degree on their computers, but to have that on 27 inches of desktop screen is something to behold. In fact, that's one of the things that makes the newer system font choices in both OS X and Windows a lot more logical. They look way better on high resolution screens. The letters look painted on in both operating systems.

I have not even taken the new keyboard and mouse out of the packaging. I can't not use the classic Natural Keyboard 4000 at a desk, and the Magic Mouse is still too damn small to use comfortably. Still using the Explorer Mouse I bought in 2009 as my first thing ever in the employee store. Honestly, I almost want to protest the mouse on principle, one for using a Lightning cable for charging, and two for putting the port under the mouse so you can't use it while charging. Completely asinine.

Overall though, I'm thrilled with the computer and expect to get many years out of it, as I did the last one (which now Simon will get many years out of). I need to start a video project, and see how that goes. The laptop was pretty slow rendering, but this should be super fast for regular 1080/24p. While I can't really justify the full Adobe suite subscription (though I won't rule it out), I may get the photographer sub (Photoshop + Lightroom) because it's a steal at $10 per month.

Now I just need to prop up the Thunderbolt display by an inch, because it's still lower than the damn iMac.


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