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Home / Technology / 27-inch Apple iMac (2020) review: new webcam, new screen option, similar iMac

27-inch Apple iMac (2020) review: new webcam, new screen option, similar iMac

The new 2020 version of Apple’s 27-inch iMac looks exactly like it was 8 years ago. All the updates are on the inside, adding enhancements that bring it to the specs you’d expect in a 2020 PC, with 10th Gen Intel processors and the SSD standard instead. because the drive is spinning. It starts at $ 1,799 for the basic Core i5 model, but of course you can price it much higher. A very expensive option is a $ 500 nano textured finish on glass, which Apple says is a huge improvement over traditional matte displays. (For $ 500, it’s better.)

But there is one breakthrough in terms of specs that are extremely inconsistent with Apple, even during this pandemic year: the quality of the webcam has finally improved. If you̵

7;re video conferencing a lot, then the new 1080p webcam is likely to be the one that improves your daily efficiency the most. I don’t want to tell you this, but you actually look more professional to your co-workers when your camera is a bit sharper.

After using the device for over a week, it’s easy to recommend to anyone who needs a new desktop Mac right now. It’s fast, capable, and reliable. It’s just your basic iMac, and aside from a tedious design, that’s a bit misleading.

But if you don’t need a new desktop Mac right now, you might consider waiting. This IMac is most likely the last Mac ever to be made with an Intel processor instead of Apple’s silicon inside it. Apple has openly said the transition to its own chip will take about two years, so that’s a pretty good estimate of when the next iMac refresh could come. That doesn’t mean getting an Intel Mac is a mistake – it’s going to be around and supported for years – but it does mean you have more options if you don’t need to spend money right away. now.

The iMac’s improved webcam

Let’s start with that webcam. I don’t think upgrading to a new iMac just to get it is worth it, but I’m glad Apple made it better. I also don’t know that I’d say it’s the best I’ve used, but it’s no longer as confusing as most of Apple’s other webcams.

Just take the goods. This is the difference, taken from a static frame in a QuickTime recorder. I happen to have a 2017 iMac for work, so it’s a direct comparison:

Left: 2017 iMac with 720p camera; Right: iMac 2020 with 1080p camera. Since the 1080p image has more pixels (duh), it’s slightly larger than the 720p camera, resulting in the framerate you can see in this slider.

The webcam is not only better because it has more pixels; it’s also better because Apple is finally applying some modern image processing to the video stream. The IMac has a T2 chip, which is used to control many components in a Mac. Apple is using it to process certain elements of this webcam image. It can perform tone mapping, exposure control, and face detection.

2017 IMac on the left, iMac 2020 on the right.  The difference in webcam quality was immediately obvious.

2017 IMac on the left, iMac 2020 on the right. The difference in webcam quality was immediately obvious.

Face detection is to give priority to keeping your face well-lit with correct skin tones. I was able to move my face in the frame and see it adjust exposure in real time, ensuring that my face is never too dark or blown out. It feels a lot like what the iPhone does with the face. (Apple says it doesn’t do any face smoothing, if you’re wondering.)

It works really well, and thankfully, it doesn’t just work in Apple’s own apps. Since these fixes will be done via the T2 chip, the improved performance is just the webcam video stream any video conferencing application will get.

One thing that is not modern with the iMac 2020 is the login. Unless you have an Apple Watch and use it to unlock your computer, the only way to access it is to enter your password like an animal. Apple’s T2 chip controls Touch ID fingerprint login on a Mac laptop, but Apple has chosen not to add a fingerprint sensor to the keyboard or Face ID array in this iMac.

It’s annoying, but it’s also a function that shows Apple decided not to change anything about the iMac’s design. It has the same Thano-esque chin, same screen and ports as before.

However, there are some upgrades in those areas. The display is identical, but the T2 chip I keep mentioning means you can turn on True Tone to match the color balance in your room.

Performance on 27-inch iMac

It’s quick! It is, since the model I am testing is the Core i9 model with 32 GB of RAM and a Radeon Pro 5700 XT graphics card. With the option of a nano-textured display and a 1TB SSD, the machine Apple provides for review will retail for around $ 4,500. It’s 30% faster on one of our standard 4K Adobe Premiere Pro editions than my 2017 iMac Core i7 with the Radeon Pro 580.

But really, performance on the iMac shouldn’t be the X factor. How these machines work – even under heavy heat – is a pretty well-known number. The good news is that until now, the new 10th-generation Intel chip performed well inside this very familiar chassis.

If you don’t define your iMac as high as this, it’s possible that the biggest performance difference you can notice is read and write speeds. That’s because Apple is finally offering an SSD as a standard option instead of a Combined Drive. If you need more storage space and don’t want to pay for an SSD upgrade fee, you can switch to Fusion Drives on select models at no additional charge. As a daily Fusion Drive user, my advice is to get an SSD and avoid the weird pauses that sometimes a spinning hard disk causes.

You can spend $ 100 and upgrade to a 10 Gigabit Ethernet port, but otherwise, the IO is still the same as before. There are two Thunderbolt ports, four USB-A ports, an SD card slot, and a headphone jack.

The iMac’s nano-textured matte option

The other big upgrade is the nano texture option. It is great, but I have some reservations. But first, here is a photo that shows it does its job, reducing glare:

IMac 2020 on the left, iMac 2017 on the right.  The nano texture finish on the iMac 2020 is all but glare.

IMac 2020 on the left, iMac 2017 on the right. The nano texture finish on the iMac 2020 is all but glare.

Unfortunately, my first two big requests were unresolved with just two days of testing. One is the price: at $ 500 this is a super expensive upgrade, and only your glare tolerance can tell you if it’s worth that price. Another thing that can help you decide if it’s worthwhile is whether the finish is durable. That is my second reservation: I just don’t know.

To explain why, I need to explain what this nanostructure finish is. Instead of just covering the glass with a matte coating, Apple is actually etching the glass on the nanometer scale. That process completes the nano-textures on a traditional matte display, so the image won’t be blurred. On a dim screen, the light from the pixels is scattered out. The company claims that Apple’s finish mainly diffuses the incoming light from the outside and does not scatter light from the pixels as much.

It’s a very fancy, very costly solution to the problem. It is very Apple. Also very Apple: the instructions that come with it state that you should only clean it with the included microfiber cloth and doing other things could damage the finish. Sorry.

A subtle display on the $ 5,000 Pro Display XDR display used in professional installations by professional adults who know what they have is one thing. A flimsy display on an iMac in a family room where dirt-stained kids will touch it because they think all screens must be touchscreens is something entirely different.

I asked Apple about the durability of the finish. I’ve been told they don’t want to give anyone the impression that it’s fragile, but that is, yes: over time, using something too abrasive can damage that paint. Unlike other displays, there is really no coating on top of the nano finish; it’s just engraved, bare glass.

I suspect that no one other than Apple has a large amount of important user data about how textures are displayed on the XDR that can tell you if it’s a responsible thing to pay for a home iMac. is not.

So again, I cannot tell you if it is a good choice or not. But I can tell you that it works really well. It eliminates such glare completely that, for the first time, I was able to place my computer with the back window in the living room. It also doesn’t affect the sharpness of the images or text on the screen either – but if you really squint your eyes up close, you may see a bit of blur.

This is almost impossible to take pictures of. (I tried.) Just trust me that it’s imperceptible and not bad at all in any way.

27-inch IMac 2020

27 inch IMac 2020.

It’s really no surprise with the 27-inch iMac 2020. It looks and acts like a very fast iMac, exactly. Standard SSDs turned out to be the best everyday life improvement quality for me, but for my colleagues who had to see me on the other end of video calls, it could be new webcam.

But as I mentioned above, there is one more variable in the process of deciding to buy this iMac. At some point in the next two years, it will be replaced with another model using Apple’s own ARM processor instead of Intel’s. Presumably, that iMac will eventually get a new update, eliminating the stunting and not being able to log in using biometrics. But whether ARM Macs are worth buying is something that cannot be said today – as well as guessing whether you should wait for them or not.

Apple has given every indication that it will fully support Intel-based Macs for a long time, and I hope that the programs and apps you need will continue to be compatible with Macs running Intel in one go. long time.

What I’m saying is: if you need a 27-inch iMac, this is a good iMac and you should buy it. I’m sorry the process will include 45 minutes of testing and deselecting the nano texture option while you decide.

Update, August 14, 1:50 PM ET: This story was originally published with first impressions on August 6, 2020. It has been updated with more impressions, testing, and conclusions in full review form.

Photography by Dieter Bohn / The Verge

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