Apple just announced that its iMac lineup will get a meaningful update thanks to 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processors and a Vega graphics option. This is a big deal for iMac power users, but for me, an almost iMac power user, I’m feeling sheepish. Is Apple just going to keep stuffing new chips into its flagship desktop, ignoring innovative design, until I die?
I don’t know. This new MacBook update is cool, though, since Intel’s i9 processors are solid pieces of hardware. You can now buy a 27-inch iMac with a 5K Retina display, a 3.6GHz 9th-gen i9 processor, and a Radeon Pro Vega 48 GPU for $3,150. If you max out the specs with 64GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD drive, that iMac will cost you $5,250.
That’s not the cheapest option, of course. Apple is offering a slew of new configurations for both its 27-inch and 21.5-inch iMacs, starting at $1,300. In every case, the new iMacs look just like the old iMacs, but they have new guts. The new iMacs are also on par with the recently refreshed Mac Mini lineup. The fact that the Mac Mini went a full five years without an update might lead you to wonder whether Apple even cares about these silly desktop computers anymore. After all, the company’s future is all about services.
Again, I don’t know! It does always seem strange that Apple likes to stuff new chipsets into old computers and call them new again. “Refreshed” is the word the PR teams like you to use. As someone who’s worked on a 2012 iMac since it was new, I also have to admit that I don’t have many complaints with the computer’s design. It seemed like an instant classic seven years ago, although today’s news leaves me wondering what I’m missing out on with so many innovations in desktop design.
Take the Microsoft Surface Studio 2, for instance. That’s also a beautiful computer that can simply do things an iMac can’t. The Surface Studio 2 is what it would be like if Apple created a giant iPad, put it on a perfect hinge, gave it the same kinds of graphics and computing power, and called it a desktop. A giant iPhone on a hinge would, honestly, be more intriguing than the current design of the iMac.
At the same time, I’m not trying to throw my iMac out the window. It’s a fine computer in the same way that an iPhone 5 is a fine phone that can probably still make phone calls. Only probably. Folks who are fans of Apple innovation might feel duly disappointed that the company continues to recycle old designs while adding new components—many of which are far from the best—and calling the final product state of the art. That’s what the new iMac lineup feels like. Sure, you can get a great desktop computer for at least $3,000. If you’re hungry for the very best hardware, you can buy an iMac Pro with 256GB of memory for up to $16,000. It still looks more or less like the 2012 iMac on my desk, though.
Computers aren’t just about looks, and I’ll be the first to admit that. After too many years of stagnant desktop design, though, one has to wonder what Apple’s avoiding. Is the company really just trying to squeeze as much revenue out of a celebrated design? Or is it simply afraid to create something absolutely new and truly revolutionary?