When rumors first arose that Apple planned to incorporate a retina display in the 27-inch iMac, I wondered what sort of price penalty it would entail. It’s one thing to pack those extra pixels into an iPhone, an iPad or a 15-inch MacBook Pro. I speculated it would cost several hundred dollars more for the big iMac, and I suppose I was more or less correct with the original late 2013 iMac with 5K Retina display. It debuted at $2,499.
But Apple also enhanced the guts of that computer, with a faster processor, more powerful graphics, and a 1TB Fusion Drive. You add that to the package, and you see that the additional price for the 5K display was at most $200 or so. Within a few months, Apple cut the price by just that amount, and added a 5K display to the previous high-end standard configuration, at $1,999.
This month, Apple democratized the 27-inch iMac by making 5K displays available across the board with no increase in price. That, plus a wider color gamut and Intel Skylake processors, means what you spent last year gets you much more value this year. That’s typical for Apple, but having a 5K display for no extra cost is just the icing on the cake.
I would expect that reviews of the new iMacs would focus heavily on picture quality, plus the advantages of the Skylake chips in benchmarks. What do you get that’s better than the previous model? That’s ripe for testing, to explain to readers why they should buy one.
But one particular review, from a major online publication, had to find something to complain about. What? Well, because a 5K display is too niche, and Apple should not have discontinued the model with the standard display.
I’ll let you take a deep breath.
Now the publication in question has a curious review philosophy, which is to almost always have something as a negative. That often forces the reviewer to force the issue, come up with something that has little or no practical value.
So we have a situation here where Apple is giving you, in effect, the 5K display free on all 27-inch iMacs compared to the previous model. Why should that be a negative?
A fair criticism might be that Apple ought to sell a version of the 27-inch iMac without the Retina display for a lower price. So instead of $1,799, what about $1,699 or $1,599? Would customers be willing to save a hundred dollars or two and give up on that amazing display?
I suppose Apple may have considered offering a non-Retina configuration, but I rather expect the audience wouldn’t be all that large. I’m just guessing, but I’d rather think people who are used to paying $1,799 for the big iMac would be delighted to get a 5K display for the same price. But that’s just me.
In any case, the real comparison is with PC all-in-ones. When you make that comparison, you find it’s the impossible dream. I’m not aware of any Windows PC that actually has a 5K display — or a 4K display for that matter. You find them in note-books, and there are 4K and 5K high-resolution displays. But most of the latter are priced in the same range as the iMac, which comes complete with a powerful personal computer. So much for people who complain that Mac prices are too high.
But Apple’s Retina display revolution isn’t over. There are still some cheaper versions of the 21.5-inch iMac that have the standard display. The MacBook Air is also still available with the standard display, and as Apple sells more and more Retina displays, I presume they will manage to incorporate them in a near-future version of Apple’s cheapest note-book without any price premium.
Over the next few weeks, there will be plenty of reviews of the new iMacs, both sizes, and I would hope they’ll focus on the actual advantages and shortcomings of these products. So the biggest criticism you can probably make of the 21.5-inch model is that you cannot upgrade RAM. Maybe Apple’s customer surveys show that very few people care, but is it worth saving a few dollars per unit to inconvenience customers?
And what about the hard drive? If you must replace one, it’s a messy process to disassemble recent generations of iMacs, since the screen is held to the chassis with adhesive. Yes, I realize you can assemble and disassemble if you show care, with proper instructions. And service people do it all the time, but I’d think Apple is smart enough to devise a relatively seamless way to pop off a rear cover, and open everything inside to a potential upgrade. It may go against the original concept of the all-in-one Mac in 1984, but I would hope Apple will consider the consequences of making these products so hostile to users who might want to add more memory and more storage without going through pain and agony.
That, you see, is a legitimate criticism. Complaining about paying nothing extra for a fancy display is just plain silly.
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