For the last few weeks I have had the immense pleasure of using the new 5k iMac. It has been desktop nirvana. At its October unveiling, many, including myself, were incredulously doubting the performance of this Mac. Having a display this dense requires an insane amount of computational stress on parts, mainly the graphics card. Would this Mac be up for the challenge? The answer is a resounding yes. Some way, somehow, Apple has managed to fine tune the graphics card inside this beast to accommodate for a resolution that leapfrogs the current 4k standard and plops down into 5k territory. Make no mistake- these numbers are insane. 4k displays, alone, have to push around 8,294,400 pixels. This new iMac? 14,745,600. Almost double 4k.
The display really takes the cake here, being the most enticing reason to plop down $2,500 for the entry level machine. The new 5k iMac is certainly not cheap. It follows the same product plan as the MacBook Pro Retina lineup. The retina display stands out at the top of the line. However, considering that at the time of the unveiling the nearest competitor 5k display alone (no computer) cost $2,500, suddenly the price seems quite reasonable for such an advanced display. Not to mention a pretty powerful computer. The benchmarks on the new iMac are quite surprising in their own right, managing to meet or exceed the lower end 2013 beastly Mac Pro’s numbers on the higher end models.
As a user upgrading from a 2011 iMac I appreciated the dramatic change in form factor more than I anticipated. It’s not a convincing reason on its own right for upgrading, but the lightness of the desktop and the thin casing elevate the design and experience quite nicely. Finally, let’s talk performance. I was anticipating graphical stuttering and generally a slow mess from the sheer number of pixels on this machine, but somehow Apple has managed to meet and exceed the performance required to drive this machine in more ways than one. The SSD/HDD hybrid drive is fast, responsive, and I have no complaints from using it. The OS feels responsive and alive. Graphically I am floored. Never once did I encounter any graphical issues with the OS. Smooth 60fps sailing throughout the entire ride. OS X 10.10 Yosemite was built to run on a retina display. I am thoroughly convinced once seeing it in action on both the 5k iMac and my Retina MacBook Pro.
“Graphically I am floored. Never once did I encounter any graphical issues…”
In an attempt to squeeze all the graphical horsepower out of the desktop I could, I booted up several games Mac users would be most likely to play and maxed out the resolution and graphical fidelity. I tested League of Legends, Civilization V, and of course Minecraft. League of Legends looked insane at native 5k resolution. The FPS hovered around 30, but would climb to 40-50 on some occasion. Lowering the visuals to high and medium produced a 60+ FPS gaming experience. Civilization V ran at 48-60 FPS, not unexpected considering the style of game. Minecraft was a visual pleasure, getting 100+ FPS in vanilla… dropping in a few shaders lowered the FPS considerably to 30, but quite impressive nonetheless. The 2014 5k iMac lives up and surpasses almost every test I could throw at it.