Almost exactly one year ago Apple launched their first ever iMac with Retina display at their October 2014 event. The launch had a number of surprises, with one of the biggest being the fact that it would sell for $2499 despite its 5K display matching the resolution of Dell's UP2715K which had an intended launch price of $2999. While Apple doesn't appear to be planning any more events for this year, they have decided to ship an upgrade to their existing 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, and have also introduced a brand new 21.5" iMac with Retina 4K Display. You can view the specs for the base models of Apple's new 2015 iMacs in the chart below.

Apple iMac With Retina Display 2015
Model 21.5" Base 27" Base
CPU 3.3GHz Core i5-5675C/R
(Broadwell)
3.5GHz Core i5-6500
(Skylake)
GPU Intel Iris Pro 6200 AMD Radeon R9 M380 (2GB)
Display 21.5" 4096 x 2304 IPS LCD 27" 5120 x 2880 IPS LCD
Memory 8GB 1867MHz DDR3 (LPDDR3 in 21.5")
Storage 1TB 5400RPM HDD 1TB 7200RPM HDD
Price $1499 $1799

Just briefly touching on the 27" iMac, it's mainly an upgrade to the internal hardware from its original Intel Haswell platform. The CPU in the base model is now a 3.5GHz quad core i5-6500 which is an Intel Skylake part, and the upgraded options include a 3.3GHz i5-6600 and what is seemingly the 4.0GHz i7-6700K which would typically be an unlocked part, although I wouldn't expect any overclocking to be accessible. The GPU is now AMD's R9 M380. The GPUs also move to AMDs M300 series, with an M380 in the base model, an M390 in the mid tier, and an M390X in the high end model, all with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. There's also the M395X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory available as a BTO option.

The 21.5" iMac is the most interesting of the two new devices purely due to it being a brand new machine. Apple calls it the iMac with 4K Retina display, and it means that there are now Retina display options for both display sizes of the iMac. Speaking of the display, it's a 21.5" 4096 x 2304 IPS panel, which is higher than the 3840 x 2160 UHD resolution shipping on most "4K" displays, and it has enough horizontal and vertical resolution to natively display actual DCI 4K content.

In addition to the 21.5" model's new HiDPI display, both models of the iMac receive a boost to their color gamuts. Apple is now claiming support for the DCI-P3 gamut which is used in digital projection movie theaters, and this has been achieved by moving from a WLED backlight array to something similar to GB-r LEDs in order to increase the range of spectral emissions. What will be interesting to see is if Apple allows users to revert to the sRGB color space, which would require the inclusion of a 3D LUT that could also be used for more accurate self-calibration than the past.

I do question the choice of DCI-P3 over Adobe RGB though. Apple claims that most cameras can capture a wider color range than sRGB, which is true, but in my experience they'll usually only offer Adobe RGB as the other option. The DCI-P3 gamut is more similar to Adobe RGB than sRGB is, but it's definitely not the same and so there will be some error there when working in Adobe RGB without the correct gamut on the display. That being said, the fact that both displays can natively display DCI 4K content means they could theoretically be used for video editing, but I question the viability of mastering films for cinema projection with the processing power available in an iMac.

Beyond the display, the 21.5" iMac with 4K Retina display seems to stick with Intel's Broadwell platform rather than Skylake, as Apple needs to ship a part with Iris Pro graphics in order to drive the display. The CPU used is the 3.3GHz i5-5675C/R, with it being unclear whether it's the C or the R SKU which would mean a socketed or a BGA CPU respectively. I doubt many people would be adventurous enough to open up the chassis and replace the CPU even if it was possible anyway.

Apple has also brought down the cost of the Fusion Drive upgrade, but it comes with a sacrifice. The 1TB Fusion Drive now only has a 24GB flash memory segment, while it was previously 128GB. Both the 2TB and 3TB Fusion Drive options still come with 128GB of flash storage. While the 1TB Fusion Drive may still be worth it on the 21.5" iMac purely due to how slow 5400RPM HDDs are, it's hard to stomach paying $100 for 24GB of NAND, and I would definitely just stick with the standard HDD if I were buying the base model 27" iMac.

Both new Retina iMacs are available for purchase on the Apple Online Store, with shipping times as early as one business day. BTO configurations will obviously take longer depending on which customizations are chosen. The 21.5" iMac with 4K Retina display starts at $1499. The 27" iMac with 5K Retina Display starts at $1799, with the 3.2GHz R9 390M + 1TB Fusion Drive model at $1999 and the high end 3.3GHz i5, R9 M395 + 2TB Fusion Drive model at $2299.

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  • xthetenth - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Intel calls it the iMac with 4K Retina display

    I don't think Intel's deciding the branding for Apple.
    Reply
  • mczak - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Quite interesting that the 27" imac has a slower (base) gpu now - previously this was r9 m290x (pitcairn, 20 CU, 256bit gddr5), now it's r9 m380, which is bonaire, 12 CU, 128bit gddr5. The top option is the same apart from the name and possibly minor clock differences (both are Tonga with 32 CUs), the new middle option (r9 m390) is probably the same as the base option was. Reply
  • gsalkin - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    To be fair, the base 5K iMac is replacing the old non-5K 27" model. That one had a GT 755M, which the M380 outpaces a fair bit. Reply
  • mczak - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Fair enough, since the new 27" base model is also cheaper than the old 5k 27" retina model was. Albeit that r9 m380 is indeed quite underpowered for that resolution, apart from desktop compositing you're probably not going to run anything 3d at native resolution... Reply
  • Brandon Chester - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    The base iMac 5K was actually dropped to the R9 M290 without a Fusion Drive, while M290X became the mid model. Reply
  • Brandon Chester - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Indeed they are not. Thanks for pointing that out. Reply
  • GC2:CS - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    So Apple is going wider than sRGB ? How long it will take to trickle down to the iPhone or the Apple Watch ? How does it influence power compustion ?

    And then, it's not good Apple went with HD6200 and a 4K display... But there probably wasn't any Skylake part awailable.
    Still acording to Ars technica review the Intel HD 6200 is slower than the estimated GPU performance of an iPad Pro (2x faster than an iPad Air 2) and I find it laughable.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - link

    The 4K iMac has Iris Pro 6200... you know, the fastest IGP out there? It's more than 4x as fast as the GPU in the A8X. So even if the A9X is twice as fast as an iPad Air 2, the iMac still has more than 2x the GPU horsepower (plus a 65 W TDP) and is only pushing 70% more pixels.

    It does not appear that Intel has any Skylake 4+4e parts available, which would be the only thing faster than Iris Pro 6200 short of a discrete GPU. Although with the TDP constraints of the 21.5-inch iMac, I'm not sure you could even do much better with a dGPU unless you gimped the CPU.
    Reply
  • akdj - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Absolutely correct repo, and on the money
    Skylake parts that'll for the TDP envelope of the iMac won't drop until Q1 or 2, 2016. It's not Apple's fault Intel flubbed their rollout --- and the Haswell iGPUs used on last year's initial run of 5K base iMacs 'worked' and worked well as a general purpose, 15 million pixel 27" AiO. The IP6200 is a step up from last ...I mean Haswell's 5000/5100/5200 packages which annihilated the Intel 4000 (which almost exactly three years to the date now has driven the 5 ½ million pixels on my 15" rMBP. Along with a feeble nVidia 650m.
    It's still a beast, after 25 years of computing - in 2012 when I bought the first one I'm talking about - I couldn't remember a purchase that made me so happy. Perhaps the 'age thing' has played out perfectly for me and my eyes ;) --- I'm 44, had 20/20 vision until later thirty something hit and it's dropped off a cliff since (reading ...everything else is fine!) and I've got a dozen 'cheaters' stashed throughout my life (reading glasses)
    That said, the 'retina' HiDPI revolution Apple began with the iPhone 4, iPad 3 and my 2012 rMBP was damn near perfect timing for my sore eyes! The clarity of text and incredible resolution density, along with the most accurate displays I've ever owned that didn't need calibration - phenomenal storage speeds ...even on the '12 non PCIe SSD I use daily, my wife has the new 15" with AMD GPU and the PCIe storage discussed briefly here, significantly more in the review hitting speeds near 2Gb/s reading, 1.5Gb/s writing ....these things are seriously fast.
    Install/uninstalling is no longer a task. It's just. Done.
    @GC2:CS ...I read the Ars 'get er on the web first' review as well. I don't recall reading the quote you're quoting --- however the iPad Pro if truly is as capable as the presentation suggested with 4GB of RAM essentially for the display and nothing else (it's a tablet, sure you can multi task but it's 4GB for nothing more than the SoC's ability to draw the display) other than the calls from the functioning app(s). As an iPad Air 2 owner, I can tell ya there's nothing but roses in that garden
    The Air 2 shames all earlier iPads with its triple core A8X and double the RAM, A9X is supposedly twice as fast (nearly) again, doubling the RAM
    My Air 2 is faster at EVERYthing I do in comparison with any laptop I owned through the core duo and core2 duo days ...with 5400 RPM HDDs (my only issue with the new release but then again, some just don't care ...), double the weight, 90 minutes of 'working' battery life, maybe two hours of browsing or a movie in its entirety. That was just less than a half decade ago, plenty of the 08/09/10/& 2011 machines are still chugging along just fine ...but my iPad Air 2 has faster storage, faster performance in all tasks I'm able to compare, is quintuple the efficiency off 110V I easily get a couple days use ...three or four hours each day of screen on time - instant screen on time with quadruple the resolution of the displays we were using in 2010 & 2011. 2012, late In the year ...like this time of the year is when the originals dropped - and IMHO along with the wickedly quick storage and OS X/iOS updates have turned owning a computer into enjoying 'a friend'. Bad analogy maybe but these latest iPads, MacBooks and now iMacs are insanely great ...even with the Intel 4000/Ivy Bridge iGPU. Obviously it's got the discrete 650m for muscle when needed but the new IP 6200 from the charts I read on Ars looked to be in parity with the 650/750m. Just a generation and a ½ removed from discrete GPU performance Intel, working with Apple has made some HUGE leaps in graphic performance integrated with their core 'i' generational updates.
    And Skylake is possibly another 20-40% increase in performance, decrease in energy and update to The Bizarre Broadwell overlap.
    Thought I'd throw that out there GC2 as you seem very ill informed when it comes to the last coup,e years worth of improving iGPU technology on CPU packages from Intel* (select chips)
    While my iPad Air 2 isn't quite 4K, it's damn close and half the performance of the iPad pro coming next month. Doubling compute and graphic power ...especially when it's already 'fast enough' without latency, choking, chugging or actually crashing while being used constantly isn't real easy for me to understand ...I've a hard time figuring out how I could use my A2 any faster or complete tasks any quicker (it's much faster than my Air 1 though, so in a way I can ...) as its the pinnacle of iOS today along with the A9 iPhone. The developers are shooting for the masses not the minorities. iPad 4, Mini 2, Air 1 and iPhone 5s ...the A5 generations are still fully functional devices albeit a dread to use if used to newer hardware.
    And the iPad Pro will be nearly a hundred times as fast/powerful as the iPhone 5 or iPad 2/3!!! ( if we're genuinely talking exponential increases in horsepower)
    Sorry. Found your comment laughable. Discrete GPUs are becoming a thing of the past. Look at the focus nVidia is putting on their Tegra/mobile division and development or nearly ANY laptop you'll buy today including some very nice HiDPI units like the Surface 3 & 4s lacking discrete cards where most consumers shop for their rigs (Best Buy, Walmart, Target) --- the writing is on the wall. I can spend half the amount of the Titan and get a fully equipped current console with the graphic power to run games on my living room display. Pay the same and get both consoles. Without the other crap one must deal with building rigs, tinkering or buying through boutique shops without local or easily accessible support ...really the only machines I'm seeing these days WITH discrete cards are in my Maximum PC edition I still subscribe to (it's about the same price now on my iPad for the year as it cost per month in the magazine rack days!). And they're incredibly cool, over the top expensive and run 1500 watt power supplies with radiator (water) cooled loops integrated with fan cooling to attempt to get the heat out --- and for what? They're measuring some of these rigs now that can exceed 200fps on their 'bench' software ...for what? We have TVs and displays that have for years refreshed at 60 cycles. Do 60fps well, and discrete is still working its way there, as not even the Titan is capable of sustaining 60Hz @ 4K gaming resolutions continuous.
    I'd rather see attention paid to sustained performance at 60fps than jump from 110-->150 peak, as the minimum didn't drop below 80!
    I, too, find it laughable. Your comment that is
    Reply
  • Kjella - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    A display that happens to show DCI 4K natively pixel for pixel and paired with a DCI-P3 gamut, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why. Occasionally Apple still throws the professional market a bone, there's plenty other offers targetting photographers. Reply

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