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Desktops

New Apple iMac update for 2019 has better graphics and eight-core Intel i9 processor

The Apple 4K 21.5-inch iMac moves up to six-core processors, while the 27-inch 5K iMac goes up to an eight-core Intel Core i9 for the first time.

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Apple

This week's new iPad Air and iPad Mini are not the last word in Apple hardware before the company's expected video streaming service debut at an event on March 25. The iMac line of all-in-one desktops is getting a series of internal upgrades, with more powerful CPUs and better graphics.

While the new iPad Air and last year's MacBook Air got big physical makeovers in their latest incarnations, the 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs are unchanged on the outside. Inside, however, it's a different story.

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More cores

Most of the iMacs are jumping from seventh-gen Intel processors to newer eighth-gen ones. For the 21.5-inch iMacs, that means either quad-core or, for the first time, six-core CPU options.

Graphics go from Radeon Pro 555 and 560 GPUs to the newer Radeon Pro Vega 20. These changes only affect the $1,299 (£1,249, AU$1,999) and $1,499 base model 21.5-inch iMacs. The entry level $1,099 model, with a dual-core seventh-gen Intel Core i5, remains unchanged.

More interesting is what's happening to the 27-inch iMac. That model still starts at $1,799 (£1,749, AU$2,799) and comes with a standard 5K display, but the Intel CPUs start at eighth-gen six-core chips, and can go all the way up to the eight-core Intel Core i9, something usually only seen in high-end gaming systems or creative workstations. This could double performance speed in some applications, according to Apple.

Graphics here go up to Radeon Pro Vega 48 from the older Radeon Pro 560/570/580, which Apple says is 50-percent faster. 

Reordering the Mac lineup

With these updates, nearly every Mac computer has been recently updated or redesigned. Fall 2018 brought us a new MacBook Air and even a new Mac Mini (a system many had assumed was on its way out), while earlier in 2018 saw a notable processor jump in the MacBook Pro. Apple may be feeling the pressure to keep up to date with CPUs in systems, or risk losing creatives to Windows PCs with the latest and greatest components. 

These new iMacs, especially the 27-inch 6-core and 8-core versions, finally offer a pro-level alternative to the very expensive iMac Pro, which is a highly specialized product out of reach for most. Of course, none of this answers our burning questions about the future of the Mac Pro desktop, which Apple has promised to unveil sometime this year. 

The new 21.5 and 27-inch iMacs are available to order now, and should be in stores next week. See the buying link below, and note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of products featured on this page.

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Apple iMac (27-inch, 2017)
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