Apple iMac 27-inch (2019) review: Apple iMac 2019 is a millennial trapped in the body of a baby boomer

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The Good The Apple iMac's 27-inch 5K display remains the most color-accurate monitor we've seen thus far in an all-in-one. Improved performance is especially impressive in the Core i9 model. Two USB-C/Thunderbolt connectors drive more external displays and faster file data transfers.

The Bad The design, including thick screen bezels, feels dated. UHS-II SD cards still aren't fully supported. The tilt-only screen doesn't offer enough adjustment options.

The Bottom Line It's something of a miracle that Apple can continue to cram newer (and hotter) components into the tiny space behind the iMac's screen, but we're already ready for a bigger redesign.

8.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9

Apple's refreshed its iMac for 2019 and it looks awfully familiar.

That's no surprise. The company couldn't figure out how to bring a charging mat to market because of its dysfunctional obsession with a specific, thin-uber-alles design aesthetic. Meanwhile the design of its larger computing hardware -- MacBooks and iMacs -- hasn't significantly changed in years and we're still waiting for a functional replacement for the trash can Mac Pro

It's possible, even probable, that Apple doesn't really care about that arm of its business when it can bask in the reflected glow of entertainment celeberati. Maybe Oprah should design the next iMac? (I'm actually worried about sending that idea out into the universe.)

To be fair, Apple's been working miracles behind that well-worn look. It's crammed newer and newer (meaning hotter and hotter) components into the tiny space behind the iMac's screen without having the systems explode into flames -- I really didn't think it could pull off the same trick with the iMac Pro. But some miracles don't need to be worked. There's no victory in squeezing a size 8 body into a pair of size 6 jeans, except for your vanity. We'll still love you if you put on a few inches, Apple, especially if it enables something wondrous.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The iMac continues to be a fine system that runs fast given its components thanks to Mac OS. And since the prices haven't changed while the innards have, the base 27-inch configuration is a good value, if an uninspiring one.


The iMac is still functional, in the context of current 27-inch all-in-one designs, but my complaints are starting to mount. Past gripes include the SD card slot which doesn't support UHS-II, all the connectors on the back -- I'm sure I've scratched the metal around the USB connectors by blindly groping in the vicinity -- and how dated it looks with the wide display bezels. 

Now I'll add the inability to raise and lower, only tilt, the display. It's so glossy that you get annoying reflections if you tilt it instead of raise it. Then there's the back-firing speakers, which sound great if you're sitting behind the system instead of in front of it. They can still get loud, admittedly. And core features, such as wireless networking and Bluetooth, could stand some upgrades.  

Sarah Tew/CNET

So what's new? Upgraded eighth- and ninth-gen Intel Core CPUs and new AMD Radeon GPUs, just like we got in 2017. Notably, though, the top configuration now goes up to a ninth-gen Core i9 processor and Radeon Pro Vega graphics. And there's a noticeable performance increase from the new components, if only because of the increase in processor cores and clock speeds on the Intel chips and the move to AMD's updated last-generation or newest Vega-architecture graphics. 

The prices for all the iMacs have stayed the same, though there don't seem to be any more Core i7 options for the 27-inch model. Given the addition of another tier of processors -- the Core i9s have joined i3, i5 and i7 in Intel's CPU lineup -- something had to go to maintain the pricing structure.

The base 27-inch model is a reasonable configuration for the money. If you want something more powerful, I'd suggest a big bump to the Pro 580-based model, with a Core i7 and 16GB memory, at $2,700 (£2,610, AU$4,090). The core and clock-speed increases from the dual-core seventh-gen Core i5 to the quad-core i3 move it up to that performance class, though probably not the same performance level. The new Core i3s don't support Turbo Boost like the old i5, but performance seems to be the same.

For in-between configurations you most likely won't see significant performance increases that merit spending much more, unless you switch completely to SSD from the Fusion drive or increase the amount of memory. Memory now goes up to 64GB in the more expensive 27-inch iMac but still 32GB in the entry-level model.   

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