iMac with Retina Display vs iMac: 5 Key Details Buyers Need to Know

Apple kick started a computing revolution with the original iMac. In a world overrun with giant monitors and random cables for keyboards and mice, the iMac changed everything. After its reveal every Windows PC maker overnight attempted to copy the iMac’s style and thinness. The iMac with Retina Display isn’t exactly Apple reinventing the all-in-one Desktop PC again though.

Instead of completely refreshing the iMac design, Apple added some upgrades on the inside. It’s named the iMac with Retina because like the iPad and iPhone lines before it, Apple has added a high-definition display that should absolutely blow away older desktop PCs. Colors should pop just a bit more and pictures and video should look clearer than they do on the previous generation iMac. It has 7 times the amount of pixels that a full-HD television has.


Here’s how the iMac with Retina Display compares to the 27-inch iMac that came before it. More specifically, here’s what you need to know about the pros and cons of picking the iMac with Retina over the regular iMac.

The iMac with Retina’s Display Will Be Gorgeous

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During the heyday of the Desktop PC, many vendors didn’t care about design. They just cared about providing users with the most powerful processor at a particular price. For its part, Apple has never behaved this way with the iMac’s internals. Instead, it’s focused on providing iMac buyers with something tangible, something they can see with their eyes.


The iMac with Retina Display is a combination of the competitive nature of PC internals and Apple’s need to provide users with improvements that they can experience in real life and on a spreadsheet. The iMac with Retina display has what Apple is calling a 5K display. To put that into perspective the iMac with Retina Display has 14.7 million pixels spread out over 27-inches. Apple says it’s calibrating each display so that pictures feel life-like.


For comparison, the 27-inch iMac from the previous generation sports a resolution of 2560 by 1440. The iMac with Retina’s resolution is a whopping 5120 by 2880. More pixels means more detail in your photos and videos – provided that the media you’re looking at is rated for such a high-resolution.

Performance on the iMac with Retina Display Looks Could Be About The Same


Maybe the iMac with Retina Display is worth upgrading to for users who need life-like photos and videos in their home office. For some, having a display with the highest detail available is crucial. In other situations though, better performance is the key.

The 27-inch iMac from last year has an Intel Core i5 3.4GHz quad-core processor with Turbo Boost technology that allows it to spike all the way up to 3.8GHz. The iMac with Retina Display has an Intel Core i5 processor that starts at 3.5GHz and can boost itself to 3.9GHz. As they both come with 8G of RAM it’s not hard to imagine that users would see the same real world performance from both the iMac with Retina Display and the 27-inch iMac.


You can make upgrades that cost extra or add more RAM, but in stock configuration apps will open just as fast in both. At least, performance would be the same if Apple hadn’t also snuck in a pretty nice 1 Terabyte Fusion Drive. Apple maintains that its Fusion Drives allow users to get the storage capacity they’ve always needed with the speed that only Solid State Drives can provide. Thanks to this Fusion Drive, the iMac with Retina Display should edge out its older counterpart. The iMac With Retina Display also includes an AMD Radeon R9 M290X graphics processor with 2GB of RAM for added performance, but as the dedicated RAM matches what’s available on the 27-inch basic iMac it’s unclear whether performance will see a huge boost.

Ports on the two remain the same. There’s a headphone jack, an SDXC card slot, four USB 3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt ports and a gigabit Ethernet port. The Thunderbolt ports on the iMac With Retina Display are of the Thunderbolt 2 variety, meaning they’re faster than what 27-inch iMac users get. That’s a big deal for large file transfers from cameras and other imaging devices.

The iMac with Retina Display Is Expensive

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Sometimes when Apple introduces new technology, it results in a more expensive product that sits along with regular products. As this comparison shows, the same is true of the iMac with Retina display and the regular iMac.

The iMac with Retina Display includes an Apple Wireless Keyboard and a Magic Mouse. Without changing a single internal specification the iMac with Retina Display costs $2,499. The 27-inch iMac I used for this comparison costs $1,999. That’s a huge jump in price, one that gets bigger for potential 27-inch iMac buyers who are comfortable with a slightly slower processor and less capable graphics card. The bargain the last generation 27-inch iMac with no Retina display costs $1,799.


The iMac with Retina Display is already available for purchase from Apple’s website. The company says it has plans to start allowing in-store pickups soon.