Apple boosts iMac screen resolution, lowers price of top-end 27-in. machine by 8%

iMacs 2015

Apple's iMacs for 2015

Credit: Apple

Adds Retina display to priciest 21.5-in. iMac, standardizes on 5K Retina for larger desktops

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Apple today refreshed its iMac desktop family, adding a higher-resolution display option to its entry-level 21.5-in. all-in-one and making the so-called "Retina 5K" screens standard on all its larger 27-in. models.

The last time Apple modified the screens of its iMac line was a year ago when it introduced the Retina 5K iMac, which then started at $2,499. In May 2015, Apple debuted a lower-priced Retina 5K iMac at $1,999.

Today, Apple debuted a 21.5-in. iMac with a Retina display of 4096-x-2304-pixel resolution, priced at $1,499. The model replaced the same-priced desktop that featured 1920 x 1080 resolution.

The top-of-the-line smaller iMac boasts a quad-core 3.1GHz Intel Core i5 processor from the older "Broadwell" line; 8GB of RAM; an integrated GPU (graphics processor unit), also from Intel; and a 1TB platter-based hard disk drive.

Other models in the 21.5-in. collection list for $1,099 or $1,299, and offer the older 1920-x-1080-pixel screen, but can be configured at ordering to push non-display specifications -- and the price -- higher.

At the upper end of the iMac portfolio, Apple slapped in a Retina 5K display on all 27-in. machines, standardizing the screen at the 5120-x-2288-pixel resolution. Prices remained static for the two lower-specced models at $1,799 and $1,999, while that of the priciest machine dropped by $200 to $2,299, representing an 8% reduction.

That iMac features a quad-core 3.3GHz Intel Core i5 -- out of the new "Skylake" collection -- 8GB of RAM, an AMD Radeon R9 M395 GPU with 2GB of memory, and a 2TB hybrid "Fusion" drive that relies on both an SSD (solid-state drive) and a traditional platter.

Apple's Fusion drives now come stock with just a 24GB SSD -- paired with a much larger old-school hard disk drive -- a miserly move by Apple, which previously used a 128GB SSD component. To get the earlier larger-sized SSD, customers must opt for the 2TB or 3TB Fusion drives, with $200 or $300 hits to the wallet. Because the SSD stores the operating system and the most-used applications, a Fusion-equipped iMac boots faster and launches programs quicker.

Oddly, none of the new iMacs come equipped with a USB-C port, the new jack-of-trades that Apple's using as the sole port on the $1,299 ultra-light MacBook laptop unveiled in March. Nor has Apple deigned to introduce any biometric log-on technology in the veteran line, which harks back to 1998 and co-founder Steve Jobs' first step in his company turn-around. Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanner remains an iOS device-only component.

The new 27-in. iMacs were the first of Apple's personal computers to tap Intel's Skylake; all three standard configurations use a quad-core Skylake processor. Skylake made news last week when Microsoft stuck it in the Surface Book that goes on sale later this month.

Also today, Apple introduced a new keyboard, mouse and trackpad for its Macs, replacing the AA-battery-powered predecessors with second-generation gear that includes rechargeable batteries brought back to life by plugging them into a Mac's USB port or one of the ubiquitous Apple chargers that litter homes with iPhones and iPads.

The $129 Magic Trackpad 2, for example, is about 30% larger than its forerunner, introduces Force Touch technology to the desktop -- Apple's already dropped it into the MacBook Pro laptops -- and sans the AA battery bulge at the back, sports a slimmer profile than the 2010 original. But at $129, it's almost double the price of the older trackpad.

Apple's new iMacs and accessories are available today, with Friday delivery with the free shipping option.

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