5K display aside, Apple's new iMac is barely changed from 2013's desktop

iFixit gives the 5K Retina iMac a DIY repair score of 5 out of 10

iFixit 5k Retina iMac

Except for the 14.7-million-pixel display of Apple's new 5K Retina iMac, the machine is virtually the same as last year's model and sports an identical do-it-yourself repair score, according to iFixit.

iFixit, known for its teardowns of consumer electronics devices, took apart a 5K Retina iMac last week to gauge its repairability.

In the end, iFixit gave the new iMac a score of 5 out of a possible 10, the same result as the September 2013 27-in. iMac, reinforcing the point that the 5K Retina model is -- the display and its supporting chipsets notwithstanding -- essentially the same as last year's system.

On the positive side, iFixit noted that the 5K Retina model retains the non-Retina 27-in. iMac's user-upgradeable RAM, and do-it-yourselfers can replace the hard drive and the Intel CPU, albeit only by cutting the adhesive tape that seals the display to the frame.

Being able to upgrade the iMac's RAM -- accessed as before via a back-of-the-machine panel -- is important as Apple equipped the stock 5K Retina iMac with just 8GB of memory, and charges customers an additional $200 for 16GB or $600 for 32GB.

Those prices are about double the market prices. Crucial.com, for example, sells an additional 8GB (which would result in 16GB total) for just $84, while 32GB (which necessitates discarding the Apple-supplied memory) runs $332.

iFixit also tracked down a display component that Apple touted, what marketing chief Philip Schiller called the "timing controller," or TCON, that manages and manipulates each pixel. "One didn't exist to drive the display quickly and efficiently, so our team had to invent one." Schiller said last week.

Inside the 5K iMac iFixit found a chip fabricated by Parade Technologies, a Taiwan-based creator of LCD timing controllers. The chip was marked "DP665," which the teardown site assumed was "an Apple modified version of [Parade Technologies'] DP663 LCD Timing Controller."

According to Parade Technologies' website, the DP663 supports resolutions up to 2560-by-1700-pixels, or 4,352,000 pixels total. That's less than 30% the number in the iMac's display.

While the iMac's repair score was half the possible, it was significantly higher than other Macs, including the 21.5-in. iMac, which was awarded just 3 out of 10 when iFixit last tore one apart, as well as Apple's notebooks, among them the MacBook Pro and its score of just 1 in mid-2012.

The 5K iMac starts at $2,499, $700 more than the stock price of the non-Retina 27.-in. iMac, and is available at Apple's online store, its brick-and-mortar retail outlets and at some authorized Apple resellers. As of Sunday, the delay between ordering and shipping was three to five business days.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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