Apple plots path to the next Intel iMac

But where is the next iMac Pro?

Apple, Intel, WWDC, Silicon, PC, OS X, macOS, OS X, OS 11

Hours since the first Apple Silicon Mac benchmarks leaked come a fresh set of numbers detailing what could be Apple’s next iMac release.

An iMac with Intel inside

While we all expect Apple will introduce its first Apple Silicon Macs later this year, the company has told us it will continue to support and sell Intel-based Macs.

China Times has previously told us to expect a new 23-in. iMac this year and it’s thought the first retail Macs based on Apple Silicon will field 8-core A-series chips. But the next iMac will be based on Intel.

Apple is surely beginning to experiment with a new design language. This was suggested at WWDC when the company led its new macOS announcements with a lengthy segment exploring the new icons and user interface design concepts.

These changes all nodded to the past, but opened up the platform to the future, with many speculating the icons were becoming increasingly unified across all Apple’s platforms in preparation for deployment across new platforms.

That focus on design will inevitably be reflected in Apple’s hardware. When it comes to the Mac, the thinking is that Apple will move to an iPad-like design, with thin bezels. This will be the first major hardware introduction since Jony Ive left Apple, so it’s likely we can expect the new team to begin to make its mark. That may not come, however,  until Apple begins shipping Apple Silicon Macs.

What are the benchmarks?

The benchmarks for this new Mac follow:

  • Processor: Intel 3.6GHz Core i9-10910 processor with 10 cores. T2 chip.
  • Turbo Boost: 7GHz.
  • Cache: 20MB L3.
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300 graphics card, a version of the 5300M card used in the entry-level 16-inch MacBook Pro. (Apple recently added an even more powerful GPU to this product as a BTO option.)
  • Score: The test gives an OpenCL score of 32,366.

We don’t know what Mac this is, nor can we be completely certain this data relates to a shipping product. What we do know is that the inclusion of a 10-core processor and the same graphics card as Apple uses in its current MacBook Pro range means these may turn out to be relatively high performing systems.

While China Times talked of a new 23-inch iMac, is it possible this may be the entry-level model of a revised iMac Pro range, which hasn’t been updated since 2017? The consensus is that’s unlikely. At the same time, with the move to Apple Silicon looming, this rather begs the question:

Is it worth purchasing Intel Macs?

Apple’s executives have been circulating across the Apple-focused podcasts since WWDC, and wherever possible have stressed their commitment to existing and future Intel Macs. When announcing the latest Mac migration, they stressed their plan to support Intel Macs “for years” and to continue to release them.

These statements have put Apple’s historical record on Mac support during past migrations under scrutiny. For example, the last version of OS X to support PowerPC Macs shipped in August 2009, just three years after all Macs migrated to the new Intel chips in 2006.

Historically, Apple tends to declare products obsolete after they have not been sold for over seven years. (The first Retina display MacBook Pro was declared obsolete at the age of eight just last week.)

In other words, the Intel Mac you purchase over the next 12-months is likely to remain a supported product for the next seven years, though it is possible the company will cease providing operating system updates before that time.

Ultimately, it will be up to the company to better define the extent of its commitment to provide support “for years” in more concrete terms.

This isn’t really a problem for enterprise purchasers. The window Apple is promising seems plenty long enough for most equipment purchases with a view to three to five years of usable life. SMEs and smaller businesses will expect – and deserve – more clarity as they consider the offer.

Up next

The freshly published Mac benchmarks indicate Apple will keep its word by continuing to offer new Intel Macs. It will be interesting to see whether the revision to its company-defining iMac will also reflect a new design aesthetic as the company perhaps seeks to build a bridge between the last processor decade and what is to come.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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