October 16, 2014

Apple's New 27" Retina iMac Has an Incredible 5120 x 2880 Screen

Apple 5K iMac Compared to Other Resolutions
While we've seen a number of companies introduce 4K screens, Apple has gone all the way to 5K with their new 27" iMac, which starts shipping today.

With a resolution of 5120 x 2880, the 27" iMac is really pushing resolution to the next level, and it's one of the first monitors that can actually let you watch 5K video from cameras like the RED EPIC and EPIC DRAGON. They are really pushing the editing of 4K video with this new iMac, though like the new Mac Pro, they've chosen AMD graphics internally.

Here are the specs:

  • 27" 5120 x 2880 Display
  • Intel Processor: 3.5GHz Quad-Core i5 (3.9GHz Turbo Boost) or 4GHz Quad-Core i7 Processor (4.4GHz Turbo Boost)
  • AMD Radeon R9 M290X 2GB GDDR5 or AMD Radeon R9 M295X 4GB GDDR5
  • Four User-Accessible SO-DIMM Memory Slots, Configurable Up to 32GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • Thunderbolt 2
  • Up to 3TB Fusion Drive or 1TB Flash Storage
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • Headphone Port
  • SDXC Slot
  • Two Thunderbolt 2 Ports
  • Four USB 3.0 Slots
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45 connector)
  • Price: $2,500 Base Model, $4,400 for Fully Maxed System with 1TB Flash Storage

And how it compares to the rest of their line:

Apple iMac Line 2014

Obviously this computer can't take advantage of CUDA acceleration since it only has AMD processors (though you could add an external NVIDIA card to do that), but more software is allowing GPU acceleration regardless of the make. We'll have to wait and see how this one compares.

It stands to reason we may also see a cinema display with this resolution, but that was not announced at the show. You can read more about the new iMacs over on the Apple page, and is available to order right now online    

Your Comment

41 Comments

Although I absolutely love my maxed out iMac from last year, I'm insanely jealous of this one.

October 16, 2014 at 2:52PM

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Anthony Vescio
Director/Editor
361

That was posted quickly! Nice work.

It looks pretty crazy, but I find it surprising that they didn’t update the Thunderbolt Display to this resolution, or even mention a timeline for it. Yet another area where it seems Apple doesn’t seem to care as much about the pros anymore. :(

October 16, 2014 at 2:52PM, Edited October 16, 2:52PM

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Ryan Toyota
Graphic Designer / Typographer / Video Editor
1245

The problem with a Retina Thunderbolt Display is bandwidth. The only mac capable of running such a monitor today would be a Mac Pro but using two Thunderbolt buses (4 of the 6 ports). The only feasible way ist to use Thunderbolt 3 wich will be released sometime in 2015. So it could be quite a while until we see a Retina Thunderbolt Display.

October 16, 2014 at 5:32PM

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Except that I'm running a 4k monitor on a Mac Pro (which also works on my Macbook Pro) right now while I'm writing you this (the Sharp). Best. Video. Setup. Ever.

It's not a bandwidth problem. It's got to be some kind of logistics issue.

October 16, 2014 at 6:19PM

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What if they were to pack a video card into the back of the display? I’m not sure exactly how the Thunderbolt interface works, but I would think perhaps that would be possible?

October 18, 2014 at 1:48AM, Edited October 18, 1:48AM

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Ryan Toyota
Graphic Designer / Typographer / Video Editor
1245

I don't think it's an issue of whether Apple cares about pro users. It's an issue of bandwidth, plain and simple.

October 17, 2014 at 11:21PM

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Chuck Dotson
Director, Designer, Thinker, and Trouble Maker
82

I want this so bad, and I have no reason or use for it.

October 16, 2014 at 2:57PM

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Matt Bastos
Filmmaker/Writer
803

I had the same thought, and spent an hour trying to find an excuse, to no avail :(

October 16, 2014 at 4:28PM

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Kudos for the guy who find the first dead pixel.

October 16, 2014 at 3:11PM

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FCPX broke the Apple choke hold on editing. This product doesn't seem quite so compelling anymore, considering the lack of future expandability and the ever present Apple cost.

October 16, 2014 at 4:10PM, Edited October 16, 4:10PM

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Right, ’cause no one edits on a Mac anymore.

October 16, 2014 at 4:59PM, Edited October 16, 4:59PM

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Ryan Toyota
Graphic Designer / Typographer / Video Editor
1245

Old habits are hard to break, but use whatever tool makes you happy.

October 16, 2014 at 5:07PM, Edited October 16, 5:07PM

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if anything fcpx is much more affordable and continues to grow into a better product with an increasing support for plugins. adobe charges 50 dollars a month for subscription service when fcpx is 250. sure it doesn't do everything, but for a lot of smaller companies and indy filmmakers not having to pay 50 dollars a month is a relief.

October 16, 2014 at 7:14PM, Edited October 16, 7:14PM

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Mark K.
236

Ever present Apple cost? This computer is very well-priced given the display it's rocking.

If you want future expandability this computer isn't for you. They make a Pro model for that. Not everybody needs it though.

October 17, 2014 at 12:08PM, Edited October 17, 12:08PM

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No NVIDIA card means no CUDA for Adobe software though. Bummer.

October 16, 2014 at 4:24PM

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Adobe supports OpenCL

October 16, 2014 at 7:04PM, Edited October 16, 7:04PM

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CUDA offers better performance.

October 16, 2014 at 7:48PM

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No one has posted any lectures about how these are "just tools" and "we should all just be storytellers" yet…

They've given in to the dark side… or the shiny expensive side.

October 16, 2014 at 6:10PM

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Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1252

I'm pretty sure this will not only make me make better films, but also attract more clients who pays more along with making my personal life less complicated as my wife and my kids will connect with me better while I sit in my den too close to the screen editing video remixes of Alan Watts sound bits ;P

October 17, 2014 at 4:30AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
919

Make sure you get the Apple Watch too for maximum visibility.

October 18, 2014 at 12:49PM

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Derik Savage
Producer / Director / Editor / Camera / Colorist / Audio Engineer / Sales / Marketing
218

I want it! it may or may not be "true innovation" but it certainly is more innovative than the apple watch. Its a pretty beast..

October 17, 2014 at 2:59AM

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Riaan Myburgh
DP / COLORIST
358

Hi
I'm looking for a new Desktop and I find this iMac 5K very attractive.
However, i don't know if the specs fits my needs. I thought you might know.
- i'm using After Effects for motion graphics (mainly 2d - however 3D would be nice)
- I would like to edit 4K footage without a huge rendering time.
I'm not a professional, but i'm trying to start a business. So productivity is important. Would you recommend this mac, if you only look at the specs and price?

Thanks,
- Jonatan

October 17, 2014 at 7:40AM

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Jonatan Sander
Designer
74

I have a business that does motion graphics, 3D and live action and using the iMac has been good for me. It's not perfect - I've crashed the thing MANY, MANY times in the last month, but I do push it pretty hard. Also if you have iphone, ipad etc then using mac makes sense. Adobe's apps only run on Mac or Windows so those are your 2 choices. I would have no problem switching to Windows, the only thing stopping me is that I feel I would take a productivity hit in the short term because I'd have to learn a new system. Ideally I'd like to use Linux but none of the pro apps I use daily run on it (apart from Blender which I'd definitely classify as a pro app!). So to answer your question the iMac will be fantastic for what you want to do. Word of advice - go large on the specs. It costs more, but it's worth it. Go for solid-state hard drive (flash storage) and get lots of RAM. I had a recent iMac but it didn't have the fast storage or RAM and it drove me up the wall; those two things make a lot of difference

October 17, 2014 at 9:25AM

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While this iMac plays 4K quite well, it won't edit it as smoothly. 4GB VRAM is an absolute minimum recommended for 4K post work and most people I know, including myself, I working with (at least) 6GB. So there's that.

I think it's awesome that they've used an IPS screen though! Most affordable 4K displays are TN. That's a huge plus! Well, Apple displays have always been top notch, so it's no surprise.

I just don't think it's got enough grunt to work with 4K media.

October 17, 2014 at 7:15PM

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seanmclennan
Story Teller
942

Wow this looks amazing!

October 17, 2014 at 12:22PM

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Kyle Lamar
Director Producer DP
1233

This is awesome for 4k and 5k footage but also for check quality of up scaling lower res video. Also it will be boss to edit 1080 full resolution in both viewer and project monitor, sweet! I would like this so much... I think I'll save up for this, looks like a winner!

October 17, 2014 at 1:59PM

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Peter Staubs
Camera Assistant
467

Rather impressive. Correct me if I'm wrong - won't this effectively shrink everything onscreen (relative to, say, the standard 27" iMac display)? So you're getting more screen real estate, but full HD footage at 100% would look much smaller inside the GUI of editing software.

And will the extra grunt needed from the CPU compromise video software performance?

I guess we'll have to elbow people out of the way at an Apple Store to find out...

October 17, 2014 at 5:32PM

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No, it doesn’t shrink things, it displays the whole interface the exact same size it does on the standard 27" display, just with much more detail. It uses four pixels to render what it used to use one pixel for. It’s the same process that used when they switched the iPhone to a retina display.

You’re right though, that 1080p footage rendered pixel-for-pixel would be half as wide and half as tall as in a standard display… but you can still choose to edit with it double the size and it wouldn’t look all that bad.

October 18, 2014 at 1:55AM, Edited October 18, 1:55AM

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Ryan Toyota
Graphic Designer / Typographer / Video Editor
1245

Thanks Ryan - yes, I guess that's what I meant by 'shrink'. I suppose I use my screen in the way that audio engineers use their second set of reference speakers, but trying to get a feel for what the audience will experience in a typical setting - judging sharpening at 100%, visible effects of compression, etc. Working on the 5k iMac seems like it would change this somewhat. But high-res video/images would look pretty incredible, I'm sure.

October 18, 2014 at 5:19AM

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Yeah, I would imagine you wouldn’t really be able to see the detail of compression effects and sharpening as well. The idea behind the retina display is to make the pixels so small that you can’t even notice them. It creates a great end-user experience, but may not be the best option for creating that content if you’re really picky about looking at those details. You could always plug in a regular resolution external display for those checks. Then again, it might be better to save your money and get a cheaper iMac.

October 20, 2014 at 4:24PM

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Ryan Toyota
Graphic Designer / Typographer / Video Editor
1245

Absolutely gorgeous! Oh and that night mode on the new OS! Damn you Apple I feel like am going back to editing after I promised my self I wouldn't edit anymore last year. Although I don't quite understand how smoothly it will handle a 4k timeline with a 4gb card, any thoughts guys?

October 18, 2014 at 10:07AM

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Ramy Daniel
Cinematographer
309

Curious how a maxed out 5K Retina iMac i7 would perform running Premiere Pro CC (October 2014.1 update with blue text). Someone here mentioned the lack of an NVidia graphics card as a potential problem for Premiere. I currently have a 2012 iMac i7 with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680MX 2048MB. Wouldn't the AMD Radeon R9 M295X 4GB GDDR5 upgrade be a more powerful graphics card than mine? And wouldn't it handle programs like PPCC and AECC without issue?

October 18, 2014 at 3:39PM

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Also curious to know what how small 720p and 1080p footage would look on the iMac 5K Retina. Though the size of a 1080p frame is shown on the apple's web site, I wonder how pixelated or soft it would look playing back in full screen. Regarding 720p footage, if you upscaled it's frame to the size of a 1080p frame on the 5K Retina, would it look badly pixelated?

October 18, 2014 at 3:44PM, Edited October 18, 3:44PM

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Also curious to know what how small 720p and 1080p footage would look on the iMac 5K Retina. Though the size of a 1080p frame is shown on the apple's web site, I wonder how pixelated or soft it would look playing back in full screen. Regarding 720p footage, if you upscaled it's frame to the size of a 1080p frame on the 5K Retina, would it look badly pixelated?

October 18, 2014 at 3:44PM

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All that resolution and barely enough horsepower behind it to do anything of value in After Effects. Maxed out at 32GB of Ram, will barely let you tackle 4K footage besides maybe cutting it in FC. Try and advanced composite, with some keys and effects and you'll get crushed. Maya with that graphics card? And a single i7?? That's a starter system for people who want to snip together some clips and have something pretty sitting on their desk.

You'll need dual Xeons and 64-128GB+ for real heavy lifting.

October 18, 2014 at 7:50PM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
1027

Thanks for replying Josh. But if I'm only shooting 4K to edit and deliver in 1080, would Premiere and AE still suffer that much on this computer even for 1080p work?

October 19, 2014 at 2:37AM

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This is exactly my question im looking for. I want to edit 4K material in a HD Timeline with lots of grading and plugins but with my iMac Late 2009 this is somehow a horror trip...even with Proxies.
I wanted to get a new iMac in the last weeks as i heard there´s something coming up and i really don´t know if this 5K iMac will fit my needs. I´m really, really unsure about that graphics card. because it seems only slightly faster it has to render 4 Times the pixels as the Nvidia in the "Old" iMacs. I think about getting the "older" iMac maxed out with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4 GB GDDR5 and 32GB of Ram with a 1TB SSD would Top the 5K Version, isn´t it ?

October 19, 2014 at 5:59AM

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Andreas Usenbenz
Sounddesigner, Location Sound, Filmmaker
81

Truly hard to know without getting your hands on it. So I'm just going by experience on high end Dell's and HPs with CC. Simply playing and cutting 4k shouldn't necessarily be a problem, depending on how much footage you're dealing with. 15 minutes vs hours makes a big difference, which is where 8 GBs of ram would be a major roadblock. Can't see anyone seriously attempting to edit anything of significance on the minimum specs.

However, Premiere is a completely different animal with or without the Mercury engine, which means you need Nvidia. So "software-only" Premiere is going to crumble dealing with AMD. You're pretty much stuck using FCP on this, unless they offer Nvidia as an upgrade in the future.

This thing, in any configuration is NOT designed around Adobe at all, if they're going to ignore Nvidia. Its really that simple. Marketing got their hands around it and said in no uncertain terms, "we want people using Apple products on an Imac". Photoshop, InDesign and AI should be more than fine, but video...sorry folks. Don't waste your time. The specs are a borderline starter system, pretty low end even when you max is out, except for the display. But even then, what is the GUI going to look like? The scaling better be top notch. It has to be.

Selling a "real" pro on this is fairly laughable. Image editing? Awesome!!! Video or effects or 3D? Sorry guys, this is NOT going to cut it. No Nvidia, limited RAM options, and a single i7? Move along folks.

Pros look at this... http://www8.hp.com/us/en/campaigns/workstations/z840.html
or
http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/precision-T7600/pd
or
build your own.

October 19, 2014 at 11:49AM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
1027

I have the iMac nvidia 780 M 4 GB DDR5 and it's beast with CUDA and OpenCL. This is slower because with only 5-10 % more de velocity, have to manage double pixels.

October 20, 2014 at 2:27AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7780

Actually, it has to manage quadruple the pixels.

October 20, 2014 at 4:27PM

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Ryan Toyota
Graphic Designer / Typographer / Video Editor
1245

I read this article (great article by the way), I read the comments but I still don't get how 5k display offers a 5k workspace and not just 1440p?

I even went in the store to see for myself. I was expecting to see a massive workspace where a 1080p only takes a tiny tiny amount of real estate (like the picture at the top of this article) yet that wasn't what I saw! All reviews are raving that you have a 5k workspace and you can see a native 4k video and still have room to spare. How can this be? Yes the screen was gorgeous and couldn't see actual pixels but the workspace wasn't any bigger than my 27" 1440p monitor? Since apple is using its retina scaling "magic" doesn't that mean that we essentially have the workspace of a 1440p display? If that's the case, how can certain parts of the screen be 1:1 pixels (say the 4k video) and other parts of the screen be 2:1 (as if they were 2x1440p) - say toolbars and anything other than the video? Does that make sense? I wish I could explain better what I mean, I just don't get how 5k offers a bigger workspace. IF the resolution was 1:1 and apple wasn't using its retina scaling then yes we would have a massive workspace but everything would be tiny unless the monitor was 40 inches or something.

Can someone PLEASE explain it to me?

thank you

October 25, 2014 at 9:04PM

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Anestis
74