Reviewing Apple’s “Last” Intel iMac

Paul Alvarez

iMac 27-inch in all its glory.

With the introduction of the M1 on the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini last year it is inevitable that Apple will be replacing the iMac lineup with some kind of Apple Silicon chip. Whether it is the actual M1, a upgraded M1X, or even a new generation M2, the new Apple Silicon in an iMac will blow any Intel version out of the water.

Before this happened though, I wanted to try out the Intel iMac. I don't know yet if I will get an M version desktop from Apple but if I do, I wanted to make sure I had the knowledge of what it was like with an Intel chip to see the differences.

The last time I used a desktop computer was probably since high school. I have never owned or used an all-in-one desktop so the iMac 27-inch is my very first.

When Apple announced that they were moving to Apple Silicon, everyone had been speculating which Mac would be first in transitioning away from Intel. I am probably one of the few that had mixed feelings in this transition.

Mainly because I still use Windows for work. Having an Intel Mac makes it easy for me to be able to use a single device for personal and work. This of course hasn’t mattered for the last few months since I am currently iPad only but if I needed a Mac, one of the requirements for me is to still be able to install Windows.

That being said, I feel Apple announced this new iMac with 10th Generation Intel processors for those like me. Before the transition to Apple Silicon, Apple released a well-needed upgrade to the Intel iMac 27-inch.

So, this is the reason why I wanted to try it out. TL;DR I don’t think an all-in-one iMac is for me right now. Since I am currently iPad-only I am not looking for a Mac but if I was, the iMac would definitely be on my top list of choices.

Using the iMac for awhile, though, did remind me how robust macOS is compared to iPadOS, and iOS. Now that I am getting towards the end of editing my book and my work starting to require me to do more development work, getting a Mac has been on my mind more recently.

I mentioned in my Multiple Computer Dilemma post that one of the options I had in mind was an iMac 27-inch For my desk and a iPad Pro 11-inch for on the go. This was my chance to try this experiment out and overall, it has been pretty fantastic.

A True Minimalist Setup minimalist desk setup with iMac.

The beauty of an all-in-one is how much your desk is not being taken up with extra wires and stuff. For work, I have a laptop connected to a monitor and a ton of other peripherals to connect my mouse, keyboard, headphones, etc.

Apple is superb about thinking through the entire experience of using a Mac. The Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad automatically connect to the iMac and after logging in with my iCloud account I can use my AirPods Pro and other features, like Handoff, with my iPhone or iPad immediately.

This provides a completely effortless setup process especially now that I have all of my files and apps syncing with iCloud. It only took about a half hour to set up the iMac then another half hour or so to install some apps, and I was up and running.

Even reinstalling Parallels and Windows 10 only took a couple of hours with no issues. I could set up Windows 10 and remote into my work computer faster than I expected.

The thing that I keep thinking of when using and setting up an iMac for the first time is minimalism. This Mac is the epitome of what I feel what techno-minimalism is. The fact that the entire package is ready to set up and go with such minimal effort is so appealing.


Since my post about Smartphone storage, I have been thinking really hard about what storage sizes are needed when purchasing technology. I have also wanted to try and push how far you can really go with the base sizes that Apple offers.

The great thing about the iMac lineup now is that they all come with SSD as standard, instead of the previous Fusion Drives. The Fusion Drives were a great idea when SSD was expensive but it was finally time to move on.

The unfortunate part of SSD’s being the standard on iMacs it that they all start out at only 256 GB. This isn’t awful, I remember when MacBooks and the Mac mini’s only coming with 128 GB of SSD storage.

Still, 256 GB for a desktop Mac is doable, but it is not ideal. The model I got was the pure base option so it came with the 256 GB option. It worked out fine after turning on iCloud and Photo optimization, but I think most would benefit in having at least 512 GB if not a more ideal size like 1 TB for their iMac. how much storage used without any optimization. (Dropped to about 60 GB once turned on)

Again, 256 GB was just fine, and did prove to myself that I could live with 256 GB. But I feel with a stationary computer like an iMac, it deserves the option of having specific data local, like; your photo library or sensitive documents. The main benefit of having certain files local is the ability to back it up easier when using a cloud backup service like BackBlaze.

For the rest of the specs, the base model comes with a 3.1 GHz 6-core Processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a Radeon Pro 5300 video card. All the iMac 27-inch comes with the gorgeous 5K display and the Magic Keyboard and/or Magic Mouse/Magic Trackpad.

To be honest, other than maybe bumping the RAM to 16 GB for longevity (which you can still do yourself on the 27-inch models), the main thing I would upgrade on this machine is the SSD. Like I said earlier, if this was my main computer, for everything, I would probably opt for a 1 or 2 TB SSD. The 6-core processor and video card, though, are more than I would ever need on a computer.

Overall the performance was very snappy. I have said this before but running Windows on Macs is a better experience than running Windows on any Windows PC or laptop.

Display running macOS Catalina.

I do have to quickly talk about this 5K Display a little more. I was honestly not expecting how amazing this display would look. The high resolution I was prepared for, but that on top of the colors and True Tone I was really blown away.

My work provided a Dell 4K monitor a while ago for me to use, so I am used to how nice a high resolution display can be when working for long periods. The colors on this iMac, though, are just outstanding. Everything just pops and feels so pleasant to use.

Though I am tempted to say that the colors are more saturated, I don’t feel like that is the case. The color gamut on top of True Tone I think is what makes the colors look so good. up pictures of iMac showing different graphics in Windows.

Not that my work Dell monitor is bad, I still couldn’t help compare the two to demonstrate how the colors look on each one. I took photos with my iPhone to try and show how much more vibrant the colors are on the iMac but have to admit that it is not really that fair of comparison.

For one, the iMac has True Tone which the Dell does not, making some of the colors look a little more washed out on the Dell. The other big difference is that the Dell monitor has a matte screen where the iMac is glossy. I do feel like the glossy glass on the iMac makes the colors pop a little more. up pictures of Dell U2718Q monitor showing different graphics in Windows.

Which leads me to why I didn’t choose the nano-texture matte option with the iMac. I am happy to see Apple offering this feature on the iMacs since it has only been exclusive to the ($5,000+) Pro Display XDR, but as I have discussed regarding matte screen protectors before I prefer a glossy screen over matte.

A lot of times the matte coating will distort the colors which I feel is the case slightly when comparing the Dell monitor to the iMac’s display. I am sure Apple’s nano-texture is not like any screen protector and much better than the Dell monitor, especially at a $500 upgrade which is actually more than what you could purchase the Dell monitor new on Amazon, but felt my appeal towards a glossy screen would suffice.

Work running Windows for day job.

So, my plan in using the iMac for this review was to use it not only for personal work but for my day job as well. Since I am working from home still, what better opportunity to actually use the iMac as much as possible since I can remote into my desktop at the office from any Windows machine.

Like I explained earlier, I installed Parallels and Windows easily allowing me to work from the iMac during the day but also have the iMac for all of my personal tasks as well.

Since I have been using the iPad full time for about 3 months, using a Mac again has been refreshing. Not only has using macOS been a nice change but using macOS on such a large display has been great.

I am so used to using MacBooks, Pros, Airs, etc. and though I have connected them to monitors, using a Mac that is native in an all-in-one was really awesome.

The performance while working my day job was pretty identical to using my work issued Windows laptop, since most of the leg work is happening on the remote computer at my desk in the office. As long as I have a good enough internet connection, I don’t really worry about it.

Having a Mac with a 6-core processor though, was definitely useful in sharing resources between macOS and the Windows VM. I am sure if I had all my work tools and applications installed natively on the Windows VM I would be perfectly fine, but 16 GB would go along way with the number of applications and browser tabs I use for work all day.

Now for personal use, which includes mostly writing, the iMac is way overboard for what I need. Not to say that it isn’t a great machine for writers, I just have so much overhead that a machine like this iMac would last me forever for what I need a computer for.

Using Ulysses on the iMac is practically identical as using it on the iPad Pro but it was pretty nice to have so much text on screen at once. Being able to have Ulysses and Safari side by side was pretty fantastic too. I feel like I could never fill the screen too much with so much space on the 27-inches.

Whatever work that I did on the iMac I not only felt I had enough performance but the amount of screen available for all of my applications was plenty. It was such a great time using this iMac for my actual day job and am tempted to ask for one for my desk if I ever get to go back to the office.

Conclusion running Ulysses.

It was nice to check one of the boxes off for the options from the Multiple Computer Dilemma post and, in all honesty, this experiment made me rethink my whole iPad-only setup. Using the iMac as my main machine allowed me to start using my iPad Pro 11-inch mostly as a tablet only.

I would leave the Magic keyboard behind and use the iPad Pro to read, sketch, watch YouTube and browse the web while on the couch. Don’t get me wrong the iPad Pro 11-inch is a fantastic tablet but it felt a little weird to only use it as a tablet since it is capable of so much more.

I tried using Sidecar a few times with the iMac and iPad Pro to extend my display. This was nice but moving a window from a 27-inch display to a 11-inch one is a little weird in my opinion. I also wrote some in both Ulysses on my iPad Pro and iMac without ever feeling like the syncing was off.

This mini experiment of having an iMac on my desk as my main machine and the iPad Pro as my portable one worked out pretty well. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I did have the iMac, would I need something so powerful for my portable machine like the iPad.

Apple has introduced so many iPads that are more than capable for what I need, especially with the rumored new iPad Air that has the same form factor as the iPad Pros. Let’s hope that the smart connecter is included on the new iPad Air too so that with the Magic Keyboard you could have yourself a pretty similar setup without all the extra cost and power overhead you get with the iPad Pro.

In saying all that, if you need a Mac and have been thinking about getting one that will stay at your desk permanently, I would highly suggest you pick up one of the new iMacs. Paying for a MacBook Pro or Air and a monitor might save a few dollars but I would almost guarantee the monitor will not be as great as the iMacs 5K display.

You could easily spend a couple of thousands to get a monitor that competes with the iMac 27-inch, but you do lose some performance and cooling when choosing a clamshell computer versus a desktop.

This makes sense since the design of the iMac is setup to provide better cooling and longer periods of performance. Where the design of MacBooks are to restrain power to allow for longer battery life and prevent overheating.

If you plan on not sitting at your desk all the time and would rather have a powerful machine that you can take anywhere with you then a MacBook Pro is probably a better choice.

With the new models offering 6-core processors in their base models, beautiful 5K displays, and now SSD as the standard, the iMac is in a great place if you were ever thinking of getting one. The Intel chip alone should not deter you from wanting an iMac.

Apple even said themselves that they plan to support Intel Macs for a very long time, so the risk of buying a Mac with an Intel chip seems pretty low. I think it will be interesting to see what other Macs come out with Apple’s own silicon but if you need a powerful Mac that won’t let you down, the new iMac 27-inch is a great choice.

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My passion is in technology. I write reviews about gadgets that interest me but also provide some kind of value in my toolset to achieve my goals. Most of my writing is surrounded by technology and how it plays a role as a tool, help with productivity, and also provide mindfulness for a more fulfilled life.

Turlock, CA

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