Earlier this morning Apple announced the next round of Haswell updates to its Mac lineup, this time focusing on the iMac. Both the 21.5-inch and 27-inch models see updates to Haswell silicon. These are obviously still based on the same new chassis as last year's models, but with updated internals. Memory and default storage options remain unchanged, but Apple moves to a PCIe based SSD similar to what it has done in the MacBook Air and what it will do in the upcoming Mac Pro refresh. Fusion Drive, Apple's hybrid HDD/SSD implementation (the only good one on the market), is also available but its configuration is unchanged - the SSD component is still only 128GB in size (although now PCIe based). I would've liked to see an increase there. The new iMacs also mark Apple's first move to a 1TB SSD. Apple has historically used Toshiba, SanDisk and Samsung for its PCIe SSDs, reserving Samsung for the highest capacity options. I do wonder if we might see the use of TLC NAND in order to hit the 1TB capacity point on the new iMac. Also like the new MBAs, the new iMacs all gain 802.11ac support - this is also likely Apple's first 3x3 802.11ac implementation so it should be even faster than what we saw with the MacBook Air. 

Note that the new iMacs still use Thunderbolt 1.0, for 2.0 you'll likely have to wait for the new rMBPs and Mac Pro.

Model Low-end 21.5" High-end 21.5" Low-end 27" High-end 27"
Display 21.5" 1920x1080 IPS 27" 2560x1440 IPS
Processor Intel Core i5-4570R (4/4, 2.7/3.2GHz, 4MB L3) Intel Core i5-4570S (4/4, 2.9/3.6GHz, 6MB L3) Intel Core i5-4570 (4/4, 3.2/3.6GHz, 6MB L3) Intel Core i5-4670 (4/4, 3.4/3.8GHz, 6MB L3)
Memory 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600
Storage 1TB 5400rpm hard drive 1TB 7200rpm hard drive
Graphics Intel Iris Pro 5200 (200/1150MHz) NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M w/ 1GB GDDR5 NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M w/ 1GB GDDR5 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 775M w/ 2GB GDDR5
Connectivity Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, 4x USB 3.0, 2x Thunderbolt, SDXC card slot
Built to Order Upgrades

16GB DDR3-1600 ($200)

1TB Fusion Drive ($200)

256GB SSD ($200)

512GB SSD ($500)

Intel Core i7-4770S (4/8, 3.4/3.9GHz, 8MB L3) ($200)

16GB DDR3-1600 ($200)

1TB Fusion Drive ($200)

256GB SSD ($200)

512GB SSD ($500)

16GB DDR3-1600 ($200)

32GB DDR3-1600 ($600)

3TB 7200rpm HD ($150)

1TB Fusion Drive ($200)

3TB Fusion Drive ($350)

256GB SSD ($200)

512GB SSD ($500)

1TB SSD ($1000)

Intel Core i7-4771 (4/8, 3.5/3.9GHz, 8MB L3) ($200)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M w/ 4GB GDDR5 ($150)

Memory and storage options are the same as in the low-end 27"

Price $1,299 $1,499 $1,799 $1,999

There are some interesting changes for sure. I won't go into details about the CPUs because we have covered Haswell extensively before but to summarize, you should expect 5-20% gains depending on the application. The graphics changes are a lot more interesting, though. 

The big news of course is that Apple has dropped NVIDIA's GeForce GT 640M from the entry-level 21.5-inch iMac and replaced it with Intel's Iris Pro 5200. Iris Pro is Intel's largest on-die GPU implementation, featuring a full 40 EU implementation. The Pro 5200 version adds 128MB of embedded DRAM onto the CPU package itself (codename Crystalwell), which helps address one of the biggest problems of integrated graphics performance: memory bandwidth. We previewed Intel's Iris Pro graphics earlier this year and came away generally impressed. It's not necessarily faster than the equivalent NVIDIA solutions, but it should use less power and can obviously enable smaller board layouts.

The previous generation entry-level 21.5-inch iMac used NVIDIA's GeForce GT 640M, a lower clocked version of the GT 650M we compared to Intel's Iris Pro 5200 in our preview. Looking at the clock speed differential alone, Intel's Iris Pro 5200 should be at least performance competitive, if not faster than the outgoing GT 640M. The other big difference is that the Iris Pro 5200 we previewed came in a 47W thermal configuration, whereas what Apple deployed in the new iMac is a 65W part. Iris Pro 5200 scales extremely well with clock speed thanks to the eDRAM, so I'm expecting a relatively good increase in performance from this configuration compared to the Mobile CRB we tested.

iMac (Late 2013) CPU Options
  21.5-inch 27-inch
  Base Upgraded Optional Base Upgraded Optional
Intel CPU i5-4570R i5-4570S i7-4770S i5-4570 i5-4670 i7-4771
Cores / Threads 4 / 4 4 / 4 4 / 8 4 / 4 4 / 4 4 / 8
Base Clock 2.7GHz 2.9GHz 3.1GHz 3.2GHz 3.4GHz 3.5GHz
Max Turbo 3.2GHz 3.6GHz 3.9GHz 3.6GHz 3.8GHz 3.9GHz
L3 Cache 4MB 6MB 8MB 6MB 6MB 8MB
TDP 65W 65W 65W 65W 84W 84W
VT-x / VT-d Y / Y Y / Y Y / Y Y / Y Y / Y Y / Y

For the most part all of the CPU options are pretty good, the only thing that frustrates me is Intel's Iris Pro part (i5-4570R) doesn't come with Haswell TSX extensions. I don't expect this to be a problem for most customers, but it's just a silly side effect of Intel's arbitrary product segmentation strategy. It's also interesting to note that the Core i5 Iris Pro enabled parts only have 4MB of L3 cache, compared to 6MB for their non-Crystalwell counterparts. The loss of on-die L3 cache is likely more than made up for by the 128MB of eDRAM, but it's frustrating that Intel felt the need to ship defeatured CPU die into the Iris Pro configurations.

  GT 750M GT 755M GTX 775M GTX 780M
GPU GK107 GK107 GK104 GK104
CUDA Cores 384 384 1344 1536
Base Clock 967MHz 980MHz 719MHz 823MHz
Memory Eff. Clock Up to 5GHz 5.5GHz 3.6GHz 5GHz
Memory Bus 128-bit 128-bit 256-bit 256-bit
TDP 35-40W 50W 100W 100W

As for the other models, I've combined the specs of the GPUs in the table above. In short, we are still dealing with the same silicon as in the previous generation since NVIDIA's 700M-series is essentially a rebadged 600M-series. The biggest new feature is GPU Boost 2.0, which we have covered in-depth before. With the 750M and 755M, I would expect around a 10-20% increase over the 650M and 660M depending on the title. The 775M, on the other hand, should be quite an upgrade compared to the 675MX in the previous gen. The 675MX had 960 CUDA cores running at 600MHz while the 775M has 1344 cores runnig at 719MHz. As the 775M is a brand new SKU, I couldn't find any benchmarks for it but given that the specs are very close to the 680M, the 775M should be about 30% faster than the 675MX. Finally the 780M should be ~15% faster than the 680MX, although the extra 2GB of GDDR5 may increase the difference when playing at native resolution. For gamers the 780M for $150 should be a no-brainer but the 775M is also a very competitive offering for those who don't want to (or can't) order the BTO model online.

I've also tossed a historical look at the iMacs into the tables below:

Apple 21.5-inch iMac Historical Comparison
  21.5-inch (2011) 21.5-inch (2012) 21.5-inch (2013)
CPU Intel Core i5-2400S (2.5GHz quad-core) Intel Core i5-3330S (2.7GHz quad-core) Intel Core i5-4570R (2.7GHz quad-core)
GPU AMD Radeon HD 6750M (512MB) NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M (512MB) Intel Iris Pro 5200
RAM 4GB DDR3-1333 8GB DDR3-1600 8GB DDR3-1600
Storage 500GB 7200RPM HDD 1TB 5400RPM HDD 1TB 5400RPM HDD
Optical Drive 8x SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW) - -
Display 21.5-inch 1920 x 1080 21.5-inch 1920 x 1080 21.5-inch 1920 x 1080
Price $1199 $1299 $1299


Apple 27-inch iMac Historical Comparison
  27-inch (2011) 27-inch (2012) 27-inch (2013)
CPU Intel Core i5-2500S (2.7GHz quad-core) Intel Core i5-3470S (2.9GHz quad-core) Intel Core i5-4570 (3.4GHz quad-core)
GPU AMD Radeon HD 6770M (512MB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M (512MB) NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M (1GB GDDR5)
RAM 4GB DDR3-1333 8GB DDR3-1600 8GB DDR3-1600
Storage 1TB 7200RPM HDD 1TB 7200RPM HDD 1TB 7200RPM
Optical Drive 8x SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW) - -
Display 27-inch 2560 x 1440 27-inch 2560 x 1440 27-inch 2560 x 1440
Price $1699 $1799 $1799


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  • repoman27 - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    All the 2.5" drives > 1 TB are also 15mm, and any that are performant are bloody expensive. Which units in particular would have been a "no-brainer" for Apple to have included?

    @jimbo2779 Saying that going with a 3.5-inch drive would only add a cm of thickness is sort of oversimplifying things. The volume, power and thermal differences between a 2.5 and 3.5 inch drive are considerable for an all-in-one such as this. Spinning disks are an anachronism at this point that survive primarily due to significantly lower cost/GB. They also have probably the highest failure rate of any component that Apple ships, and I'm sure they'd love to be rid of them entirely. Furthermore, booting OS X from USB is trivial, so if you want, you can always plug in a 4 TB, 3.5-inch, 7200 RPM USB 3.0 external for $160 and ignore the internal drive entirely.
  • tuna_hp - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    Those aren't fair points. This is a desktop computer. You're assuming that every cubic millimeter of space is sacred to the customer. For most that's not true. Even the last generation models that had 3.5" drives and user replaceable RAM were thinner than some standalone monitors.

    You're also ignoring the capacity issue: some people need more than 1TB capacity. Between audio, video and photos, 1TB isn't enough for a lot of people.

    You're also ignoring latency and real world performance: local drives are lower and have higher respectively. Booting to an external drive isn't an equivalent solution. People who need more than 1TB storage won't find external drives a great option.

    A lot of the Apple software is really optimally used with storage on the local drive. For example, iTunes works best when you choose the "Copy Files to iTunes Music Folder" option and if you put the itunes music folder on an external drive and accidentally try to play music when the drive is disconnected, you're music files get tagged "file not found" and you have to manually reconnect them one by one. iMovie is similar with work files. Plus, if all of my video is on an external drive, its not backed up and I lose it all if I lose the external.

    I just don't get the argument to make these tradeoffs on an already compact desktop computer.
  • repoman27 - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    It's an all-in-one, not a traditional desktop. And the 27-inch models still have 3.5" HDDs and user accessible RAM slots. There are also hundreds of options on the market if you're looking for a traditional "desktop" box, but that's just not Apple's schtick.

    1TB is generally sufficient for a boot volume these days. If you need more storage than that, you can spend up on a 27-inch with a 3TB internal, or deal with the minor inconvenience of using an external drive. All of the iMac's USB ports are USB 3.0 provided by the Intel PCH. If you connect an external HDD with a USB 3.0 interface that supports UASP, there will be virtually zero performance penalty compared to connecting the same drive to one of the native SATA 6 Gb/s ports. If you're really concerned about performance and need tons of storage space, you can always go with a Thunderbolt connected Pegasus RAID solution. Or you could order the 21.5-inch with the 256 GB Flash Storage option, add a 4TB USB 3.0 external drive and roll your own Fusion Drive volume so that you get ridiculous performance, plenty of storage space and a single logical volume.

    Relocating your iTunes Library is easy, just move it wherever you like, then hold down option when you open iTunes and show it where you moved it to. Time Machine will back up (or exclude) any volume you tell it to. Your backup volume shouldn't be on the same physical drive as what you're backing up.
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    WD recently crammed 3 platters into 9.5 mm height, giving you 1.5 TB of 5.4k rpm action. It's not available in retail, but similarly spec'ed HGST's are (maybe the same model?).
  • Roland00Address - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    If you can afford an 1800 dollar iMac you can afford an external hard drive if you need more space. If you do not want to have the external hard drive located on the same table as a computer you can afford a router with a USB plug in and then plug in the external hard drive, or a time capsule, or a true NAS.
  • krabar - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    i5-4570R doesn't have 6MB L3 cache, it has 4MB... So Apple must be wrong stating "2.7GHz
    2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz) with 6MB L3 cache" because such haswell CPU with Iris Pro doesn't exist.
  • IanCutress - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    It seems to be a mix of two processors with Iris Pro:

    i5-4570R is 2.7GHz (Turbo to 3.2 GHz) with 4MB cache
    But the mobile 50HQ processors are the ones with 6MB cache

    A new SKU from Intel, or just mistyped by Apple? The desktop SKU hasn't been seen in anything else yet, and is 65W. The mobile SKUs are available, and are 47W.
  • bountygiver - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    seems like they are going back to mobile hardware for this gen, as the gpu are mobilr gpus now
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    iMac has always used mobile GPUs.
  • colonelclaw - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't pretty much all iMacs going all the way back to the original Bondi Blue CRT version been pretty much laptop innards coupled with a screen?

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