We just got hit by a rumor saying there’ll be a new iMac at WWDC 2020, Apple’s annual world wide developers conference, set to kick off online in just under 2 weeks.
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Now, while WWDC is always software focused, there have also been some pretty big hardware announcements there as well, including the Mac Pro in 2019 and the iMac Pro in 2017.
So, given all that, what is this next gen iMac rumor and, more importantly, what does it all mean?
The first part of this rumor, which comes by way of Sonny Dickson on Twitter, probably best known for getting all your favorite Tech YouTubers early access to dummy iPhones to YouTube about every fall, is that the iMac will be getting a new design language.
Pretty much everyone knows the original iMac, the one Jony Ive and Steve Jobs collaborated on way back in 1998, was a translucent Bhondi blue CRT monitor with matching keyboard and mouse. And it stayed that way until 2002, when it became an almost Pixar-like LCD lamp articulated on a computer base.
In 2004, though, Apple moved the Mac part of the iMac back behind the screen, and it became the thiiiic monitor on a basic stand that’s essentially what we still have today. It did transition from a white plastic body to bead-blasted aluminum in 2007, from standard to wide screen in 2009, and from a fairly uniform thickness to razor-thin edges and.. a… — bubble back? — in 2012.
And… that’s been it, I mean, with the superficial exception of the iMac Pro anodizing itself in very pro appropriate space gray in 2017.
And… this rumor really doesn’t suggest that overall computer-in-a-screen is changing very much. Just, maybe, styling itself up slightly?
Specifically, it says the iMac will be getting the iPad Pro design language with Pro Display-like bezels.
The current iPad Pro is all glass and squared off aluminum unibody, which is the same as the iMac, just totally flat-backed instead of bubbled.
Going back to the retro-future, bringing the boxy back, would totally be in keeping with Apple’s current design trend, for everything from the iPad Pro to the Pro Display XDR.
But just how thin could Apple keep it while still, you know, fitting decent computer parts inside?
Also, why iPad Pro design but Pro Display bezels? The iPad Pro already has Thanos-snapped-in-half bezels, and at scale ones that aren’t too different from the Pro Display XDR.
Except, of course, the Pro Display XDR’s bezels are squared off on the inside as all proper computer bezels should be.
But, along with how thin… or thiiiiic… an iMac design like this would have to be, my other question is whether or not it would keep that other bit of iMac chic — the classic chin with the big old Apple logo on it?
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Sonny’s rumor doesn’t really address the display at all. Previous rumors from the likes of supply chain exfiltrator extraordinaire, Kuo Ming-Chi, though, have said Apple’s moving to mini LED in pretty much everything but the entry level lineup, including the iMac.
If you’re not familiar with Mini LED, it’s a technology that takes the traditional backlights used for LCD and replaces them with pixel-level backlights for better local dimming. Basically, to try and get some of the deeper blacks and higher contrasts of OLED, but without all the drawbacks that come with OLED.
The Pro Display XDR isn’t mini-LED, but it’s the closet Apple’s come to implementing mini LED-like technologies so far.
But those rumors still make the kinds of sense that does. Because, even while the basic iMac design hasn’t changed much over the last decade, Apple’s been pushing on the screen technologies. Hard.
For example, in 2009 the iMac not only went 16 by 9 but also got IPS — in-plane switching — and LED backlights.
In 2014, the 27-inch model went high density 5K, and in 2015, it got high gamut P3.
But, the most recent rumors about mini LED say that it’s not coming until next year.
So, would Apple ship an iMac redesign later this month and then update it again with mini LED next year, rather than just wait and do everything together?
If the redesign is go for launch and the mini LED timeline is more nebulous, I think absolutely. I mean, that’s what it looks like they did with the most recent iPad Pro.
Also, just how far will Apple will lean into the Pro Display part with the iMac? Mini LED or no mini LED, will it go high or extreme dynamic range? Will it go to a 2 by 1 aspect ratio? And will it go to 32-inches and 6K resolution?
Or would Apple leave mini LED and the other Pro Display features for an upcoming iMac Pro refresh instead?
Again, let me know your thoughts In the comments below.
Sonny didn’t mention what Intel might be inside, though you have to imagine it’ll be 10th generation Comet Lake at this point.
I know a lot of people are champing at the bit for AMD processors in the Mac, and never say never, but…
It’s still hard to see Apple picking and choosing silicon vendors on a year-by-year, generation-by-generation, hell, product-by-product basis.
Until AMD outperforms Intel in every category truly important to Apple, for a few years, and absolutely crushes Intel on their performance efficiency roadmap, I just don’t see Apple giving up the pricing, customization, and integration benefits a single vendor relationship with Intel provides them.
But… holy wow do I hope I’m wrong about that. Especially if it’s going to take more those few years for Apple to ramp their own, custom ARM processors up to iMac power and performance levels.
Otherwise, increasingly, ARM seems like the future, not x86 of any flavor.
Now, Sonny’s rumor does say Navi for the graphics, which is AMD’s current generation architecture, so pretty much what everyone’s been expecting since it was announced last year.
There is Big Navi, AKA, RDNA 2 on the horizon for later this year, though, depending on what exactly Apple ships now vs. later.
Also, a T2 chip which… is kinda disappointing to be honest.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love about T2. It handles acceleration for things like H.265 encode/decode, controllers for storage and other components, real-time encryption for the drive, and Touch ID.
See, the T2 is a variant of the Apple A10 processor found in the 2016 iPhone 7, which was Apple’s last big Touch ID flagship.
And now you see where I’m going with this… T2 just doesn’t support Face ID, and I really, truly want Face ID on the next generation of iMacs.
Which would require, and I’m guessing here, a next generation T3 chip based on a variant of the A12 or later, with a full-on, proper, multi-core neural engine to handle the Face ID neural networks.
Sure, the iMac doesn’t even have Touch ID yet, which Apple introduced in 2013, never mind Face ID, which Apple introduced in 2017, but the only way I could reconcile the former was by hoping Apple was waiting to just jump right into the latter.
So, I’m hoping that at least this part of the rumor is wrong, or preparing myself to give the wickedest of all side-eyes before retargeting my expectational debt on a future, ARM-based iMac run entirely by a cutting edge A-series variant.
Because, again, I really, truly want Face ID — multi-user Face ID even — on the iMac. Hit that like button if you’re with me.
The last part of Sonny rumor is that Apple will be ditching the fusion drive.
And, yeah, hallelujah.
Which, good. I love the idea of the fusion drive when it was first introduced — the speed of an expensive if small SSD meshed with the capacity of a big, cheap HDD.
But the implementation never lived up to the idea and, due to the quirks of the binding and the inherent reliability problems with HDDs, there was just no one who was really better off getting a fusion drive compared to getting a pure SSD inside and then hanging additional HDD storage off the back over USB or Thunderbolt.
I get that Apple wants to be able to show lower-priced iMacs in the lineup, even the terrible, HDD-only entry-level models, but I honestly think it’d be better for Apple at this point just to make them SSD across the board.