The Retina iMac: One Year In

My fancy retina iMac is now a year old and Apple has just released an update. I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my thoughts about the 27 inch retina iMac.

When I purchased it a year ago, I had no idea that I was going to be leaving my job and opening my own law practice a few months later. I originally thought of the iMac as a luxury item and I understood I would not be using it all the time. That has changed. I now use this computer many hours every day.

You pay a premium to have a screen this gorgeous. I know in the future this technology will be standard, and cheaper, but for now, retina screens on big computers are still expensive. The question I’m exploring after a year is , was it worth it?

I have always been a resolution junkie. There was a time many years ago when choosing a computer monitor required you to decide if you wanted color or sharp resolution. You couldn’t have both. Monochrome monitors rendered text better and since most of what I did on computers even back then involved text, I was more likely to go for the sharp monochrome monitor over the blurry color monitor.

Now I’m fortunate enough to have both. If sharp text and beautiful color are a “thing” for you, you are going to love a retina iMac. Just like in my youth, I use this screen mostly for words. I write books, legal briefs, and even notes to friends using a screen that renders text in printed magazine quality. Every few months I go to do some maintenance on my kids’ MacBook Airs and the blocky resolution hurts my eyes. You can’t see pixels with a retina screen and that makes all of the difference. 

The screen of this caliber isn’t, however, just for text. Photos look amazing. Games pop. Video looks great and sharp, even when you only give the video half the screen so you can work in the other half. Pixels=flexibility. If this stuff is a big deal to you and you’re trying to save money, my advice is to stay away from looking at one of these retina iMacs.

With 27 inches of retina goodness, it is quite easy to have a lot of data open on your screen at one time. (There’s probably a separate post in exactly how I pull that off.) I’ve not been tempted at all for a second screen.

So after using this computer for a year I can attest that the screen remains awesome and drool-worthy. That probably isn’t much of a surprise.

The rest of the machine is no slouch either. I sprung for SSD storage when I purchased it. It stung when I had to pay for it but it’s been real nice every time I use it. For storage, I additionally have a Drobo G3 attached via USB 3. I keep the iTunes library and other cold storage on the Drobo but managed to keep the rest of my key data on the iMac’s SSD, including my Photos library.

This iMac replaced a six-year-old iMac and one thing I do miss is the inclusion of an optical drive. Not often, but on occasion a bit of optical data lands in my life and getting it into the system now requires me to track down the external optical drive that we share among the family. I understand the trade-off for getting rid of the optical drive was making the computer thinner and lighter (which are noble goals, particularly for portable computers). However, since installing the iMac on my desk, I’ve had no occasion to spin it on its side or lift it except when trying to plug something into a USB port, which are located on the back because of said thinness. In my case, I’d happily trade a little more weight and thickness to get an optical drive back.

There is so much to love about this computer. It is fast, quiet, and reliable. But above all, it has a gorgeous screen that I spend many hours a day looking at. Although it was my biggest technology purchase in several years, I don’t regret it in the slightest.