Farewell, Big iMac

In Jason Snell’s (excellent, as usual) review of the new M3 24” iMac, he reports on the currently-non-existent large iMac: “Apple told me that it has no plans to develop a 27-inch iMac again.”

Apple said the same thing to The Verge.

I have received many emails and messages from listeners and Labs members wanting to get a large iMac and asking how long they will have to wait. Based on this reporting, my answer will be, “Don’t wait; it’s not coming.”

I used to be a large iMac guy. I owned several of them over the years. If they released one today, I would not be interested. I’ve found I prefer the new world of separate computers and displays. My current display (a Pro Display XDR) has now worked with three different Macs. While there’s a higher cost going in, I think the math works out over time. Moreover, you can avoid that higher cost if you buy a non-Apple display.

When you look at the Mac compared to the iPhone, it is a blip on the Apple product line. Moreover, I expect if we had the numbers, you’d find that desktop Macs are but a blip compared to laptop Macs. So, when it comes to desktop Macs, we’re talking about a blip of a blip. I can understand why Apple doesn’t want to spend the time and resources to make a large iMac.

In hindsight, their messaging on this has been pretty straightforward: They view the 24-inch iMac as halfway between the little one and the big one and good enough for an iMac. I bought my daughter (a teacher) an M1 iMac as a graduation present (in yellow!). She loves it. I asked if she thinks it should be bigger, and she declined, “It fits perfectly on my desk.”

If you want something bigger, they want you to buy a Mac mini or Mac Studio along with one of their displays. Many people will not be happy with this decision but that is the reality. That doesn’t mean Apple isn’t capable of changing its mind. Remember when they got out of the display business? But if you need new hardware, I would not plan on waiting for that day.

I don’t think Apple is being coy. I think they view themselves as out of the big iMac business.

A Few Thoughts on Apple’s “Scary Fast” Event and Announcements

Last night, Apple did a prime-time event where they shared a little news and some new hardware. I’ve got a few thoughts:

  • The 5:00 P.M. Pacific start time was a brain-bender for me. As I went through the day, I kept forgetting there was still an Apple Event later. Is this what it always feels like in Europe?
  • I’ve already heard complaints about the fact the event was only 30 minutes. I liked it. They didn’t have more to say. They didn’t add fluff or silly demos. In. Out. Thank you very much.
  • I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I’ve always felt Johny Srouji is just kind of scary. It’s those eyes. So, of course, on a Halloween-adjacent announcement, he starts, “Welcome to my lab!”. I love that he leans into it.
  • We got M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max all in one go. I hope that is the way of the future. I’d expect the M3 Ultra sometime next year (along with MacBook Air, Mac Studio, and Mac Pro).
  • The graphics sounds like the big winner here. If you are doing graphics-heavy work, this may be for you.
  • We got M3 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros. It appears the 13-inch MacBook Pro is now gone. In its place is a 14-inch MacBook Pro with an entry-level M3 chip. That’s a win. If you loved the Touch Bar, I’m sorry.
  • We also got news of an updated 24” iMac with the M3 chip. Same colors. Same form-factor. Just faster. I sure would have liked them to announce an M3 Pro iMac with a bigger screen to go along with it. I hear from a lot of people that want a Mac like that.
  • I expected the peripherals to all switch over to USB-C. However, it looks like that’s not happening yet.
  • Apple makes the M3 sound like a significant improvement. They are trying to convince remaining Intel chip owners and even leaning a bit on M1 users. If you’re in that second category and your M1 iMac s fine, don’t worry about it. The M1-equipped Macs are still really great computers.

Now, we can say Apple is done for the year. Before you know it, we’ll be in 2024, which will be all about the Vision Pro.

The Rumor Mill Winds Up Again

Mark Gurman’s Power On newsletter is starting to hint at upcoming Apple products. Notable among them:

A Big iMac

An Apple silicon 30+ inch iMac may be in the works. My guess would be the love child between a souped-up Mac mini and a larger Studio Display. Now that I’ve separated my Mac from my display, this one is not for me, but if my email inbox is any indication, there are many people looking for something like this.

A Second-Generation Apple Watch

I would expect the Apple Watch Ultra to get yearly updates. I don’t see how they can keep selling them as the top-tier Apple Watch if they don’t. My wish for this product would be a smaller-sized version. I know plenty of folks with smaller wrists that would like an Apple Watch Ultra.

P.S. I love my Apple Watch Ultra.

Some Friendly Advice if You Were Waiting for a 27-inch iMac

With last week’s event, many of us got some great news about Apple Silicon and the new Mac Studio family. However, it was not all sunshine and daisies for everyone. There were a lot of folks waiting for a new 27-inch iMac with Apple Silicon. It seemed pretty clear from the event that Apple has no intention of releasing such a Mac, at least in the immediate future. To put a point on it, Apple confirmed to Ars Technica that the “27-inch iMac has reached end of life.” Yikes.

So if you were counting on getting a new 27-inch iMac, you’re out of luck. However, I have some advice for you, depending on where you were on the 27-inch iMac spectrum.

The Low Power but Big Screen Users

A particular group of iMac users wasn’t looking for extraordinary power but wanted a basic Mac with a big screen. The 27-inch iMac was perfect for this. They had an entry-level model that you could buy and have that big beautiful 5K screen with an entirely sufficient, but not particularly powerful, Mac bolted to the back of it.

This crowd is going to have the most challenging time going forward. There are some options, though.

The M1 Mac mini and a Studio Display

The M1 Apple Silicon Mac mini is an excellent computer. It benchmarks favorably against the Intel MacBook Pro (which was a lot more expensive), and you can use it to do serious computer work. I used this Mac to render a lot of 4K videos before getting my MacBook Pro. Put simply, the M1 Mac mini is no slouch. My biggest gripe is the memory limitation of 16GB. But if you are not a power user, 16GB is probably enough for you.

You can get a Mac mini with 16GB of RAM for $900. That plus a Studio Display ($1,600) will set you back $2,500. That’s more than the old entry-level 27-inch iMac, but it would be a very nice setup. Moreover, you could later upgrade the Mac mini and keep the display making it a much less costly upgrade. If you are not picky about your displays (I very much am), you could save substantially by skipping the Studio Display and getting a third-party display.

The M2 Mac mini and a Studio Display

If the RAM limitations of the M1 Mac mini are of concern, I’d recommend waiting. An M2 Mac mini is coming at some point in the next year. I expect that will deliver more power and be in the same price range as the above setup, just more power (and hopefully more RAM).

The 24-inch iMac

I know this isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, but the 24 inch iMac is a great Mac with Apple Silicon and an excellent built-in Apple display. For the foreseeable future, it’s the only iMac, and if you want an all-in-one from Apple, this is it.

The iMac Pro Users

If you were holding off for a more powerful 27 inch iMac or an iMac Pro, you’re in luck. The new system is better in my opinion. By separating the components, you can get one display that you can use over multiple computers. If you decide to upgrade your computer later, you don’t need to get a new screen.

Moreover, the Mac studio is a beast, and I think you’re going to love it as a replacement for something like an iMac Pro. If you’re a power user, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. I would just order a Mac Studio and a Studio Display today.

Will the 27-inch iMac Ever Return?

Apple’s statement to Ars Technica above seemed pretty definitive. “End-of-life” However, in the most recent episode of Upgrade, Jason Snell and John Siracusa (two of the most respected voices on questions like this) both seem to think it will come back at some point in the future. I hope they are right for the sake of everyone who wanted one. That said, in a hypothetical world where I am getting a new desktop Mac and the 27-inch iMac is again magically available, I’d buy the Mac Studio and Studio Display.

Rumors Growing for Colorful iMacs

Colorful iMacs.jpg

As the Tuesday event approaches, there are increasing rumors of the release of colorful iMacs. 9to5 Mac collects all of the rumors nicely.

I, for one, would love to see Apple add some more whimsey to their products, and colorful iMacs would be an excellent start. (If I were in charge, I’d also bring back the rainbow logo on at least some products.) Looking at the rumor images, my only complaint is they aren’t going bold enough. Forget about the pastels; go for the bold colors. Remember how everyone loved their colorful iMacs back in the day? It’s time for more of that.

The iMac Update

Apple released an update to the iMac today. I’d rate this one as “slightly more” than a speed bump.

  • The processors are now 10th generation Intel CPU’s for all models.

  • Spinning drives are gone … almost. There is no model sold solely with a spinning drive. The low end is a 256GB SSD. Although the Fusion drive still lives.

  • The FaceTime camera is upgraded to the same 1080p camera in the iMac Pro. I’ve shot video for some of the Field Guides with that camera. It’s a nice upgrade, particularly during these strange times.

  • The iMac now has the T2 chip. Hooray.

  • You can spec the RAM up to 128GB and the storage up to 8TB (for just an additional $2,400.00).

Overall, a nice update. It’s nice to see Apple giving spec-bump updates to its hardware. That said, there are lots of rumors about a redesign of the iMac in the pipeline. I’m guessing that will arrive with the first Silicon iMacs. IF it is going to be a touch screen, wouldn’t it be cool if they put it on a hinge like the Microsoft Surface Studio?

If you need a new iMac, these look great. If you can wait, I can’t help but think things will get interesting later on.

The New iMac and the iMac Pro

Today Jason Snell released his iMac review. I like this review for several reasons. First, he reviewed a high-end iMac, not the entry level machine as people so often do. Second, Jason uses an iMac Pro daily.

I’m often asked by readers and listeners exactly where the cutoff point is between the high-end iMac and the low end iMac Pro. With Jason’s insight and familiarity with both machines, we finally have an excellent resource. In addition to the performance trade-offs, Jason also covers some of the new technologies included in the iMac Pro which still have yet to make their way down to the iMac line. Those differences are substantial. I explained how I love my iMac Pro at length on my gear page. I still feel the same.

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.