Wall Street Journal reviews Apple iMac Retina 5K: ‘Oh boy, will you want one’

“I love using a desktop computer to write, surf and create, but I’ve had a nagging suspicion that they’re going away. Who needs a desktop in a world with laptops, tablets and even phones that are just as capable?” Geoffrey A. Fowler writes for The Wall Street Journal. “Last week Apple introduced a new kind of desktop iMac that changed my mind. The new computer is similar in shape and capability to last year’s iMac, except for one amazing feature: It packs four times the resolution into its 27-inch Retina screen. Because it has so many pixels—14.7 million, in fact—you’ll never need to think about pixels again.”

“Priced at $2,500 and up, you don’t need this new iMac—standard 27-inch iMacs start at $700 less. But oh boy will you want one, particularly if you spend time working with digital photos or videos. Using the Retina iMac lets you see, for the first time, every pixel you’ve captured all at once. And even if you’re just buried in spreadsheets and Web pages, it feels like putting on a new pair of glasses. The Retina iMac makes type, icons and images look like they’ve been printed on the screen,” Fowler writes. “The Retina iMac has 67% more pixels than even 4K, with a 5120×2880-pixel resolution known as 5K.”

Apple's stunning 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K Display
Apple’s stunning 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K Display

“The moment the Retina iMac became valuable to me was when I opened one of my favorite photos of Rome and realized, for the first time, it’s actually out of focus! Maybe I’m not as good a photographer as I’d thought. But at least now I have the tools to sharpen things up,” Fowler writes. “My biggest worry was that the computer would choke while trying to drive all those millions of pixels. But performance wasn’t a problem in my tests loading giant images in Photoshop, flicking through a field of previews in Adobe Lightroom or editing 4K video in Final Cut Pro. I tested the $2,499 base configuration, which has a speedy 3.5Ghz Intel Core i5 processor, Radeon graphics chip and ultrafast Fusion Drive. ”

Much more in the full review here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Scott M.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Preliminary performance analysis: Apple’s new iMac with Retina 5K display – October 21, 2014
Tim Bajarin: Apple’s iMac with Retina 5K display is a game changer – October 18, 2014
Apple’s matchless iMac with Retina 5K display is its most expensive ever – October 18, 2014
Apple introduces stunning 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K Display – October 16, 2014


  1. I still have my first generation retina MacBook Pro and I’m still impressed with the speed and am still amazed by the resolution. I think a retina 27″ iMac would be amazing but after using laptops for years, my head would probably come loose just looking over all that desktop space.

    Nevertheless, I envy the people who have the neck muscles and wallet to get one.

    This is where hi definition really makes sense. When you’re up close and personal to a screen like that, the tiny pixels are really useful, not across a room where both 1080p and 4K are almost identical.

  2. I so do want one, but until they add the capability for it to act as an external display again, even if not at the maximum res, then I can’t consider it. I travel for work quite a bit at the moment, so need both a big screen to connect my Retina MBP to when I’m working from home and a computer for my partner to use when away. Maybe the 21″ version, if they release it, will offer the best of both worlds. I certainly hope so.

    1. You can’t use it as an external display until the new Display Port 1.3 standard is available with Intel’s Broadwell chips – probably next year.

      Display Port 1.2 can’t carry enough bandwidth to handle that many pixels at full refresh rate, which is why even MacPro users can’t take advantage of 5K monitors. I think Dell is working around it by using two Display Port channels to split the signal on their 5K monitors but apparently the result is far from ideal.

      So it’s not Apple being obstructionist or somehow laggardly in not releasing a 5K Thunderbolt Display, it’s just that Intel has fallen behind in providing the necessary silicon to enable them.

      1. Yes, but apparently you can easily adjust the resolution and therefore connection at the ‘best possible’ resolution is better than being unable to use the screen and therefore requiring 2 screens on your desk.

    2. Sorry to self-promote, but you can use the new Mac as an external display with our Air Display app, in the Mac App Store. Air Display for Mac lets you connect via Ethernet or Wi-Fi to use any Mac as a second (or third or fourth) monitor for another Mac. (Air Display for iOS lets you use an iPad as a Mac monitor.)

      In your case, you’d want to run the Air Display client on the iMac, and install the free Air Display host drivers on your Retina MBP. And no, we haven’t yet tested on a new iMac. But it should work, just not at full resolution.

  3. I have my new 5K setting next to my 2012 iMac. I cannot tell much difference at all. I have only had about 3 hours but the resolution does not seem to be anything special. Perhaps it is that I cannot select the resolution like I can on the 2012 one. All it seems is I can set the 5K at “Best for display” and seems to be 2560 x 1440 just like older iMac. I am missing something I guess. Tomorrow I have appt at Apple Store so maybe I can learn something there. The 5K is beautiful but only difference I am seeing is a little less reflection. Both iMacs have same specs except for screen resolution.

    1. Yes, you are missing something. Choose the other option and it will give you a choice of what resolution to set it to. Choose the higher 5120×2880 resolution and then you will have more space on your desktop. Even at the resolution you have it at, it should look sharper.

      1. Uh, I do not see any choices. “Best for display” and Scaled are the only choice. Scaled shows boxes of text. I pick one and get “looks like” and have choice of 2600 x 900 to 3200 x1800. That is all I see in Display in System Prefs. Help me please, I feel lost.

      1. Nope. Holding down either or both changes nothing. Seems strange to me the big selling point is super resolution, but you cannot access it. When I visit store tomorrow I will post the answer here. If ther is an answer. I may take it back if not. $3400 for basically the same as my old iMac is not what I was after.

    2. I’m surprised you can’t see the difference, especially when reading text. I just had to do without my retina MacBook Pro for a couple of days (which I keep at best for retina) and was stuck using my 11″ MacBook air which I believe has the highest DPI of any non-Retina display and I could easily see the difference in text.

      1. What I do see is text is a bit sharper. If I zoom both dispays in to large size With a magnifying glas I see the pixels clearly on 2012. But zooming way way in on 5K there is no pixel pattern at all. Now that is amazing.

        1. If you go to the higher resolutions you’ll just get smaller text and smaller icons. On the MacBook Pro I can go to 1920 x1200 which makes for a lot of room on the desktop but menus and icons become hard to read. I keep it at best for display, which looks beautiful but really shines when running a program like Photoshop. All your menus and toolbars are perfectly visible but the graphic that you’re working on is at full resolution.

          Personally I think that’s the best way to use the display. Keep it easy to read but use software that makes use of the high-resolution where necessary.

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