In light of Apple Silicon, should you buy the new Intel-based 2020 27-inch iMac?

It's a conundrum that dates back to the earliest days of computers. Do you buy the computer that's available today, or hold out for the promised wonderment of the future?
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Here's my quick answer. Do you need a new computer now? OK, then go buy one. Done. How's that for a quick article?

What? Do you want a more nuanced answer? Are you thinking about whether to part with thousands of dollars and want to understand the pros and cons? Well, in that case, go get yourself a cup of whatever pick-me-up you like to use to fire up the old brain cells. Sit down. Let's talk.

If Apple hadn't just announced its big move away from the Intel platform, the new 2020 27-inch iMac would be a bit of a home run, at least from the point of view of the configurable options.

A cornucopia of options

It can be configured with a whopping 8TB of onboard flash storage. You can opt for Apple's very impressive "nano-texture" glass 5K display, which does a great job of eliminating glare. You can order a 10-core i9 processor to really speed things up.

And wonder-of-wonders, not only can you configure up to 128GB of RAM, the access port is still on the back of the iMac, allowing you to add your own RAM. All by yourself, like the technically-savvy responsible adult that you are.

Sure, it's still in the long-chin, wide-bevel case that Apple has been selling for almost a decade. But that's a nit compared to what this thing can do, especially if you need serious "can do" from your computer.

But did you notice the ground shaking? That thunderous clump, clump, clump you're hearing and feeling in the core of your being is the elephant in the room...

But what about Apple Silicon?

Yeah. There it is. Big floppy ears, long trunk, tusks, and even the smell. It's a big elephant. And it changes everything.

Apple is dumping Intel in favor of its own, very impressive chip architecture. Expect higher performance, lower heat, better integration, and lower power/better battery life. Apple is bringing the processor technology that has turbo-powered its iPhone and iPad Pro line to Macs, and removing the constraints.

No longer does that tech have to fit inside a quarter-inch thick bezel and support 10 hours of battery. Sure, it has to go inside of Apple's laptop line, but it's also going to go inside of desktop machines with constant wall power and enough room for fans. They can take already blazingly powerful processors and open up the throttle to infinity and beyond.

So, why should you buy a writing-is-already-on-the-wall almost-obsolete-before-you-buy-it technology when Apple Silicon goodness is just around the corner? In fact, isn't buying an Intel Mac now simply foolish?

Maybe. And then again, maybe not.

It all depends on what you need

If you want some sort of inside view into technology=buying strategy, I'll share it with you here. Tech is bought for two reasons, and two reasons only: You need it, or you want it.

Sure, you can both need and want something, but let's think strategically and separate the two. I usually put items in the want category if they're items that would be nice to have. For years and years, I wanted a muscle car. But during the whole time, before I finally got one in an unabashed celebration of midlife, I simply needed a car.

See the difference? One was necessary for basic functioning. The other was cool.

Computing gear is like that. Sometimes we want a shiny new machine because it's shiny and new. Let's face it. The new 2020 27-inch iMac might technically be new. It might even glisten. But it's far from shiny and new. The design hasn't changed in nearly a decade.

I can't imagine anyone buying a 2020 Intel-based 27-inch iMac just because of want. I'd go so far as to say that if you don't truly need the machine now, don't buy it. Wait for the new hotness that's just around the corner.

But then there's need. A lot of people will need this machine. A lot of folks have real work to do that requires serious capacity and horsepower, and this machine delivers on that fully.

If you have coding or 3D modeling or high-res video or AR or VR or music or scientific analysis needs, this machine will do it for you. Absolutely no question.

So, if you need to get that work done, if you need to get that work done now, and you need to keep doing it for the next four or five years, just go ahead and buy this new iMac. Yes, Intel is being obsoleted, but that's irrelevant. If you have a need, a need for speed, get some speed.

But if you don't have a need right now, or if you want a machine that will stay current for a decade (which Macs can do), then you might want to wait until the Apple Silicon models come out. The 2020 Intel iMac is going to become obsolete within the next four or five years. So, if you don't need a machine sooner, wait until later.

This is one of the easiest choices Apple has presented. If you really need serious power and you need it right now, and you can afford the price, get it. If you don't, wait.

That's it. What do you think? Are you going to be plunking down your cold hard cash for a new iMac right now? Let us know in the comments below.

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