More hints in El Capitan suggest a smaller 4k iMac is on the way

Don't have $1,999 to drop on that 27-inch 5k iMac? You may have a smaller but less expensive option soon based on code in OS X El Capitan.

It's looking more likely that Apple will release new iMac computers with higher resolution screens in the coming months.

The latest beta version of El Capitan, OS X 10.11, was released to developers this week and code in the platform hints at 4k monitor support. The only thing is: Apple doesn't have any devices with such a resolution, indicating it's working on some.

Apple's iMac with Retina 5K display has a resolution of 5,120 by 2,880-pixels. Image: Apple

The likely candidate would be a refreshed 21.5-inch iMac since Apple's larger desktop is already offered with a 5k Retina Display.

This isn't the first such reference to a higher resolution iMac; in June, similar code snippets were found by 9to5 Mac pointing to a 4096 x 2304 Retina Display. Given that the support is appearing in El Capitan, which launches in a few months, it's likely that a new iMac with 4k screen support will arrive alongside the software, or not long after.

That would give potential buyers a less expensive iMac option with a Retina Display. The current 5k iMac and its 27-inch display has a starting price of $1,999. I'd expect a smaller version with 4k screen to be priced to start at $1,299 or so; a $200 premium over the existing non-Retina model.

It makes sense for Apple to bring the better screen tech to its smaller iMac. The company prides itself on bucking the trend when it comes to PC sales: While competitors are experience flat to lower sales, Mac sales have routinely grown in what many consider a "down" market.