My main work machine is a once top-of-the-line 2013 27-inch iMac that's been completely maxed out with 32GB RAM, a terabyte flash drive, and a once-powerful fourth generation Intel Mobile Core i7 Haswell processor. It's also got a GeForce GTX 780M with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory. In 2013, it was epic. Today, it's anemic as heck.
I've been holding off on upgrading this machine, waiting for Apple's latest Mac announcements. But last week's article by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes inspired me. He wrote about his fantasy feature list for a new iPad Pro. So I thought: what about a fantasy feature list for the iMac?
Now, to be clear, I'm differentiating the iMac from the iMac Pro. That means I'm not going into Xeon territory. I'm not going to suggest space gray. I'm not even going to recommend a video card. Instead, I'm going to ask this: what does it mean to be an iMac?
What does it mean to be an iMac?
Fundamentally, an iMac is a computer integrated with a screen. But since that also describes just about any notebook, the key factors are that the iMac is meant to sit on a desk and not a lap, while presenting a larger screen than would ever be practical in a mobile or notebook machine.
I've owned a bunch of iMacs over the years. At times, I found the integrated display useful. At other times, it felt more like an albatross than a help because it is large, heavy, and somehow still not as big as I'd like.
When Apple first introduced the iMac, it was a single box machine. It was about as true to the original vision of the first Macintosh as any Apple model could be. The monitor and computer chassis were integrated in one box. The keyboard and mouse connected separately.
Early beige Macs and the earliest iMacs could also be carried with one hand. They actually came with a handle grip on the top of the unit. This is no longer a characteristic of an iMac.
Today's iMac is, at least physically, nearly identical to iMacs going all the way back to the old 2005 G5 iMac. All iMacs since 2005 have had the same rectangular look with the Apple-logo chin. In 2007, Apple switched to aluminum, and the iMac had a silver look to it. Then, in 2012, Apple introduced the tapered design, which reduced the thickness of the edge of the screen.
A bigger screen
In thinking about a fantasy iMac, the screen needs to be the focal point. 21-inch and 27-inch screens are so 2009. I'd say that Apple should completely ditch the 21-inch screen, but that actually has a big market in schools. iMacs don't wander as easily as notebooks do, and the 21-inch screen is less expensive and easier to fit in tight classrooms.
But it's time to give up on the 27-inch screen in its 16:9 format. Today, we have ultrawide screens at a 21:9 format. LG has a 38-inch 3840x1600 beauty. Samsung and Dell even offer 32:9 super ultrawide screens at 49 inches wide.
Also: iMac Pro: A cheat sheet for professionals TechRepublic
ZDNet's Matt Miller said that a semi-truck had to deliver his Samsung super ultrawide on a pallet. Apple might be all about making big splashes, but I'll bet they'd draw the line on products that have to be delivered by 18-wheeler.
My fantasy iMac would be built around that 38-inch LG screen. Apple already uses LG screens in its iMacs, so something like that wouldn't be much of a stretch (pun intended).
A much bigger screen would vastly increase the productivity possible for iMac users and would move the desktop into the modern world.
Make it tilt and use the Pencil
Two years ago, when Microsoft announced its first generation Surface Studio, I said it took my breath away. I still think it's the machine Apple should have made. It's ideal for artists because it so replicates the tilting art desks that illustrators have used for years.
Apple has repeatedly said that it doesn't think a touch screen is appropriate for Macs. This is despite the proven popularity (and proven manufacturability) of touch screens on a wide range of Windows models.
But when you have a device as well received as the Apple Pencil, and a tilting screen as compelling as the Surface Studio, why not marry them together? Why not create an iMac with a tilting screen that is not touch capable, but does work with the Pencil? It would be ideal. I want it.
Walking the fine line between iMac and iMac Pro
I'd say that it's time for the iMac to have a lot more RAM, a 10 gigabit Ethernet port, and a higher performance video card, but at some point, we're moving into iMac Pro territory and Apple seems to want to keep the two products separate.
So, rather than ask for all those capabilities, I'm willing to compromise. If Apple produced a 38-inch wide, 21:9 iMac that tilted like a Surface Studio and worked with the Apple Pencil, I'd be very happy indeed. My wallet? Probably not so much.
In any case, stay tuned. I sincerely doubt we'll see my vision introduced next week at Apple's mysterious event, but one can dream.
What about you? If Apple built the perfect iMac for your work or artistic dreams, what would its feature list contain? Do you agree with my wish list? Let us know in the comments below.
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