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Apple first unveil the current slim unibody design in a October 2012 event. This design has more or less stay the same for 9 years, which means around 100 years in the IT world. Since those 9 years, the iPhone has gone around 8 iterations, the camera system has been improved by leaps and bounds, networking and processing power has managed to grow geometrically while the design has gotten more and more sleek. All these while, the design in 2012 is pretty much similar to the one in 2021. While the internals has been updated at least every year or every other year, it does not have the same amount of improvement like the iPhone does with their A-series chipsets and Apple own care and attention to detail.
So, April is underway and there are more and more rumors about the Apple event scheduled for this month which includes the long overdue iMac update. Here we will predict what is going to happen to the iMac and imagine the technologies that the M-series will finally bring to the iMac platform.
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The desktop of today occupies a different space than the laptop today. Laptop in the past was compromised computing solution that brings a portion of the power of the desktop. Today, laptops outclass most workload and it is a work horse by it is own right. The desktop of today, is the one for people who need more firepower and the thermal sink that a laptop might not cut it. So while the laptop is powerful enough for almost everybody to do their respective work, the desktop is split into two main categories: people who need a cheap computing solution and people who need to more powerful computing solution. Most crowd in the first group has now gone to the laptop ways since laptops are getting good enough and cheap enough for most people. So the new iMac must be a powerhouse that allows the user to achieve what ever that is needed to achieve. In Steve Jobs immortalized words: “The Computer is basically the bicycle for your mind.” And the iMac is the all-purpose pick-up truck that you use for work.
It is expected there will be a new design for the iMac which reflects the future of all Apple product. One just need to see the latest from Apple to see where this is heading. Most rumors are pointing out that the new iMac will have a design similar to the Retina Display XDR. This will be mostly true, but I expect the chassis will be thinner than the XDR since it would not need as much cooling as the XDR.
The constraints that Apple have to work with is that the the current iMac pricing starts at $1299* for the 21.5-inch and $1799 for the 27-inch. There might be some pricing latitude when the new iMac launch with new sizes but expect it will be in the $100 to $200 range. There will be significant saving from moving to the M-series platform since most of the components will be integrated but the money will be spent on a new screen, a possible new authentication method and other components.
*Although there’s a $1099, the specs is very low that it’s meant for the education market than consumer market.
The M1 chip is truly a revolutionary game changer in the world of game changers. Consuming around 10 to 15 watts, the chip can out punch even a gaming chip that costs almost $600. Not bad considering you get an entire system for $600. In what is to be the final Intel iMac, that computer can have a 10-core Intel Core i9 chip which allows 128GB of RAM, a discreet graphics which has around 16GB of RAM, an option to put 8TB of SSD storage and drives a 5K 27-inch monitor. Quite impressive specs, but for the new iMac to truly shine, it not only has to match these specs, but beat them by a wide margin as well.
Currently, most M1 Macs has dual Thunderbolt 4 ports with dual USB-A port, can support a 6K screen, 802.11an networking, and around 16GB of RAM. Contrast with the current 2020 iMac which has dual Thunderbolt ports, 4 USB-A ports, 10GB Ethernet + 802.11n. The M1 can almost match the performance of the iMac except for the memory configurations. What is most amazing that how small the M1 board will be compared to the current board on the iMac. Expect the new board will be much simpler than then current board with almost every component integrated into a SOC.
It is expected that the iMac will feature a new M1 chip dubbed the M1X chip. If cpu-monkey is anything to go by, it will have a bigger memory support at 32GB. Based on Apple supplier Hynix, we already know that the M1 uses LPDDR4 modules which right now has support up to 64GB. To achieve 128GB that it needs for the ultimate iMac, Apple might introduce LPDDR5 which is supported in competitor chipset like the SnapDragon 888. We also know that suppliers like Micron has LPDDR5 which allow support up to 96GB RAM in production. So expect 128GB RAM support is not far away.
Since the M1X will feature a bigger die with more execution cores, graphics cores and possibly neural cores, expect the performance especially on multi-threaded workload will shine through. Expect the ports count will match or exceed the current iMac.
Will the FaceID, which was first introduced in the iPhone and later the iPad Pro will finally make it debut on the new iMac? We hope so. One of the major complaints about the current iMac that for all the improvements that is made on the iMac over the years, the iSight camera seems to be stuck in the 2011. On the current iPhone, the FaceID array utilized a 12MP camera capable of 4K streaming unlike the current FaceTime HD camera that only support 720p. A FaceID array will be a welcome addition on the new iMac.
The most important thing on the iMac is the display. It’s the biggest single component, the most complicated, most expensive and delicate part of the entire iMac. The current iMac employs a 5K 27-inch display. One of the innovations that Apple has to make is a custom timing controller to make the 5K display possible.
There has been talk since forever that Apple is trying to incorporate Mini LED into their display. Mini LEDs are the tiny back light behind the color substrate of an LCD panel. The big feature about having Mini LED back lights is that you will have thousands of dimming zones instead of tens in most monitor / TVs so you can localize the contrast zone. What this means is the mini LEDs will make the picture more vivid as there is less bleeding on the images which is more pronounced in space movies where there’s a huge contrast between the blackness of space and the often white spaceship.
Another rumor that has been flying around that the new iMac will introduce new display sizes. Currently, there are two sizes in the iMac lineup: 21.5-inch and 27-inch monitors. I expect this will grow to 24-inch and at least 32-inch. The 24-inch has been a common size in desktop computing for a while and Apple currently ships a 32-inch Pro Display XDR. It would not have the same quality of the XDR but I expect Apple would stream line their monitor sizes so it will look sleek on the desk. Plus, the size ratio between 32-inch and 24-inch maintain the same ratio of 27-inch vs 21.5-inch. Apple for one, would love to be consistent.
Nano-Texture is an option on the current iMac. It was first introduced in the Pro Display XDR as an advance anti-glare feature. It has a unique layer on the monitor which prevents glare by having a different etch on the glass itself to scatter light instead of reflecting it. Traditionally, anti-glare matte finish is achieve by adding an extra layer on top of the monitor which usually degrade the display’s performance. I expect this will be an option for the new iMac as well.
A technology that people are waiting for Apple to implement is micro LED on their monitors. Currently, Samsung has a microLED display dubbed ‘The Wall’. It’s a massive 219-inch TV, which comes in panels if you so inclined to split it in a few ways. Intended for businesses or super rich people, such technology is not expected to trickle down to Apple consumer level display anytime soon.
Keyboard and Pointing Display
The new iMac Keyboard and Mouse is not expected to change much. There’s a possibility to have a Touch Bar on the keyboard, but battery life will be a major issue which can add a significant amount of cost. It will be useful to have it though. Touch ID would be nice on the iMac but this will cause a few issue mainly pairing the wireless keyboard to the iMac and other devices. Apple sell the keyboard as a stand alone device meant to be use with other Apple computers like a Mac Mini or MacBook Pro.
The new iMac, without a doubt, will be a solid performer when it comes out. All this from analysis of the M1 chipset, the technology stack available to Apple and which has been showcased in their iPhone and iPad Pro offerings. We are excited of the art of possible in the future iMac
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