Imagining the Retina iMacs and Cinema Displays


The iMac with Retina Display


As you can see with my mock-up, I predict that the new iMac will look more like the Cinema Display with no chin. The Apple logo will be removed a la RMBP. The aluminum back will remain. I also predict that it will be much thinner. Right now, The back bulges about 2" on the current iMac at the thickest point. I think Apple will remove the rounded back and replace it with a flat 1" deep back. What will have to go to make it thinner? Not the disk drive if that is what you were thinking. The .8" thick 3.5" HDD will have to be replaced by SSD. Apple could remove the disk drive to speed its move to obsolete status, but it is not necessary in this form factor.


I believe that they will release the Retina iMacs at the same price as the current high end iMacs only, while keeping a cheap non-retina "classic" iMacs at the bottom. Also, I think that Apple will stick with AMD for mobile graphics in the iMacs, because the 660M and 670M that they would have to use with Nvidia isn't a smart choice, although if they went with desktop graphics, they would choose Nvidia.

For example:

21.5" iMac "classic style"


1920 x 1080p

Underclocked 2.8 GHz Core i5-3550P

AMD 7850M 1GB

4GB 1600 MHz RAM


Options to upgrade everything except CPU and GPU

21.5" iMac "Retina"


3840 x 2160p (aka 4k)

3.1 GHz Core i5-3550P

AMD 7870M 1GB

8GB 1600 MHz RAM


27" iMac "classic style"


2560 x 1440p

3.1 GHz Core i5-3550P

AMD 7870M 1GB

8GB 1600 MHz RAM


(Notice how technically, this machine would costs less due to no SSD, but costs more to encourage buying Retina)

The Lower End Retina 27" iMac


5120 x 2880p (is this 5k?)

3.1 GHz Core i7-3770S

AMD 7970M 2GB

8GB 1600 MHz RAM

256GB SSD x2 for a total of 512GB

The Ultimate Retina iMac


5120 x 2880p

3.4 GHz Core i7-3770

AMD 7970M 2GB

16GB 1600 MHz RAM (Option for 32 GB RAM for $300)

512GB SSD + 256GB SSD = 768GB (option for 512GB SSD x2 for $500)

Why do I think these prices are reasonable? Because Apple has shown that they want as many people on Retina as possible. They intentionally make the prices of the Retina the same as last gen. (ie. iPhone, iPad, RMBP) while keeping up and even surpassing the alternatives in specs (RMBP). They will give you the choice for non-retina classic style, but you would be foolish to not get a Retina. I would never expect Apple to give a choice about whether or not you want to be dragged into the future, but I guess after looking at the prices, they are really giving you no choice. They could cut their margins on the classic iMacs, but what they are doing is essentially forcing you into buying Retina. The more Retina Macs, the more Retina apps as well.

Time Frame

The only question is whether they are coming this year or next. Here is why I think they are coming this year.

1. No Mac Pro until next year.

What is the perfect way to calm Pros down and give them a reason not to run to cheaper, more powerful Win/Linux boxes? Inspire them by releasing a machine to tide them over until the Mac Pros arrive and to prove that Apple is serious about Pros. I can see the tag line already: Edit 4k video with over 6 million pixels left over for the UI. With Apple's pseudo resolution independence, this would be a boon for creative pros and would usher in the future.

2. The 7970 2GB can handle the pixels.

15 million pixels sounds impossible to push. But we have been able to do high res for a long time but no one has had any incentive to try it. Heck, the 3 million pixel 2048 x 1536 QXGA monitor was first released in the early 90's. After 20 years, we can most certainly push 5 times that many pixels. The 7970 can definitely handle it, and the performance will be even better than the RMBP (HD graphics vs. 7970). Many games will be playable (they won't have the assets though), and the rest can be played at lower non-native.

3. The Retina Push

Pretty self-explanatory. Apple wants everyone on Retina displays. More developers will pay more attention to creating Retina apps. Most importantly, if Apple gets there first, they will have the supply chain locked down forever and the displays will only get cheaper for them. IGZO is right around the corner.

4. A large desktop machine doesn't have a battery and doesn't have to deal with physics problem as much.

This may seem like a simple point, but it is important. There are no battery life concerns and less heat concerns. Even with a thinner chassis, the Ivy Bridge processors are much cooler and efficient than their predecessors, and the 7970 is much cooler and has a better idle draw than the 6970.

The Cinema Display

Surprise! The image you saw above will the Retina Cinema Display as well, except thinner! This means an iMac will be able to hook up to a Cinema display and from the front, they are identical. Perfect for all the OCD people like me who want this.

Final Thoughts

There is one hint that ruins my parade - nothing in 10.8.0 indicate support for these resolutions, but 10.8.1/10.8.2 could. Heres to hoping that something will be found.

What are your thoughts? Am i on base or off?