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Hands on: The new 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display shows stunning detail

Susie Ochs | Oct. 17, 2014
Apple rolls out its biggest Retina display ever, with 14.7 million pixels across 27 inches of bright, beautiful screen.

imac 5k final cut pro

We live in a high-resolution world--our phones have been shooting HD video for years, and 4K-capable cameras are finally within reach of regular consumers. And now Apple's new iMac with Retina 5K display will let you push those pixels with maximum efficiency. With a native resolution of 5120x2880 pixels, this iMac shows a ridiculous amount of detail in everything you look at.

In the hands-on area at Apple HQ, I saw the new 27-inch iMac editing 4K video in pixel-for-pixel resolution, with enough room left on the screen for all of Final Cut Pro's toolbars and controls. Final Cut Pro wasn't even running full screen--in the photo below, notice the Dock still hogging some space along the bottom. Not bad.

imac retina final cut pro
SUSIE OCHS. Editing 4K video in full resolution, with plenty of room for Final Cut Pro's tools, and even Yosemite's Dock along the bottom

I also saw some 4K photos displayed at full-resolution in iPhoto. You can see individual strands of fur on close-up puppy portraits, and the hair-thin barbs on the feathers of an owl. If you take detailed photos of cities, beaches, and crowds, you'll appreciate being able to fit so much on the screen at per-pixel accuracy.

Zooming in and out was quick and smooth thanks to the base model's 3.5GHz quad-core i5 processor. I only got to play with iPhoto and Final Cut briefly, but in that time--and while watching an Apple rep whip through her demos--the dreaded rainbow beach ball was nowhere to be seen.

imac dog
SUSIE OCHS.This puppy looks pretty blown away. 

The iMac's screen is bright from edge to edge, and shows great color saturation even when looking at it from an angle. Other displays with this kind of resolution depend on two timing controllers, or TCONs--think of a TCON like the brains of the display, sending instructions to the individual pixels. Apple designed its own TCON for this iMac, so a single controller can drive all 14.7 million pixels.

If you bought Dell's 5K monitor, which has the same 5120x2880 resolution, and connected it to your Mac Pro, you'd need two DisplayPort connections for its two TCONs. If this iMac were just a display, you'd only need one connection--but of course it's a whole computer, so you need zero. Oh, and starting at $2500, that whole computer is the same price as that Dell 5K display, too. At least until Dell is forced to drop its prices to save face.


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