When will Apple release new iMacs, and what tech specs and new features should we expect from the updated iMacs for 2017? We round up the rumours about new iMacs coming in March, including the theory that new iMacs will feature AMD Radeon Polaris graphics chips and might even be VR-ready, and the possibility that Apple is preparing to switch from Intel to AMD processors
Apple’s last iMac update came back in October 2015, when it introduced a Retina-class screen resolution to the smaller Macs for the first time and equipped the larger models with new Skylake processor chips.
Before that, you had to go back more than two years – if you don’t include the cheaper iMac which Apple launched in June 2014 – to the last proper new iMac update, in September 2013, when Apple added Haswell processors, new graphics, next-gen Wi-Fi and faster PCIe flash storage options.
It’s been a while, then, which is why we’re looking ahead to the next iMac launch – an early-2017 iMac update, hopefully. In this article we round up all the speculation about Apple’s next iMac update: when new iMacs will be released in the UK, new iMac prices, tech specs and new features to expect, any leaked photos and videos that appear online, and all the other new iMac rumours that are fit to print.
New iMac 2017 release date, price & specs rumours: Launch date
When will new iMacs come out? Next month (March 2017), we hope, but nothing official has been announced yet.
The Best Buy leak discussed in the processor section of this article, which emerged at the start of October 2016, strongly suggests that the retailer has had advance warning of an imminent launch and posted a listing slightly too early by mistake – although it’s also possible that this was a speculative listing created on the basis that it would probably be needed at some point.
New iMac 2017 release date: Apple CEO hints at future of the iMac
In a rare Q&A session on Apple’s internal employee network, Apple CEO Tim Cook gave an interesting response to a question about the future of the Mac, specifically mentioning the 5K iMac in his response. According to a transcript obtained by TechCrunch, an unknown Apple employee asked Cook: “We had a big MacBook Pro launch in October and a powerful upgrade to the MacBook back in Spring. Are Mac desktops strategic for us?”
Interestingly, it’s what Cook didn’t mention in his response that suggests what Apple is planning for the future. In response, Cook wrote the following:
“The desktop is very strategic for us. It’s unique compared to the notebook because you can pack a lot more performance in a desktop – the largest screens, the most memory and storage, a greater variety of I/O, and fastest performance. So there are many different reasons why desktops are really important, and in some cases critical, to people.
“The current generation iMac is the best desktop we have ever made and its beautiful Retina 5K display is the best desktop display in the world. Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we’re committed to desktops. If there’s any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.”
If you look closely, Cook veers away from using the word “Mac” in his response. Considering it’s the name of Apple’s oldest product line, you would think it’d get more of a mention in a question about the company’s desktop lineup.
Granted, he does mention desktop computers several times, but never the name of the hardware, apart from one exception – the 5K iMac, which hasn’t been updated in over a year. Essentially, Cook was asked whether Mac desktops were strategic, and he answered that desktops were important.
A report from Bloomberg might explain why Cook responded in this way, with keen Apple watcher Mark Gurman claiming that Apple has reorganised its software engineering department, meaning there’s no longer a team dedicated to macOS – instead, engineers work on both iOS and macOS.
He continues to claim that the Mac has been generally de-prioritised within the company, and that Mac engineers no longer get much attention from the company’s industrial design team, which was until 2015 led by design chief Jony Ive, allegedly focussing more on iPhones and iPads.
This suggests, to us at least, that while Apple is imagining a future where desktops are still being produced, they might not feature the iconic Mac branding. Could Apple be working on a macOS/iOS hybrid to launch as the ultimate desktop experience? With the astonishing number of iOS apps compared to macOS apps, it may be a smart investment for the company, but only time will tell.
New iMac 2017 release date: What does previous launch history tell us?
The last iMac update was in October 2015.
Apple’s yearly cycle is built around three major press events: autumn – usually September (new iPhones and iPads); spring – usually March (new iPhones and iPads, sometimes MacBooks and watches); and summer – usually June (WWDC – operating system updates, and occasional hardware).
But that doesn’t mean the company stays quiet the rest of the year. Mac updates can be folded into the big three events, but they’re often launched at their own smaller launch events. The iMac update in 2015 got its own announcement, a few weeks after the iPhone 6s reveal.
But bear in mind that, unlike the yearly or event twice-yearly update events we’re used to for iOS devices, desktop Mac refreshes have frequently come several years apart. WWDC 2017 (which will take place from 5-9 June this year – here’s how to get WWDC tickets) is therefore a possibility, and we may have to wait even longer than that.
New iMac 2017 release date, price & specs rumours: Tech specs
We’ll add leaked details about the tech specs of the new iMacs to this section as we hear them. Here’s what we know so far.
New iMac 2017 specs: Processor
Apple skipped Intel’s much-delayed Broadwell processors and went straight from Haswell to Skylake for the 2015 update. Skylake uses the same 14nm manufacturing process as Broadwell, but brings even greater CPU and GPU performance, along with reduced power consumption. But what chips will appear in the next set of iMacs?
Clearly that will depend on their launch date and the hardware that’s available at the time. After 2015’s Skylake, the next round of Intel processors, which started going into mass production in late 2016 and is still being rolled out, is Kaby Lake; this will be followed by Cannonlake (Cannonlake was due to be next, but it’s been delayed until the second half of 2017). Then Ice Lake in 2018 and Tiger Lake in 2019, for those who enjoy this sort of thing.
Kaby Lake uses a 14nm process, same as Broadwell and Skylake, but Cannonlake switches over to a more accurate 10nm process.
Intel started shipping its Kaby Lake processors in July 2016, and the chips offer support for Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 and DisplayPort 1.2. It’s therefore now possible that Apple will squeeze Kaby Lake chips into the next iMac update, but by no means guaranteed, given Apple’s past behaviour.
In early January, Intel used CES 2017 in Las Vegas to introduce its Kaby Lake processors officially, after announcing low power versions of Kaby Lake processors in August of 2016. The chips shown off in January are powerful enough to be used in Apple’s Macs, suggesting that updates are imminent
The specific model of Kaby Lake processor we’re expecting to appear in the next iMac is the i7-7700. And as luck would have it, Tom’s Hardware has got hold of what they understand to be a pre-release sample of that chip. Naturally they promptly overclocked it and put it through rigorous speed tests.
Those speed tests found that the i7-7700 (or rather the i7-7700K – the K in the name denoting that the clock multiplier has been unlocked to allow for overclocking) was capable of 4.2GHz under normal circumstances, and 4.8GHz when overclocked. Serious speed which, as BGR observes, would give the new iMac bragging rights over the rival Surface Studio, launched before the relevant Kaby Lake chips became available.
Micosoft could always launch an updated Surface Studio with Kaby Lake, of course, although that might annoy the early buyers.
Back in October 2016, the US retailer Best Buy leaked a listing for a new iMac, and it had a Kaby Lake chipset – a “7th Gen Intel Core i7 processor”.
As Technobuffalo points out, this isn’t necessarily genuine: an employee could have created this as a placeholder until official information is available. But slip-ups of this kind more often happen because a retailer has been given advance warning of an imminent launch and somebody sets it live too early by mistake.
We’d say – based on this and other clues – that a Kaby Lake iMac is looking like a decent bet for launch in the near future.
In November 2016, further evidence emerged that sheds light on the prospects of a Kaby Lake iMac. Intel briefly made documents available on its website, intended for PC manufacturer partners rather than consumers, that detail specs of new Kaby Lake processors – and Anandtech spotted and grabbed them.
The documents detail 11 new processors, including seven i5 chips and three i7s; 10 of them are designated for desktop use and one is for worktop. There’s still no sign of the Kaby Lake laptop processors we expect to use as part of a MacBook Pro update in early 2017. source