One of the elements that Apple has noticeably trailed behind some other computer manufactures is the webcam, with the company’s options not being all that great in comparison.
But, in this time of an ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and with so many people working from home and dealing with teleconferencing routines, now may be the right time to launch a brand new computer that upgrades all the necessary equipment to make working from home a little more bearable. At least in a single all-in-one computer package, anyway.
Enter the brand new 27-inch iMac, which Apple launched earlier this week. The new machine is a powerful send-off for Intel-based iMacs, as the company makes the bold transition to its own ARM-based Apple silicon later this year. And it’s quite the machine, according to early reviews, which we’ve put together a quick roundup of down below.
The general consensus is that this is a powerful machine, it has a noteworthy improvement to not only the webcam (which is now a 1080p camera), but also the microphone, the speakers, and more.
Early reviews of the 2020 27-inch iMac
Deiter Bohn goes over what’s new about the new 27-inch iMac and focuses on the areas that Apple has improved the most. That includes the webcam, which Bohn says is not just a better quality than previous webcams in other Apple desktops, but also smarter thanks to the T2 Security Chip inside the new desktop computer.
The webcam isn’t just better because it has more pixels; it’s also better because Apple is finally applying some modern image processing to the video stream. The iMac has a T2 chip, which is used to control lots of the components in the Mac. Apple is using it to process certain elements of this webcam’s image. It is able to do tone mapping, exposure control, and face detection.
The face detection is for prioritizing keeping your face well-lit with accurate skin tones. I can move my face around in the frame and see it adjusting the exposure in real time, ensuring that my face is never too dark or blown-out. It feels very much like what the iPhone does with faces. (Apple says it’s not doing any face smoothing, if you’re wondering.)
It works really well, and luckily, it doesn’t just work in Apple’s own apps. Since these fixes are coming via the T2 chip, the improved performance is just the webcam video stream that any videoconferencing app will get.
Jason Snell has some high price for the $500 add-on nano-texture display that the new 27-inch iMac offers, which drastically cuts down on glare. You can see how that reduction of glare actually works on a 27-inch iMac with the nano-texture feature in the image just above.
But I need to begin with what is probably the single biggest reason people will buy this iMac: As a $500 option, you can trade in the normal glass on the front of the iMac for a glass sheet that’s been etched by Apple to create a glare-killing “nano-texture.” This is the same technique Apple uses to create the $1000 anti-glare option for the Apple Pro Display XDR. It comes with a special cloth you’re supposed to use to clean it. Apple will sell you a replacement cloth for $10 if you lose it.
But here’s the thing: It’s spectacular. The nano-texture glass doesn’t stop all light from bouncing off the display and back into your eyes, but it cuts it down and diffuses it remarkably. Unlike so many add-on films and coatings that cut down on glare but make a display feel murky or muddy, the iMac’s display feels unnaturally clear. Even with a window directly behind me, I could see everything on the screen clearly.
Meanwhile, Todd Haselton praises the 1080p webcam as well, especially as a fantastic upgrade for folks who are working from home right now.
The 1080p camera is great, too. Again, I spoke with several people who were also using the new iMac, and over a relatively fast Wi-Fi connection, everyone looked really clear throughout the call. It’s a nice bump from the 720p cameras Apple typically uses on its computers, which I’ve complained about in the past. This is a problem with many computers by the way, not just Macs. Tech companies tend to put their best cameras in phones and tablets, so it’s good to see laptops and desktops getting better cameras, especially now while we’re all video chatting so much more.
Brian Heater has nice things to say about the improved microphones in the new 27-inch iMac, but also suggests if you plan on doing voice-over work or participating in a podcast, you may still want to opt for an external option.
The same can be said for the microphone. It’s clear and perfectly suited to teleconference. Above is a clip of me reading the first few sentences of White Noise (it’s the first thing that popped into my head, I don’t know what to tell you). Don’t mind the slurred speech (Bell’s palsy sucks, don’t get it), but the audio is perfectly suited for a Zoom call. In a push to appeal to creatives, the company notes that the mics — similar to the hardware found on the 16-inch MacBook can be used for things like scratch vocals. I would say the do the trick for a majority of things we need day to day, but if you’re going to be say, recording a podcast or voice-over work, I would seriously consider an external mic.
And Caitlin McGarry has gone ahead and put the new 27-inch iMac through its paces and revealed plenty of benchmarking scores for Apple’s latest desktop computer. The results are certainly positive.
The couple of benchmarks I’ve run since the iMac arrived on Tuesday indicate that this desktop is a powerhouse. In the Blender test of CPU performance, the iMac rendered an image in 2 minutes and 19 seconds, which is incredibly fast—it’s more than two minutes faster than when we benchmarked Intel’s 10th-gen Core i9-10900K processor on its own. On Geekbench 4, a synthetic test of overall system performance, the iMac’s single-core score of 6382 and multi-core score of 42417 impressed us all. Joanna Nelius, Gizmodo’s resident PC and processor expert, exclaimed: “What the hell did Intel do to this CPU?” We plan to run more benchmarks in addition to real-world tests, but these early numbers are promising.
If you prefer your reviews in a video format, we’ve got you covered with a quick round-up of some of those options, too:
Certainly sounds like Apple gave the 27-inch iMac a proper upgrade, and if you’re someone who isn’t going to automatically upgrade to an Apple silicon-based Mac later this year, and want to rely on an Intel processor for a bit longer, it looks like this could be an option worth considering.
Are you planning on buying Apple’s new 27-inch iMac?