2019 iMac First Impressions

For the first time since early 2010, I have a desktop computer again!

CaveOfBirds

It's a 2019 5K Retina iMac with an Intel Core i5-9600K (9th Generation, 6 physical cores), 16GB of RAM, AMD Radeon Pro 580X, and a 1TB SSD. Geekbench isn't exactly scientific, but it reports this computer as 50% faster single-core, 150% faster multi-core than the computer it's replacing.

First off, some more details on what you see in this picture:

Nothing particular exciting there; I wanted some front-facing ports and the Satechi hub was reasonably well-reviewed, and I knew I would want the iMac a bit higher but didn't want to deal with a VESA mount, so I got the TwelveSouth stand (which I know some other folks use and like).

First Impressions

  • Holy cow, is that is that 27", 5120x2880 10-bit-per-channel screen gorgeous! I've used iMacs before, but never a 5K "Retina" iMac, and color me impressed. Color reproduction seems just as good as an iPad Pro, but the screen is 27" wide. 217dpi is pretty sweet!
  • This machine is quite fast. I compiled a bunch of stuff in Homebrew while running a moderately-graphically-intensive video game and had no problem maintaining 60fps. I'm sure I could build a faster PC (or go spend $10,000 on an iMac Pro, or wait for a Mac Pro), but nothing I do seems to warrant it.
  • I haven't hit any thermal issues yet, despite this machine having a higher thermal outut than the 2017. I know a lot of people had fan noise issues and thermal throttling on the 2017 Core i7 iMac (with the i7-7700K, which is a 91W product), and this computer has a 95W i5-9600K, but... so far so good? Maybe Apple snuck in some fan improvements while nobody was looking; I guess we'll have to wait for the iFixit teardown...

Why Mac?

I've already had people ask me why I got another Mac instead of building my own Linux desktop the way I would've in 2006. Like all of my computers, the primary job of this machine is to run a terminal emulator in which I run nvim and SSH. Once in a while I might want to test something with a local VM (which is why the machine has 16GB of RAM), but that's it. For the tasks I do, OS X macOS is more than sufficient, and it integrates quite well with my iPhone (and, particularly, has a nice 1Password client).

Beyond that, I find that as I get older I'm less and less interested in taking work home with me. My home network is an eero setup4 with absolutely nothing custom — why would I want to do network administration at home when I do it all day at work? Similarly, while I do still have some VMs running in AWS and Prgmr, I also have little patience to be a system administrator in my spare time. There are no "smart" appliances in my home, no voice assistants listening from always-on speakers. It sounds stupid, but at the end of a workday, I want my technology to "just work".


  1. The Magic Keyboard ships with the iMac and I'm not sure about it; I might replace it with an HHKB2 like I use at work 

  2. I actually adore the Magic Trackpad 2 and recently switched from my longstanding Kensington ExpertMouse Trackball to a Magic Trackpad at work 

  3. These were discontinued in favor of the A2+ Desktop Speakers, which include a DAC and USB input, a few years ago. I haven't used the A2+'s, but I think they're the same drivers and are thus equally excellent. 

  4. Don't get me started at how irritated I am that Eero sold out to Amazon. I just want routers and access points that transmit ethernet frames reasonably efficiently; I don't want goddamn Alexa in my access points. 


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