Apple's MacBook Pro and iMac 5K upgrades are pretty meh

Apple's latest iMac is cheaper, but it packs less impressive hardware than its $2,500 predecessor. In addition to the new 5K iMac configurations, Apple also refreshed its 15" MacBook Pro Retina last week. 

Andy Wong/AP/File
A man walks into an Apple store in Beijing. Last week, Apple introduced an updated MacBook Pro and iMac and lowering the price for its top-end iMac.

Apple's 5K iMac isn't for the faint of heart. When the company debuted its 27" all-in-one last October, the desktop commanded a $2,500 price tag. Less than a year later, Apple has seemingly dropped the price of admission to $1,999, but buyer beware: This isn't the same machine Apple announced last October.

Instead, it's a new configuration that packs slightly less impressive hardware. To Apple's credit, last year's more powerful configuration has become slightly more affordable (in a very loose interpretation of that word), now costing $2,299.

The iMac Gets a Discount at the Expense of Processor Specs

As for the new entry-level 5K iMac, consumers should be aware of the concessions Apple made in order to hit the lower $1,999 price point. The new $1,999 iMac 5K packs a 3.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 Haswell processor, 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, and an AMD Radeon R9 M290 graphics card. By comparison, the step-up model features a faster 3.5 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 Haswell processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB Fusion drive (which combines a traditional drive with an SSD), and a more powerful AMD Radeon R9 M290X graphics card. This latter machine now costs $2,299.

Apple fans may notice that this is the second year that Apple introduced a "lower-cost" iMac with lesser hardware. In June of 2014, Apple announced the $1,099 21.5" iMac, which took $200 off its predecessor, but packed significantly slower specs. One of which was an ultra low-voltage 1.4GHz dual-core CPU (down from the original 2.7GHz quad-core CPU).

In that instance, the cheaper iMac proved to be up to 50% slower than its predecessor. It doesn't look like the new entry-level iMac 5K will trail its predecessor to that extent, but without the faster Fusion drive, chances are there will be some decrease in performance.

MacBook Pro Refresh Keeps the Same CPU

In addition to the new 5K iMac configurations, Apple also refreshed its 15" MacBook Pro Retina. Except for the Mac Mini and Mac Pro, this was the only Mac computer that had not received a refresh in the previous months.

Among the MacBook Pro's noteworthy upgrades are a new Force Touch trackpad, an SSD that's 2.5 times faster than its predecessor's with throughput (data delivery rates) that Apple lists at up to 2GBps, and an additional hour of battery life. However, Apple is still using Intel's previous-generation Haswell processor — there is no quad-core Intel equivalent at the moment — which makes this more of an interim upgrade.

It's possible that the 15" MacBook Pro Retina will completely forgo Intel's current Broadwell chips for the next-generation Skylake CPUs, which are scheduled to debut as early as August. In that case, any Mac that you purchase today could be outdated before summer's end, giving it an abnormally short lifespan. If you're not one to buy into the latest tech, bypassing this generation of Mac refreshes could still save you a few bucks, as last week's models are likely to see price cuts when their Skylake counterparts are released. For hardware fanatics, Skylake is considered to be a bigger CPU upgrade than Broadwell as the former will introduce a new CPU architecture.

Regardless of which model you decide to purchase, we advise waiting a few weeks when retailers launch their back-to-school sales. AppleBest Buy, and Amazon are just a handful of retailers who will discount these machines, often times offering additional price cuts for students with an active .edu e-mail address.

What do you think? Are you planing to upgrade your Apple computers any time soon? 

This article first appeared in DealNews. 

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