Our favorite Mac desktops of the year
The Mac lineup isn’t all about MacBooks. There are also excellent desktop models! Our favorite desktop solution for 2020 is the iMac 5K, which is packed full of terrific features at a reasonable price. There are other desktop Macs worth considering depending on your needs.
Best Overall: iMac 5K
Featuring an aluminum and glass enclosure with a five millimeter-thin profile, the iMac 5K ships with a matching Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2. For 5K, Apple offers an excellent lineup of three 27-inch iMac versions, starting with the entry-level model that includes a 3.0GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with a Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz, 8GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory, Radeon Pro 570X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, and 1TB Fusion Drive storage.
For more money, you can increase your RAM, processor, and storage.
The latest 5K iMac was released in March 2019 and at least doubles the performance over the previous models. As part of the upgrade, the all-in-one computer also delivers up to 50 percent faster graphics performance, which is perfect for pros with graphics-intensive workloads.
- Beautiful Retina 5K 5120-by-2880 P3 display
- Three base choices
- Price can rise quickly with add-ons
- 8GB of memory might not be enough
- Apple could release an upgrade as early as spring 2020
Look at that display!
Forget 4K, when you can have 5K. Great internals and a robust display in one package.
Best Entry Level: iMac 4K
The iMac 4K is only available with a 21.5-inch display, which is something to consider before making a purchase. The least expensive model offers a 3.6GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i3 processor with 8GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory, configurable up to 32GB, 1TB hard drive, and Radeon Pro 555X with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The more expensive version includes a 3.0GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor and other extras.
Like other Macs, the iMac 4K ships with macOS Catalina, which includes an all-new Music app alongside apps for Apple TV and Podcasts. The update is also the first to include Mac Catalyst, which allows developers to move iPad apps to Mac with ease.
When looking at the 21.5-inch iMac lineup, avoid the least expensive model. It’s the one without 4K. Like the 5K iMac, the iMac 4K was last updated in March 2019, which means a hardware update could arrive soon.
- Less money than 5K versions
- Two main choices for 4K
- Avoid the least expensive 21.5-inch option
- Can’t buy 4K 27-inch iMac
Best Entry Level
You get Apple’s impressive 4K Retina display on this iMac model. Inside you’ll find less expensive parts than the 5K option.
Best for Hobbyists: Mac mini
In late 2018, Apple released the fourth-generation Mac mini, nearly four years after the last model was revealed. The least expensive model offers a 3.6GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i3 processor with 8GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory, and 128GB PCIe-based SSD storage, while the more expensive version starts with a 3.0GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor and 256GB PCIe-based SSD storage.
If you’re looking at a Mac mini, you are already aware that you need to add a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. In that situation, we recommend upgrading the memory from the minimum. Ideally, you should start with the more expensive version, if only because you’ll get more storage too.
- Least expensive solution
- Works great with all types of monitors
- Remember, no monitor or accessories
- Can get expensive quickly
Best for Hobbylists
Look, no monitor!
Mac minis are a great solution if you already have a terrific monitor and other accessories. Otherwise, stick with iMac.
Best for Most Pros: iMac Pro
First introduced in late 2017, the iMac Pro includes an 8-, 10-, 14-, or 18-core Intel Xeon processor, 27-inch (diagonal) Retina 5K display, AMD Vega graphics, up to 256GB ECC memory, and 10 Gigabit Ethernet. In other words, this is one powerful machine!
Geared towards highly professional creatives, the iMac Pro can easily cost you five figures, depending on your configuration. Only buy this model if you need the expanded resources, like the color black, and a no-brainer, have a budget to support the purchase.
The biggest issues facing would-be iMac Pro buyers is two-fold. First, the product hasn’t been updated in three years, which makes a refresh likely. Second, with the Mac Pro (see below) now on the market, the choice isn’t nearly as simple anymre.
- Lots of customization
- Memory up to 256GB
- Only iMac that comes in black
- Extremely pricey
- Not for most buyers
- Hasn’t been updated since 2017
Best for Most Pros
The one for massive projects
Get your boss to buy you this one — or get it yourself if you’re the boss!
Most Niche: Mac Pro
No doubt, the Mac Pro (2019) is the best professional-graded computer Apple has ever created. Made in the United States, the Mac Pro has been designed for maximum performance, expansion, and configurability. It features Xeon processors, an Earth-shattering high-performance memory system, eight PCIe expansion slots, and graphics architecture that supports what Apple calls the world’s most powerful graphics card. There’s also the all-new Apple Afterburner accelerator card that lets you playback as many as three streams of 8K ProRes RAW video simultaneously.
On the downside, no doubt, is the price and the unproven aspect of the machine. The 2nd generation cylindrical Mac Pro (2013) was largely forgotten by Apple soon after its arrival. Will the new model go down the same path? Only time will tell.
- Workstation-class Xeon processors up to 28 cores
- High-performance memory system with a massive 1.5TB capacity
- Apple Afterburner accelerator card
- Recommended Pro Display XDR monitor adds to the price
- Overkill for most folks
- Unproven since it’s so new
It’s a Pro Mac!
Get this Mac if you want everything and have the resources to build the best machine to suit your needs. Otherwise, stick with iMac as your desktop app.
For 2020, we recommend the iMac 5K as our favorite Mac desktop. The model includes lots of great features for everyone in your household and most professional buyers. The entry-level model includes a 3.0GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with a Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz, 8GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory, Radeon Pro 570X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, and 1TB Fusion Drive storage. If you can, upgrade the memory to the maximum of 32GB and enjoy it!
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. Penn State (go Nittany Lions) graduate here, also a huge fan of the New England Patriots. Thanks for reading. @bryanmwolfe