A Redditor awaiting delivery of a non-Retina 27-inch iMac ordered before yesterday’s announcement of the new Retina models has reported being given a free upgrade by Apple.
You may not have heard, but we just announced the new iMac with Retina 5K display. Since your order has yet to ship, we automatically upgraded you to the new iMac with Retina 5K display.
Since the old price of the non-Retina model he’d ordered and the new base-model Retina machine are the same – $1999 – it’s likely that Apple has offered the same deal to others in the same position. But is this necessarily a good deal … ?
While a free upgrade from the standard display to the Retina one sounds like a no-brainer (with a slightly beefier processor thrown in), there is one difference that is giving the video producer pause for thought. His non-Retina model came with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M graphics card, while the base-model Retina gets the AMD Radeon R9 M290X.
In particular, the NVIDIA card supports CUDA, a form of GPU acceleration used by Adobe, though this appears to be of limited benefit for most operations.
A comparison of the performance of the two cards does appear to show some cases where the NVIDIA card offers better performance, like coping with significantly more audio tracks in Logic Pro X, but these comparisons were run with the older Retina iMacs, and there were still only a minority of cases where the non-Retina machine came out ahead.
So if you’re in the same position and Apple offers you the same deal, you probably want to jump at it. Note that the current non-Retina iMac now comes with the slightly less powerful NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M with 1GB video memory at a lower price of $1799, with no option to upgrade to the GTX 780M.
Apple does quite regularly switch back and forth between AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards when launching new models. LG suggested last month that Apple will launch an 8K iMac “this year.”