Buying new iMac - Help!


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Nov 4, 2015
Hello, I need some advice regarding iMacs in general.

I am going to purchase an iMac for the first time and I would like to get some information on graphical aspects/performance.

As I was searching Online, I stumbled upon used 5k 27i iMac for £1200 the graphics card was "AMD Radeon R9 M290X 2GB" after that I went to the apple store website and compared the two (spec wise).
The apple store iMac has a different graphics card " AMD Radeon R9 M390 with 2GB Vid Memory" - £1600

Can someone give me some advice on: difference between the two graphic cards and which one is much better? I am buying the iMac for gaming (WoW,diablo 3) etc and for programming mainly.

thank you in advance!


macrumors 6502a
Sep 1, 2007
the 290 is in last years Mac and had heat and performance issues. The m395 is what you want for optimal graphics performance. basic rule of thumb here is more money = better performance. There are plenty of benchmarks and threads here that can help quantify exactly how much better. But you would be better served with a more recent computer.


macrumors regular
Nov 4, 2015
Since I have both an M290X as well as an M395 model, I know the differences quite well.
It is obviously correct that the M290X indicates a last year's model. But performance wise, the M290X and the M395 seem to be pretty much on par. Looking at current benchmark result, you shouldn't expect more than a 10% advantage in either direction. The M390 is about 10-20% slower than the M395.
The M290X isn't known to overheat, that seems to be more of an M295X issue (especially paired with the i7 CPU).

In general, newer is mostly better and this also applies for 2014 vs (late) 2015. But the differences really weren't that big:
- The screen has a somewhat improved color space. This is a real selling point if you are into print, but since the 2014 screen wasn't exactly bad, it's not something most people will even notice. You will most likely not notice it in gaming and definitely not in coding.
- The CPU are like 10% faster at the same frequency, but then again, many 2014 models had CPUs with higher frequency. The 3.3 GHz Skylake i5 is supposedly still a tiny bit faster than the 3.5 GHz Haswell i5.
- SSD are now pretty much twice as fast across the board. Also something that sounds nicer than it is though. It takes two to copy, and in 9 out of 10 cases, the SSD won't be the bottle neck for either model. This part of "wisdom" doesn't apply if you are planning to use some SSD raid over TB from outer space. Apart from that, the main benefit is programs and OS reading their data faster. This can reduce startup times, but then again, even though the old models only were half as fast, they still were pretty fast.
- The peripherals have changed. The keyboard and trackpad quite a bit, the mouse not so much. I think the trackpad is the biggest improvement. I neither really like the old nor the new keyboard that much. They definitely aren't bad if one is looking for a compact solution, but as a coder, and especially as a gamer, you'll likely want something different. Same goes for the mouse, but that's regardless of 2014 vs 15.
- The upper tier (non BTO) now comes with a 2 TB FD instead of 1 TB. Definitely a welcome upgrade, but if you compare individual computers, you'll need to look at the specs at hand.

The M290X indicates that you'll at least get a 1 TB FB with 128 GB SSD as well as the 3.5 GHz Haswell i5. The models with an M390 come with an 1 TB FD as default too, but the 2015 1 TB FD only has a 32 GB SSD of which supposedly only 24 GB are useable. That's supposed to be significantly worse than the old 128 GB, even though it's twice as fast.

All in all, at the same price, I would always prefer the newer model, but I really don't think that the 2015 models are that much of an upgrade over last year's morels. For me, there are 2 reasons why I even use an iMac: OS X and photo processing. Even though I use computers for games, this definitely isn't the iMac's forte. Neither is OS X nor the GPUs are really made for it. They aren't bad enough to prevent you from gaming, but you really don't get your money's worth. What you should avoid though is the M380 or any 21.5" model.
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macrumors 65816
Dec 24, 2007
Also remember that last year's 1TB Fusion drive has the 128Gb SSD, this year's only 24Gb. So it's likely to be faster (unlike comparing the SSD-only versions, where the newer one is significantly faster). If you can get a last year model for a reasonable amount less, I'd say go for it.