Rumour has it that on Thursday, Apple will announce new iMacs with retina displays. How much will this computer cost you? Logic dictates that all those extra pixels will add up to very pricey, but there's reason to think it might not be as bad as you think. Let's see what a little Apple history can give us for guidance.
Generally, Apple sticks retina displays in larger-screened premium models of its hardware first. The larger iPad got retina before the iPad Mini. Probably more tellingly, the 15-inch MacBook Pro was available with a retina display long before the 13-inch model. So, for the sake of this exercise, let's assume that Apple will launch retina displays on the 27-inch iMac.
With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the 15-inch MacBook Pro with retina display. Apple announced the 15-inch MBP at WWDC in 2012 with two base configuration prices of $2499 and $3199 in Australia. At the same time, it refreshed the regular 15-inch MacBook Pro with a spec bump for $1999 and $2499 in Australia.
Now let's use that as a starting point, and consider that the base prices for 27-inch iMacs are $2199 and $2449, as they have been since Apple refreshed the iMac design two years ago. If it follows the same pattern as the MacBook Pro did, it stands to reason that a retina iMac would start at as much as $2499.
But I think there's a case to be made for something even cheaper. Back in 2012, upgrading to a retina MacBook Pro cost $550, but you were getting a whole lot more than the higher-resolution display. The retina iMac also came with flash memory rather than an old spinning HDD, as well twice as much RAM.
Today, adding those extras as custom order would cost you at least $400 if not more. In other words, you were getting a lot more value for you money with the more expensive retina model. It was actually a pretty sweet deal, even before you figured in the display.
But besides giving us a sharper display, where could the iMac possibly add value to justify a huge price jump? The big desktops already ship with 1TB HDD standard, and switching to all SSD seems prohibitively expensive. A retina iMac might ship standard with a 1TB hybrid SSD/HDD Fusion Drive, which right now costs $240. Still, it appears there's not enough ways to reasonably juice a retina iMac to send the price through the roof.
Of course, we've got no way of knowing, and some well-connected observers — Mark Gurman among them — seem to think the retina iMacs will cost a fortune. We'll know soon enough. Until then, what's your best guess?