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 a big price tag, 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, and 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 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£1,800 and £2,300. At the same time, it refreshed the regular 15-inch MacBook Pro with a spec bump for £1,500 and £1,800.
Now let's use that as a starting point, and consider that the base prices for 27-inch iMacs are £1,500 and £1,700, 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 £1,800.
But, I think there's a case to be made for something even cheaper, somewhere in the region of £1,600. Back in 2012, upgrading to a retina MacBook Pro cost around £350, 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.
The big desktops already ship with 1 TB HDD standard, and switching to all SSD seems prohibitively expensive. A retina iMac might ship standard with a 1 TB hybrid SSD/HDD Fusion Drive, which right now costs £200. 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.