Should You Buy the iMac?
The iMac features the same M1 chip as devices like the 2020 MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini, and is now Apple's only remaining all-in-one computer, available in a range of color options.
Announced in April 2021, the iMac is among the oldest Macs in Apple's lineup. Apple usually refreshes the iMac every one to two years, and the 24-inch iMac could see an update as soon as this fall. As there is a new iMac rumored to be in the works that could be released before the end of the year, it is no longer a good time to buy the iMac. Those who like to have the latest technology should plan to wait for a refresh, especially given the age of the current M1 Mac.
What's Next for the iMac
Apple was rumored to be working on a "Pro" update to the 27-inch Intel iMac, with the larger machine set to be sold alongside the 24-inch iMac, but Apple in March 2022 discontinued the 27-inch iMac in favor of the Mac Studio and Studio Display.
Apple has a second-generation 24-inch iMac in an "advanced stage of development." The machine could come out in early 2024, and it is expected to feature Apple's next-generation M3 chip, built on a 3-nanometer process.
Apple is working on an iMac with a larger ~30-inch display, but it is in the early stages of development and won't launch until late 2024 or 2025. Rumors suggest the display will be around 32 inches in size, which would make it Apple's largest display to date.
The 24-Inch M1 iMac
Apple in April 2021 unveiled the new 24-inch M1 iMac, a redesigned desktop machine that comes in a range of fun colors. The iMac now features an Apple-designed "M1" Arm-based chip, replacing the prior Intel chips, to bring significant speed and efficiency improvements.
The M1 chip is Apple's first System on a Chip for the Mac, integrating the CPU, GPU, RAM, and more. The M1 has an 8-core CPU with four high-efficiency cores and four high-performance cores along with an integrated GPU that has up to 8 cores, and it is the same M1 chip that was first used in the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini.
According to Apple, compared to the previous generation 21.5-inch model, the M1 iMac offers up to 85 faster CPU performance, up to 2x faster GPU performance, and up to 3x faster machine learning. As with the prior entry-level 21.5-inch iMac models, RAM maxes out at 16GB.
The M1 chip enables the thinner design introduced with the 24-inch iMac. The logic board and thermals have been dramatically consolidated and reduced in size, so the iMac takes up less space and fits more easily in different places. It is also considerably quieter than the previous version thanks to the thermals of the M1 chip and the new cooling system.
There are major external design changes with the M1 iMac. The design is extremely thin and compact compared to prior models, and the machine measures in at just 11.5 millimeters thick. The iMac comes with a redesigned slim stand that allows the angle of the display to be adjusted.
Apple is selling the iMac in a range of bright colors, including green, blue, pink, silver, orange, yellow, and purple. At the front of the iMac, there are softer, pastel colors, but the back of the iMac features much brighter and bolder colors. Powering the iMac is a magnetic power connector with a color-matched woven cable.
The 24-inch 4.5K display features a resolution of 4480-by-2520, with 11.3 million pixels, 500 nits brightness, P3 wide color, more than a billion colors, and True Tone to match the color temperature of the display to the ambient lighting for a more natural viewing experience.
Apple's M1 iMac includes a 1080p FaceTime HD camera with a new image signal processor for improved performance in low light, and the Neural Engine in the M1 chip allows for better noise reduction, greater dynamic range, and improved auto exposure and white balance.
The iMac also offers studio-quality microphones and a six-speaker sound system with strong bass and clear mids and highs, along with support for Dolby Atmos and spatial audio.
There are two Thunderbolt 3/USB-4 ports at the back of the iMac, along with four total USB-C ports for some models. The iMac supports up to a 6K external display, and offers a headphone jack on its side. A 1Gb/s Ethernet port is available in the power adapter for the higher-end model, allowing for a less cluttered cable setup.
The iMac has Wi-Fi 6 support for the fastest possible Wi-Fi performance and can be customized with up to 2TB of SSD storage.
The iMac comes alongside color-matched accessories with custom colors for the keyboard, Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, power cord, and Lightning to USB-C cable. Apple sells the iMac with a matching Magic Keyboard, with or without a number pad, and some models feature Touch ID built directly into the keyboard.
The Magic Keyboard features the first wireless Touch ID implementation, using a dedicated security component on the keyboard that communicates directly with the Secure Enclave in the M1 for seamless unlocking or making Apple Pay purchases.
The entry-level M1 iMac is available for $1,299, while an upgraded model is priced starting at $1,499. Apple used to sell the 24-inch iMac alongside an Intel-based 27-inch iMac, but the 27-inch iMac was discontinued in March 2022 when the Mac Studio was released. Apple now suggests the Mac Studio and an accompanying display as a more powerful alternative to the 24-inch iMac.
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How to Buy
In August 2021, refurbished M1 iMac models became available from the online Apple Store in multiple regions around the world. There are multiple color options and configurations available, though stock fluctuates based on the machines that people are sending to Apple for repairs and returns.
Reviews of the 24-inch iMac are largely positive, with reviewers praising the performance delivered by the M1 chip and the vibrant selection of colors. A thorough look at the new design is shown in the review videos below.
The most striking aspect of the iMac is its long-awaited redesign, with an ultra-thin 11.5mm chassis that comes in up to seven colors, including green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue, and silver. While some reviewers were excited about the new colors, some expressed concern that they may not fit in well in some environments.
Reviewers were divided about some aspects of the new design such as the white bezels around the display, saying that it can be "a pretty dramatic contrast" to the display.
The M1 chip in the iMac achieved a higher score on the Geekbench 5 single-core benchmark than any other Mac, making it ideal for everyday tasks. Benchmark results revealed the new iMac is up to 56% faster than the previous high-end 21.5-inch iMac with an Intel Core i7 processor.
Overall, reviewers tended to agree that the iMac is the best 24-inch all-in-one-computer currently available. Reviews can help potential buyers make a decision about purchasing the iMac, and more information can be found in our dedicated review roundup.
The 2021 iMac features a much more compact and thin design than previous-generation iMac models, facilitated by the efficiency of the M1 chip. The updated iMac offers powerful performance in a design that is just 11.5 millimeters thin, for a strikingly slim side profile.
Enabled by the leading power efficiency of the M1 chip, the logic board and thermals have been dramatically consolidated and reduced in size compared to the previous generations, allowing the side profile of iMac to reduce significantly. The much more compact design reduces the volume of iMac by 50 percent, allowing it to take up less space and fit easily in even more places.
The iMac comes in a range of seven vibrant colors, including green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue, and silver, allowing customers to choose a color that they feel best suits them.
iMac features softer colors and thinner borders on the front to allow users to focus on their on-screen content, while the back features much more bold, saturated color. To complete the new design, the iMac comes with a new power connector that attaches magnetically and a woven two-meter-long color-matched cable.
The M1 iMac features a 24-inch 4.5K Retina display with 11.3 million pixels, 500 nits of brightness, a P3 wide color gamut, and over a billion colors.
The display now has much narrower borders and features True Tone technology, which automatically adjusts the color temperature of the display as the environment changes for a more natural viewing experience. In addition, the 4.5K Retina display features Apple's industry-leading anti-reflective coating.
Every iMac features two Thunderbolt ports for superfast data transfers, giving customers high-performance options to connect to a range of external devices, including support for a 6K external display, such as the Apple Pro Display XDR. The iMac configuration with an 8-core GPU offers two additional USB-C ports and also features a 1Gbps Ethernet port in the power adapter, allowing for a less cluttered desktop.
The power adapter with Ethernet port is available as an add-on option for the lower-end iMac, but there is no option to purchase the additional two ports so the four port setup is limited to higher-end models.
There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the left-hand side of the machine for wired audio.
M1 Apple Silicon Chip
The iMac joins the family of Mac models powered by the M1 chip, including MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini, marking another step forward in Apple's transition toward its own custom silicon and away from Intel chips.
The M1 is Apple's first System on a Chip designed for the Mac, which means it has the processor, GPU, I/O, security features, and RAM is all one chip inside the Mac.
Like Apple's A14 and A15 chip, the M1 is built on a 5-nanometer process, which makes it smaller and more efficient than Apple's previous chips. It has 16 billion transistors, which Apple says is the most that it has put into a single chip.
The CPU has four high-efficiency cores and four high-performance cores. Compared to the high-performance cores, the high-efficiency cores use a tenth of the power while still delivering the performance that Mac users need for everyday tasks.
According to Apple, the 8-core CPU in the M1 chip features the fastest CPU core in low-power silicon and the 8-core GPU features the fastest integrated graphics in a personal computer.
One of the features of the M1 is a unified memory architecture, or UMA. This unifies high-bandwidth, low-latency memory into a single pool, meaning that the technologies in the M1 chip can access the same data without copying it between multiple memory pools for dramatic performance improvements across the entire system.
The iMac delivers powerful performance when compared to standard models of the 21.5-inch iMac, according to Apple, including:
- Up to 85 percent faster CPU performance, to export video projects faster, easily work with large photos for editing, and compile new apps in Xcode in a fraction of the time.
- Up to 2x faster GPU performance for certain apps like Affinity Photo and Photoshop, and up to 50 percent faster than the most powerful discrete graphics in the fastest 21.5-inch iMac, allowing users to render edits in real-time.
- The ability to edit up to five streams of 4K footage, or one stream of 8K footage, without dropping frames, in Final Cut Pro.
- Up to 3x faster machine learning in apps that leverage the 16-core Neural Engine in M1.
Early benchmarks indicate that the M1 iMac is up to 56 percent faster than the previous high-end 21.5-inch model.
The entry-level $1,299 iMac option features an M1 chip with a 7-core GPU, while the $1,499 model features an M1 chip with an 8-core GPU. Apple previously offered the different GPU options in the MacBook Air.
The M1 iMac, like all of the other M1 Macs, comes with 8GB of RAM as standard, but it is possible to configure it with 16GB of RAM via a $200 build-to-order option.
The base model M1 iMacs come with either 256GB or 512GB of storage, but users can configure it with up to 2TB of SSD storage.
Like the other Macs with M1 chips, the iMac now features Wi-Fi 6 connectivity for faster wireless performance.
The 24-inch iMac includes a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, which Apple calls "the best ever" camera in a Mac. The camera delivers high-quality video and great performance in low light, according to Apple. The iMac also takes advantage of the image signal processor in the M1 chip and the Neural Engine, enhancing camera image quality with better noise reduction, greater dynamic range, and improved auto exposure and white balance.
The iMac now features a completely new six-speaker sound system. It has two pairs of force-cancelling woofers placed side by side for improved bass response, while reducing unintended vibrations. Each pair is balanced with a high-performance tweeter. The overall six-speaker sound system produces a "massive sound stage with strong, articulate bass and crystal-clear mids and highs." These speaker innovations, coupled with Apple's custom audio algorithms, enable the iMac to support spatial audio when playing video with Dolby Atmos for the first time.
'Studio Quality' Microphones
The iMac features a studio-quality three-microphone array for clearer calls and voice recordings. The mics are positioned to reduce feedback from the rest of the system, while directional beamforming allows them to better ignore background noise and focus on a user's voice.
Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad
The iMac comes with a new, color-matched Magic Mouse, and users can opt to upgrade to or add the color-matched Magic Trackpad.
The M1 iMac comes alongside a redesigned Magic Keyboard, featuring an updated key layout and more rounded corners.
The biggest change coming to mid and high-end configurations of the iMac's Magic Keyboard is Touch ID, bringing Touch ID to a desktop Mac for the first time. Touch ID on the iMac makes it easier than ever to securely log in, make purchases with Apple Pay, or switch user profiles with the touch of a finger.
Implemented wirelessly for the first time on the Magic Keyboard, Touch ID uses a dedicated security component on the keyboard that communicates directly with the Secure Enclave in the M1 chip, creating an encrypted channel to protect users' fingerprint data from end to end.
Customers can choose from three models of Magic Keyboard with aluminum enclosures that are color-matched to the iMac, with options including Touch ID and a numeric keypad. The entry-level Mac comes with a standard non-Touch ID keyboard by default, which can be upgraded, while the $1,499 model's price includes the Touch ID keyboard option.
There are three standard configuration 24-inch iMac models available from Apple:
- $1,299 - Apple M1 chip with 8-Core CPU and 7-Core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, and Magic Keyboard.
- $1,499 - Apple M1 chip with 8-Core CPU and 8-Core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports and two USB 3 ports, gigabit Ethernet, and Magic Keyboard with Touch ID.
- $1,699 - Apple M1 chip with 8-Core CPU and 8-Core GPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports and two USB 3 ports, gigabit Ethernet, and Magic Keyboard with Touch ID.
Build to Order Options
Entry-level 24-inch iMac with 256GB of storage:
- 16GB RAM - +$200
- 512GB SSD - +$200
- 1TB SSD - +$400
- Gigabit Ethernet - +$30
Mid-level 24-inch iMac with 256GB of storage:
- 16GB RAM - +$200
- 512GB SSD - +$200
- 1TB SSD - +$400
- 2TB SSD - +$800
High-end 24-inch iMac with 512GB of storage:
- 16GB RAM - +$200
- 1TB SSD - +$200
- 2TB SSD - +$600
Color-Matched Accessory Options
All M1 iMac configurations come with a color-matched Magic Mouse as standard, but users can opt to upgrade to the Magic Trackpad, or purchase both the Magic Mouse and the Magic Trackpad together.
- Magic Trackpad - +$50
- Magic Mouse + Magic Trackpad - +$129
Apple also notes that it is possible to upgrade from the standard Magic Keyboard with the entry-level iMac to the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID for an additional $50. All base configurations offer the option of upgrading to the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and Numeric Keypad from the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID for an additional $30.