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iMac 2021 teardown gives Apple’s all-in-one a dismal reparability score

Apple iMac 24-inch
(Image credit: Future)

While we loved the new Apple iMac 2021, we couldn't help but notice it was not too dissimilar from the MacBook Air with M1. And looking at the spec sheet, it shares a lot of the same components. Well, the team over at iFixit have confirmed our suspicions and found that the new iMac 2021 is essentially a MacBook Air in a colored chassis. 

In iFixit's official teardown, the team of tinkerers quickly voided Apple's warranty by completely disassembling a purple-colored unit. After X-raying the device, the team found that all of the computing power was housed in the bottom lip, while the rest of the unit was flanked by two large metal plates. And apart from a few wires that snaked towards the top to connect to the webcam and other antennae, there wasn't much else. And while there was plenty of empty room inside the device, when it came to reparability, it fared poorly, landing a dismal 2/10 score.

With the right tools, it wasn't terribly difficult for iFixit to break apart the iMac. It doesn't require heating the back panel, a process similarly used when taking apart the iPhone 12. Using its iMac opening wheel (a specialized tool used for cutting adhesive) the front display easily came off, revealing the components behind.  

Unlike the MacBook Air with M1, the iMac, while using the same components, has two fans cooling the processor. Keeping the system cooler affords the iMac greater overhead, which could allow it to eke out extra performance. iFixit did say that the chin in the iMac was largely artificial, as Apple could have easily moved these components around to the rest of the largely empty chassis. 

iFixit's teardown of the Apple iMac 2021. With the screen removed, the internal components are now visible. The logic board sits towards the bottom while metal plates take up the rest of the device.

(Image credit: iFixit)

The logic board in the new iMac 2021 is also the smallest ever on an Apple all-in-one. It houses the new M1 8-core chip, 8 GB of memory, 128 GB NAND flash storage, a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth module, as well as other components for power management. Much of the components inside the device were mounted with glue. So, removing the headphone jack, for example, is not impossible, but will take some aggressive wiggling.

Screengrab of iFixit YouTube video of iMac 2021 teardown

(Image credit: iFixit | YouTube)

Apple has intended the new iMac 2021 to be a more casual device that can be placed in a living room or kitchen. It's not necessarily meant for high-end video editing or other demanding tasks. For that reason our deals editor, Louis Ramirez, argued that it's probably worth skipping the iMac 2021 and opting for a Mac mini instead. Starting at $699, it has more power than the base iMac at 60% the cost. It can act as a holdover for an eventual iMac Pro which will surely pack a stronger computational punch. 

Imad Khan

Imad Khan is news editor at Tom’s Guide, helping direct the day’s breaking coverage. Prior to working at the site, Imad was a full-time freelancer, with bylines at the New York Times, the Washington Post and ESPN. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.