I had high expectations for the new iMac 2021. Even before Apple’s keynote started, I was sure the iMac would be my first major tech purchase of the year. Unfortunately, the iMac 2021 failed to win me over. Sure, it packs Apple’s amazing M1 chip, but I can’t help but see it as a glorified -- and more expensive -- take on the Mac mini.
More importantly, as the owner of a 27-inch iMac 5K, the iMac 2021 feels like a downgrade. Don’t get me wrong -- I’m sure the new iMac can run circles around my Core i5-based Skylake iMac, but I was really hoping for a new 5K iMac, which Apple completely ignored.
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The iMac I expected vs. the iMac we got
Earlier in the year, Apple introduced its new M1-based MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini during the same keynote. So I expected to see a major iMac overhaul during the Apple Spring Loaded event. Instead we got a new range of pastel-colored iMacs while Apple completely ignored its 27-inch iMac.
After the Apple event wrapped up, I thought about buying an iMac 2021. After all, the company’s M1 chip is what I’m most excited to try. However, after comparing the M1-based iMac to the Mac mini, I couldn’t justify spending $1,299 on a machine that essentially packs the same horsepower as the $699 Mac mini. You could even argue that the base Mac mini offers better performance because it packs an 8-core GPU, whereas the base iMac is stuck with a 7-core GPU. (The Mac Mini is also a better value, as some of the best Apple deals frequently take $50 to $100 off the base configuration).
So that leaves the 24-inch 4.5K screen as the next reason to upgrade to the new iMac. However, even that feels like a downgrade from my 27-inch 5K screen. Combined with its limited base RAM, paltry SSD, and lack of user upgrades, the new iMac just didn’t make sense for me.
Wait for new iMac 27-inch with M2 power?
My first iMac purchase was back in 2006 when Apple announced the first Intel-based Mac. It was an epic machine that in my opinion blew all Windows desktops out of the water. (For what it’s worth, the machine is still operational, albeit on an outdated version of Mac OS X Snow Leopard).
In 2015 (after nine years with my iMac), I pulled the trigger and purchased the 27-inch iMac 5K. My current iMac still runs like a dream. In the past six years, I’ve upgraded its RAM from 8GB to 16GB and so far it handles macOS 11.3 Big Sur with aplomb. However, since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been exclusively working from home, so I wouldn’t mind a faster iMac. Plus, my colleague Heny Casey’s MacBook Air M1 review piqued my interest in Apple’s new silicon.
There could be a more powerful 27-inch iMac on the way with a powerful M2 chip. Leaks point to the possibility of 12 cores, which is four more cores than the current M1 chip. Plus, the GPU could get upgraded from 8 to 16 cores. That sounds like a beast, especially for photo and video editing, not to mention gaming.
Yes, the new iMac 2021 24-inch has other features to recommend it, including a sharper 1080p webcam, improved audio and a Touch ID-enabled keyboard, but those upgrades aren't enough for me.
My current worry is that Apple will turn its 5K iMac line into the new iMac Pro. If you recall, the now defunct iMac Pro started at $4,999, a price I’m not willing to pay for a new iMac. So in the meantime, all I can do is wait for the next keynote in the hopes that Apple’s 5K iMac gets bumped to a 30-inch screen, but maintains its $1,799 price point.
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Unless you're working near the bleeding edge of video editing with a need for more speed and a bigger screen... or you just have to have the fastest toys out there... the 2021 iMac will handle what nearly anyone else needs it to do. I'm replacing my mid-2017 BTO iMac 27" that I spec'd with the fastest processor, upgraded graphics and SSD -- for less than 2/3 the price of what that cost me, I'll have a significantly faster and better iMac all-around. (Plus, Apple's trade-in deals are pretty generous.)
I intend to by the new iMac 2021 24" because I can not wait any more for the new iMac 2021 30". I don't think I need 30". The 27" was sufficient for my needs.
Let's see what the 24" can do . . .