Why I’m not buying the new iMac 2021

iMac 2021
(Image credit: Apple)

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. 

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. 

I can't justify spending $1,299 on a machine that essentially packs the same horsepower as the $699 Mac mini.

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 (For what it’s worth, the machine is still operational, albeit on an outdated version of Mac OS X Snow Leopard).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. 

Bottom line

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. 

Louis Ramirez

As deals editor-in-chief at Tom’s Guide, Louis is constantly looking for ways to avoid paying full price for the latest gadgets, appliances, and apparel. With over 10 years of deals-hunting experience, Louis price checks against multiple retailers and searches high and low for the best deals to bring readers. He's also always on the look out for the best coupon codes to use when shopping. A born-and-bred New Yorker, Louis is also an avid swimmer and marathoner. His work has appeared on Gizmodo, CNET, and Time Out New York.

  • VoleUndermined_82
    Honestly, the biggest reason I could see for upgrading to this one is a better webcam since most people using a Mac have likely been working from home and bearing Zoom calls aplenty. But I'm also a bit apprehensive about this model, since I'm not sure the upgrade is justified when the benefits are so small.
  • louis_ramirez
    Agree. I'm sure it'll be the fastest/best iMac ever when tested, but the benefits are simply too small for the price of admission (if you already own an iMac).
  • charlesnyc
    If you use your iMac for work and your work involves significant use of Zoom, then I would argue that looking and sounding much better on those calls is a very significant benefit on its own. If the M1-driven MB Air and Pro are any indication, this will also be the fastest iMac by a wide margin--probably the largest speed upgrade in iMac history. (And think of the speed when most apps are updated to run native on the M-chip.) Plus it adds Touch ID, WiFi 6, a better audio system, the latest bluetooth and a 24" screen in the same overall dimensions as the former 21.5 inch.) But yeah, what a DISAPPOINTMENT! :ROFLMAO:

    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.)
  • wei qiaozhi xilaren
    I own an iMac 2011 27". (20GB ram, 256 SSD, not an HD drive at all, hugh Sierra) using it for FCX Pro (mostly 1080, rarely 4K), audio editing, photoshop and (via skype and messenger since 2016) teaching chinese.
    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 . . .
  • pslawing
    I agree! I have a 27in 2012 Speced out iMac. Been using almost 10 years now. So wanted the new Silicone Mac to be what I wanted. I know that it will be plenty for me, but I love my big screen. I've been close to pulling th trigger, but I've hesitated because I'm afraid as soon as I buy it the next one will come out. So I'll wait till the end of the year. Sure hope they have it out by then. Missing a lot of the features of the new OS. Catalina is getting old.