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The New iMac Has a Surprise Feature

Apple recently held its annual WWDC conference earlier this month, refreshing its entire lineup of iMacs and Macbooks with Kaby Lake processors and other performance bumps. Apple drew particular attention to a very powerful and non-cylindrical iMac Pro, but unfortunately it hasn’t hit the market yet, so we’ll all need to be content with the 21’ and 27’ models for now.

The hardware experts at iFixit got their hands on the new 21.5’ Retina iMac and commenced its usual teardown treatment. The bottom line? This new iMac is difficult -- but not impossible -- to upgrade and repair.

Photo: Apple

Photo: Apple

Reaching the inside of this latest iMac is simply a matter of splitting the adhesive between the case and display. Compared to the previous generation, the iFixit team notes that internally, the logic board has expanded, a heat sink mounting plate has been added and the right speaker is now tucked away behind the logic board, making it initially inaccessible.

The report finds to great surprise and relief to hardware-savvy users, that the RAM is no longer soldered onto the motherboard. A more thorough analysis reveals that two SO-DIMM RAM slots house 8GB worth of removable SDRAM.

Taking a look back at the new heatsink and removing warranty-voiding stickers shows that the CPU is in fact modular. The Intel Core i5-7400 Kaby Lake CPU with a 6M Cache and turbo boost up to 3.50 GHz is thermally pasted on to the motherboard, but is removable with some effort.

Next up is LG’s newest panel, which features a much brighter 500-nit display (Apple claims a 43 percent improvement) and 10-bit dithering. A variety of Texas Instrument chips power this new monitor.

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The back of the iMac notably features two Thunderbolt 3.0 ports, which Apple says can power two 4K displays, as well as a standard headphone jack, 4 USB ports and an SD card slot. 

iFixit also found that Apple opted to go with a single mic setup on the bottom of the device, mounted beneath the display, as opposed to the typical dual-mic setup behind the front facing camera. The verdict is not yet out on whether this new configuration is an improvement.

The full specs of the $1,299 model in question include a Kaby Lake Intel i5 processor, 8GB RAM, a Radeon Pro 555 GPU, a 1 TB HDD (5400 rpm) and an improved 4K display.

The iFixit team ended up giving the new iMac 21.5’ a repairability score of 3/10, which isn’t great, but still beats the 1/10 score of the 2015 Retina 21.5’ iMac. Highlights of this build include the now upgradeable RAM and modular CPU, while its most major shortcoming is its generally difficult accessibility.