Apple iMac 24–inch (2021)
Mac Life|July 2021
The all–new iMac 24–inch is an incredible machine to behold, but it has some limitations
By Matt Bolton

Features 23.5–inch Retina display (4480x2520), Apple M1 chip, 8GB unified memory (16GB available), 256GB storage (512GB, 1TB, and 2TB available), 802.11ax Wi–Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, 2x Thunderbolt 4/USB Type–C ports (4x on the upgrade model)

The Apple iMac 24–inch (M1, 2021) is all–new internally and externally. The characteristics of Apple’s M1 chip mean that the computer can be just 11.5mm thick, not including stand, but still pack in eight cores of potent processing power — and run silently.

The 4.5K resolution screen is larger than the 21.5–inch model it replaces, but the whole unit is only 2cm wider and 1cm taller — and much less voluminous. It is, simply, much more computer in a smaller space. Mostly.

There are a few changes in the iMac 24–inch that won’t be as welcome as the upgrades we’ve mentioned, and there’s one notable thing that hasn’t changed but really should have. But overall it’s maybe the most exciting Mac in years, and with its seven jaunty colors it feels less like a new electronic appliance and more like a computer from the days when getting a new Mac was cool and thrilling.

PRICE AND SPEC

The iMac 24–inch starts from $1,299, which gets you an M1 with an eight– core processor, seven–core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage, and two USB Type–C/Thunderbolt 4 ports; and it’s available in green, pink, blue and silver. However, this version doesn’t come with Touch ID fingerprint security on its keyboard, or an Ethernet port on its power brick.

If you step up to the $1,499 version you get the M1 with an eight–core GPU, two additional USB Type–C ports (making four total), keyboard with Touch ID, and an Ethernet port.

From here, you can customize the iMac 24–inch in two ways: RAM and storage. Neither can be upgraded in the future by the user, so you’ll need to buy smart. The RAM can be upgraded to 16GB, but that’s the maximum. The storage can be raised from 256GB up to a maximum of 2TB.

FEATURES AND WHAT’S NEW

What’s new in the 24–inch iMac compared to the 21.5–inch model it replaces? Literally everything. Not a single aspect remains unchanged.

Let’s start with the screen, which is a 23.5–inch, 4480x2520 display — Apple is calling this “4.5K,” which makes sense if you know that 4K just means “any screen around 4,000 pixels wide.” This one has slightly more pixels. Easy! Apple has done 24–inch screens before, but not since 2009, so this is a blast from the past.

The screen offers 500 nits of typical brightness and P3 wide color gamut support, both of which are big improvements on your average monitor, which is likely to be about half as bright and without such wide color support. You also get Apple’s True Tone system, which adjusts the colors based on the lighting in your room and makes a big difference to eye comfort, we think.

The screen has always been one of the big draws for iMacs because you don’t find a huge number of 21– to 24–inch 4K displays at all, let alone at this level of quality; and if you do they cost most of what this entire machine costs, without adding all the actual computer parts.

For power, you’ve got the Apple M1 chip in an iMac for the first time, replacing the Intel processors and graphics used in the previous model. That’s an eight–core processor, with four high–power performance cores and four lower–speed “efficiency” cores. You can get it with 8GB or 16GB of RAM — a drop from the 32GB max that the older model offered, which will be annoying for some pro users, though it isn’t a problem for the average buyer.

The M1 also provides graphics, with seven or eight cores of GPU power depending on the model you choose. It also includes a “Neural Engine,” which can be used by apps that include machine learning tools to massively speed up tasks — this is niche, but some Mac apps are starting to make good use of it.

At the top is a 1080p Full HD webcam, which uses the M1 chip for image processing, though disappointingly it doesn’t include the useful “Center Stage” feature seen in the iPad Pro (2021), which keeps you in the middle of frame even if you move around. Apple pushes this iMac as being as much for the kitchen or living room as an office desk, and this would be a really useful feature.

There’s also now a better array of mics that Apple describes as “studio–quality,” which will always remain as slightly wishful thinking when the average home office is lacking several other crucial qualities that studios have, but should still help to pick your voice and avoid other sounds around you.

The speakers are one of the most interesting upgrades. There are six drivers in total, with three in each of the bottom corners. The really clever part is the use of two woofers in each side, positioned exactly to oppose each other (one facing forward, one back). Force–opposing drivers are used to cancel out residual vibrations from powerful speakers, so you can put loud and impactful sound into something where you don’t want shaking to happen — they’re used in high-end subwoofers for home cinema, and in Apple’s 16–inch MacBook Pro, as well as here.

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