The iMac has a history of redefining its category. The original paved the way for color in technology. The 2001 refresh brought friendliness to computing. And the 2007, 2012, and 2017 models defined what a stylish all-in-one could be. Recently, Apple launched the new 2021 iMac 24-inch, giving it a complete overhaul, bringing color back, offering a design like no other computer, and setting a new benchmark for the all-in-one, and indeed desktop, computer.
The 2021 iMac is more than just a new design though. The new iMac also gets Apple’s own M1 chip, like the MacBook Air and Mac Mini before it. And, it gets all-new accessories that not only match the design, but add some extra functionality.
So, should you buy the 2021 Apple iMac? If you’re looking for an all-in-one, then yes. Here’s why.
Apple iMac (2021) 24-inch design
The addition of the M1 chip is certainly a headline-making change for the iMac, but perhaps the only thing that overshadows it this time around is the change in design. Of course, it’s all connected — Apple’s new chips simply don’t generate as much heat as Intel’s chips do.
At first glance, I wasn’t a huge fan of the new iMac’s design. But I have to admit, after spending some time with the pink model, I kind of love it.
The iMac looks completely different from every angle. On the front, you’ll get the 24-inch display, surrounded by white bezels, and a relatively large chin at the bottom. The chin on this iMac is actually necessary. It pretty much houses all of the computer components in the device, save for some display components and the camera at the top of the iMac. The white bezels are controversial, but frankly, they don’t look bad at all with these colors. And, they help make the computer look a little more friendly in a home. That’s kind of the point of this iMac in the first place. I could see Apple releasing an “iMac Pro” with a black-and-gray look, but we’ll have to wait and see if that happens.
Speaking of colors, there are tons of fun colors on offer here. I’m reviewing the Pink model, but it also comes in Green, Yellow, Red, Purple, Blue, and Silver. All of them are kind of two-tone looks. For example, the Pink on the front is much lighter than what’s really red on the back. I like it. It’s important to note that the color options vary depending on the specs you get.
On the back, you’ll get two USB4 ports, though if you upgrade your model, you can get an extra two USB-C ports. Those won’t support USB4 or Thunderbolt 3. There’s also a new power input. The new power input is magnetic, allowing you to simply slot in the power cable to plug it in. It’s propriety, but it works great. It also supports data input — and if you buy the upgrade, you can get a power brick with an ethernet port. That’s a pretty cool design element. It means that there’s one less cable jutting out the back of your iMac for wired setups.
That said, I would have liked a couple more ports. I get that this is a future-facing product, but a USB-A port or two would have been appreciated. Or, at least a few extra USB4 ports.
The iMac looks new from the side too. The device is really thin — and actually, looks more like an iPad than a Mac. The iMac is only 11.5mm thick, which is pretty stunning. In fact, it’s actually thinner than some older iPhone models, like the iPhone 3GS, which was 12.3mm thick. Also on the side is a headphone jack. The placement makes sense for most people that use headphones, but as someone who prefers to stick with external speakers, it means there’s a permanent cable coming out the side of my iMac.
Of course, you might not need external speakers given the fact that those built into the 2021 iMac are so great. The speakers are made up of two pairs of woofers for bass, and two tweeters for the higher end. It’s a solid setup — and there is indeed much more bass than you would expect from built-in speakers. The speakers can easily get loud enough for most users, and they never distort, even at louder volumes.
There’s another very welcome change to the Mac lineup — a better webcam. Technically, it’s the same 1,080p webcam as the 27-inch iMac, but Apple’s M1 chip offers better image processing that makes for a clearer image in general, including in low-light environments. It’s better than any other Mac webcam before it — and we hope that Apple continues to improve on the webcam.
Apple iMac (2021) 24-inch accessories
The iMac comes with some new accessories too. While the new Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad are the same as before (except for their new colors), there’s also an all-new Magic Keyboard, with an option for Touch ID built into it.
The keyboard is relatively compact by default, though there is an option to get one with a numeric keypad too, if you want it. Generally, I found typing on the keyboard to be a good experience, though it definitely felt a little more cramped than on the previous-generation Magic Keyboard, which I use regularly with my Mac mini. You’ll get used to it though.
Unfortunately, Touch ID doesn’t come built into the keyboard by default — you’ll have to upgrade to get it. It costs $50 to upgrade to the Touch ID model, or $80 to upgrade to the Touch ID model with Numeric Keypad.
The Magic Mouse has never been my go-to, and that remains true here. I’m more of an MX Master guy. But if you’ve used the Magic Mouse before, and like the slimmer design, you’ll have the same experience with this new one. There’s still a Lightning port on the bottom though.
Last but not least is the Magic Trackpad, which worked well. Apple has always built the best trackpads, and in fact, this one is so good that you might not want or need a mouse at all. That said, the Magic Trackpad doesn’t come with the iMac by default — you’ll have to pay extra to get one. You can either pay $50 to get a Magic Trackpad instead of Magic Mouse, or pay $129 for both.
It’s a little frustrating the ways Apple gets you to spend more on your iMac. In 2021, biometric authentication should be the default — not an add-on. The same goes for an ethernet port, which many rely on. I get charging extra for a trackpad that many won’t care about, but Apple should bundle Touch ID in the base price.
The iMac also comes with a well-built, strong braided nylon color-matched Lightning cable. I hope these cables start appearing in the box with iPhones and iPads too — it’s much better than the standard flimsy Lightning cable.
Apple iMac (2021) 24-inch display
Apple has always offered solid displays on its iMac line, and the 2021 iMac is no exception to that rule. The computer offers a 24-inch display with what Apple calls a “4.5K” resolution. It’s a little more than 4K, and the result is a pixel density of 218 pixels-per-inch. It’s consistent with other so-called Retina Displays, and frankly, it looks great. Everything is crisp and detailed, and thanks to the 500-nit brightness, the device easily gets bright enough for even ultra-bright environments.
The iMac also supports True Tone, which some love and others don’t. True Tone automatically sets the white balance of the display based on the lighting in the room. It works pretty well. It’s not necessarily for me, but it’s definitely cool.
The iMac does not have the same nanotexture glass on offer by the 27-inch iMac, which is built to reduce glare. Frankly, I didn’t really miss it. There wasn’t too much glare anyway, and the display gets easily bright enough to combat glare. Viewing angles on the iMac are pretty good too, not that most will need good viewing angles on a device they mostly use straight-on.
Of course, there’s a huge omission here, though not a surprising one — no touch screen. Honestly, a touch-screen on an all-in-one isn’t necessary anyway, but I’m still holding out hope that we’ll eventually see Macs with touch displays.
Apple iMac (2021) 24-inch specs and performance
Of course, central to the iMac’s renaissance is the M1 chip. This is the same chip that now powers the Mac mini, MacBook Air, and even certain MacBook Pro models. In other words, it can easily handle everything that most users will throw at it on the day-to-day.
The iMac is available in two main variations — one with a 7-core GPU, and one with an 8-core CPU. Frankly, these will perform similarly, and users won’t really notice a difference, though people like graphic designers may want to opt for the higher-end model. The base model of the iMac also comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, which is upgradeable to 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage.
The model we’re reviewing has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, however having reviewed an entry-level Mac mini, I have a pretty good idea of the performance differences. Generally speaking, 8GB of RAM is enough for most users, who want to browse the web, use email, watch Netflix, and so on. Those who need their iMac for any kind of productivity or creative use should probably upgrade to 16GB of RAM. It really does help ensure that your device is powerful enough to run more than a few apps at a time. If you’re unsure, and can afford it, get the 16GB of RAM — because there’s no way to upgrade this computer after you buy it.
Benchmark results confirm the excellent performance. Our model scored the below results.
- GeekBench 5 CPU: 1078 single-coore, 5388 multi-core
- CineBench R23 CPU: 1144 single-core, 6236 multi-core
The iMac technically has a fan built into it, but it rarely turned on for me — and when it did, it remained very quiet.
The 2021 24-inch iMac is a victory. Between the stunningly thin and colorful design, and the excellent M1 performance, the computer is the all-in-one powerhouse for most people.
Of course, it’s not cheap, but there are alternatives in both the Mac and Windows space for those that don’t want to spend the cash. Those that can afford the money will absolutely love what’s on offer by the 2021 24-inch iMac.
If you don’t want to spend the money on a 2021 iMac, there are alternatives to consider. For those that want to stick within Apple’s ecosystem, the best cheaper alternative is the Mac mini. It offers similar performance at a starting price of $699. You’ll have to get a keyboard, mouse, and monitor separately, but you can skimp on those as you see fit.
There are also options in the Windows space. Perhaps the best value all-in-one right now is the HP Pavilion 24, however it won’t perform quite as well, or integrate with your Apple devices.
Should I buy the Apple iMac (2021) 24-inch?
Yes. If you can afford the 2021 24-inch iMac, it’s the desktop computer for the masses. If you’re a serious videographer or graphic designer, however, you should wait for a more powerful M1X-powered iMac.