Enlarge / The 2021 24-inch iMac with Apple’s M1.
Much has been written about people longing for comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the bright colors and the sleek design of the new 24-inch iMac, Apple also seems to indulge in nostalgia.
But the nostalgia of the new iMac is only superficial. Inside is probably the most advanced CPU currently sold in consumer devices: the M1. This chip is equally at home on an iPad and Mac, yet the M1 offers performance that in some cases can rival or exceed some of the best desktop chips available.
While the M1 has enough power to attract power users, this new iMac isn’t really for them. Rather, the 24-inch iMac is primarily about simplicity. It’s a computer that promises users not to worry about how to configure or maintain a system. It’s a computer that is more concerned with fitting into the room than it is in taking you anywhere else.
It’s a computer that Apple could easily promote using the exact same ad it ran for inspiration in 1998, the iMac G3. “Three easy steps to the Internet,” said Jeff Goldblum, the spokesman for the commercial. “Step one: plug in. Step two: connect. Step three … there is no step three.” Say hello to the iMac.
Apple iMac (24 inch, 2021)
(Ars Technica may receive compensation for sales from links in this post through affiliate programs.) At the heart of things is Apple’s much-lauded M1, which includes a CPU, GPU, NPU, ISP, and shared memory pool on one other Chip. This is the exact same M1 that we have now tested in several Mac and iPad products.
As with these Macs, the M1’s CPU has four high-performance cores and four efficiency cores. The cheapest 24-inch iMac configuration ($ 1,299) has seven GPU cores while the others have eight. In addition, the cheapest model has a different cooling system with just a single fan than the other two configurations.
At purchase, the computer can be configured with either 8GB or 16GB of unified memory and either 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB of solid-state storage. Ethernet is also an optional $ 30 upgrade to the base configuration (it’s automatically included in the more expensive configurations), but that Ethernet port is in the power brick, not the Mac itself.
|Technical data at a glance: 2021 24-inch iMac|
|YOU||macOS Big Sur 11.4|
|Central processor||Apple M1|
|HDD||512 GB SSD|
|Networking||WLAN 6; Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||2x Thunderbolt, 2x USB-C, 3.5 mm headphones, Gigabit Ethernet (on the power supply)|
|warranty||1 year or 3 years with AppleCare +|
|Price as rated||$ 1,899|
Other connections besides Ethernet include a 3.5 mm headphone jack, two USB-3 (USB-C) ports and two Thunderbolt / USB-C ports, the DisplayPort and USB 4 (up to 40 Gb / s) as well as USB 3.1 Gen. support 2 (up to 10 Gbit / s). You will need to purchase some adapters for HDMI or other adapters not listed here.
This is the first Mac in a long time with something like a MagSafe magnetic power adapter port, though Apple doesn’t seem to be calling it that this time around. The port is a very different design than previous Macs with MagSafe, but it’s more or less what you’d expect, albeit much more pop-out resistant than the old MagSafe. Touch ID, which was previously only available on Apple’s laptops, has also returned from previous iMacs. The iMac keyboard comes with it, and Apple says it will work with other M1 Macs like the Mac mini if you pair the keyboard with those devices.
There are two Thunderbolt and two USB ports on the back.
You can find the headphone jack on the side.
Here is the new power cord.
And you’ll find Ethernet on the Power Brick, assuming you’ve purchased a configuration that includes it.
Fortunately, the camera has gone from 720p to 1080p.
You will now get Touch ID in the keyboard that came with the iMac.
The 23.5-inch display is the star of the show – without it, this is basically just another M1 Mac mini. Fortunately, the display can impress. With a resolution of 4,480 x 2,520, it’s equivalent to the pixel density of the 21.5-inch iMac at 218 pixels per inch, and that’s enough. The display hits a maximum brightness of 500 nits so you won’t blow your mind in HDR movies, but that’s decent for office monitors.
The display is pretty glossy, if not as aggressive as some previous iMacs, and Apple doesn’t offer a matte or nano-texture configuration option.
Above the screen is a 1080p FaceTime HD camera. That’s a big upgrade over the 720p camera in the 21.5-inch iMac, but on par with the latest 27-inch iMac. I say “kind of” because this camera does a lot better than the 1080p camera in the 27-inch iMac because of the M1’s ISP.
The ISP enables computerized photography and video functions such as tone mapping and noise reduction. In ideal shooting conditions, the difference from a non-M1 equivalent is modest, but we’ve found that the ISP makes a huge difference in suboptimal conditions, such as low light situations or when the user is behind a bright light.
Three microphones pick up the sound of your video calls, and the new iMac has a six-speaker system that includes two pairs of woofers, each accompanied by a tweeter. Apply says these speakers deliver spatial audio through Dolby Atmos, although I do contend that the benefits of Dolby Atmos are minimal in a stereo setup.
Wireless specs include Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 – pretty much what you’d expect in a computer these days.
I’ve never seen a personal computing device that is so futuristic and nostalgic at the same time.
Let’s start with the futuristic part: the new iMac is just 11.5 mm (0.45 inches) thick. This means that this 24-inch iMac has a 50 percent reduced volume and a 30 percent smaller footprint than the following 21.5-inch iMac. It also has 50 percent smaller bezels over and on the sides of the screen.
In fact, it’s so thin that the headphone jack has to be on the side for the plug to fit in, and the Ethernet port has to live in the power brick as well. The last bit is a clever solution to the fact that many users wanted Ethernet ports, but Apple’s laptops (and now desktops) have gotten so thin they no longer fit. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple offers the same option with future MacBooks.
The back of the 24-inch iMac.
And here is the front.
It’s a thin desktop computer.
The hinge is easier to use than the 21.5-inch iMac.
As we learned from an x-ray and teardown at iFixit, almost all of the silicon is in the chin of the device under the display. (There is also a small striped display panel along the inside of the top of the case, above the display.)
At least that explains the chin. Apple clearly chose to keep that chin rather than thickening the machine, either because the iMac’s design team felt that thickening the case would detract from the merging with the space because the chin is part of what you are what makes the modern iMac recognizable as an iMac because that approach was the best thermal management solution, or a combination of these things.
In any case, the Apple logo we’re used to on this chin isn’t there; it’s just whitespace, which to me just emphasizes how much, well, whitespace there is. I don’t like it, but it’s a bit strange after the iMac has looked like this for so many years.
In addition to aesthetics and space, being thin has a number of advantages. The device is easier to transport between rooms and the display hinge is more manageable because it has to carry less weight. Unfortunately, it is still not possible to adjust the height of the iMac.