Apple’s 24-inch iMac (M1, 2021) review: slim, energy-efficient and colorful review


Apple continues its transition to Apple Silicon with the most eye-catching product it has released in some time. Following the launch of the M1-based MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini last year, the M1 system on a chip (SoC) is arriving for the first time on its desktop flagship, the iMac. But, just as the existing Mac M1s are all entry-level models, iMac update focuses on the long-neglected 21-inch model, now upgraded to a larger 24-inch screen, a move that will be welcomed by home and business users – and, of course, business users working from home.

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The M1-based iMac has a 24-inch Retina display with minimal bezels and a resolution of 4480 x 2520 (218ppi). The system measures 54.7cm wide by 46.1cm high by 14.7cm deep, while the screen itself is only 11.5mm thick. It is also transportable, weighing just under 4.5 kg / 10 lbs.

Images: Apple

Design features

The original flat panel iMac has been around for so long that it’s easy to forget the impact of its sleek, all-in-one (AIO) design on the industry, with every subsequent AIO system released by the PC manufacturers inevitably compete with Design which defines the category of Apple. That design hasn’t changed much in recent years – until the arrival of the first M1-based iMac.

This new 24-inch model reminds us once again of Apple’s engineering skills, as it cuts down on the thick bezels around the edge of the screen so that the entire body of the computer is now only 21, 5 inches wide, compared to 20.8 inches for previous generations. In fact, the new iMac’s screen is actually 23.5 inches diagonally, which may not seem like a major improvement when taken on its own. However, the “ 4.5K ” Retina display also has an increased resolution, at 4480 by 2520 pixels (218 dpi), along with Apple’s TrueTone technology to adjust brightness and a welcome anti-reflective coating.

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The entry-level configuration (8-core CPU / 7-core GPU) comes in four colors (blue, green, pink, and silver), while more expensive models with an 8-core GPU add yellow, orange and purple to the IMac 2021 palette.

Image: Apple

The overall effect is that the screen is more spacious and more pleasing to the eye when browsing web pages or opening documents in software such as Word or Excel. I never would have considered the old 21.5in iMac’s cramped screen for office work, but the new 24in model is a much better option for business users who work from home and don’t may not have room for the essentials of the 27-inch version of the iMac. And, with its multi-color layer – four or seven colors are available, depending on the configuration you choose – you can bet the new iMac will find its way into many reception areas and showrooms as well.

But the most remarkable aspect of this new design only becomes evident if you look at it from the side. The highly integrated design of the SoC M1 allowed Apple to reduce the size of the iMac’s main motherboard and cooling system so that the display panel is now only 11.5mm thick. There’s even room for a new speaker system below the screen that manages to squeeze in six separate speakers – with a group of two woofers and a tweeter located at each corner for the left and right stereo channels.

Also for video calling and working from home, the iMac’s webcam has been upgraded to 1080p resolution, with an improved light sensor for low-light conditions and a new directional array of three microphones that can be tweaked. focus on the speaker and reduce background noise.

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But while the 24-inch iMac reminds us of Apple’s design skills, it also highlights the company’s weaknesses. Apple can also design a desktop that is 11.5mm thick, but that doesn’t allow you to adjust the height of the screen, or even rotate the stand to adjust the viewing angle. Those basic ergonomic requirements are presumably sacrificed, as Apple didn’t want unsightly nuts and bolts messing up that ultra-thin profile.

The new Magic Keyboard is also very slim. It’s available in a variety of colors to match the iMac itself and, on more expensive configurations, also includes a TouchID sensor for added security. However, the lifeless, low-profile keys still feel like a prop designed for a photoshoot rather than a tool for getting work done. Connectivity suffers as well, with the base configuration only including two Thunderbolt 3 / USB4 ports. The base model no longer even includes an Ethernet interface. This has now been moved to the external power unit and costs an additional £ 30 / $ 30, or is included as standard with the two more expensive setups available on Apple’s website.

Prices and options

This of course brings us to pricing. The 24-inch iMac comes with three standard configurations, starting at £ 1,249 (incl. Tax) or $ 1,299 with an 8-core M1 processor. Apple does not quote the clock speed of the chip, but Geekbench 5 reports this at 3.2 GHz, with the base spec also including 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. This entry-level price only includes a built-in 7-core GPU and as mentioned only includes two Thunderbolt 3 / USB4 ports. It also completely omits Ethernet and includes a basic keyboard without the TouchID sensor.

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If you want an extra pair of USB-C ports and a keyboard with TouchID, as well as an AC adapter with a built-in Gigabit Ethernet port, you’ll need to start with the £ 1,449 / $ 1,499 setup.

Images: Apple

There doesn’t seem to be any reason for these limitations, other than to convince buyers to go for the more expensive mid-range model, which offers an 8-core GPU, two additional USB-C ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port on the AC adapter and TouchID on the keyboard. This configuration costs £ 1,449 (including tax) or $ 1,499; there’s a third setup that simply doubles the SSD storage to 512GB for an extra £ 200 / $ 200.

Additional upgrade options are limited and quite expensive. The 27-inch Intel iMac still allows users to upgrade the memory themselves, but that’s not an option with the M1-based 24-inch iMac. The M1 processor only allows 8GB or 16GB, so if you want to upgrade to 16GB, you’ll need to pay £ 200 / $ 200 at the time of purchase. As mentioned, Ethernet is a £ 30 / $ 30 upgrade for the base configuration, while 512GB storage costs £ 200 / $ 200 more, or you can pay £ 400 / $ 400 for 1TB, or £ 800 / $ 800 for 2TB.

The design of the iMac 2021 is exceptional, but it is still quite expensive for what is essentially an entry-level AIO system. The M1-based Mac Mini is of course cheaper, but its price doesn’t include a screen. Even so, the Mac Mini’s basic setup costs just £ 699 / $ 699, so you can probably still buy a decent monitor to use with it and have some change from £ / $ 1,000. The Mac Mini also has an 8-core GPU in all configurations and better connectivity, so you’re really paying extra for the eye-catching design of the iMac M1.

Performance

Unsurprisingly, the new iMac offers very similar performance to its M1-based brethren. In fact, its Geekbench 5 CPU scores of 1745 (single core) and 7700 (multi-core) in native M1 mode are virtually identical to those of the Mac Mini. Geekbench can also test performance with the Rosetta 2 translation software that allows you to run older Intel software, registering very respectable scores of 1340 (single-core) and 6040 (multi-core).

The iMac was unable to run the Intel processor Cinebench R15 test graphics performance, or Unigine Valley test either, suggesting that Rosetta 2 is not quite 100% compatible with all Intel software. However, the iMac was able to run the Intel version of Tomb Raider, rendering Lara Croft’s adventures at the same 25 frames per second as the Mac Mini, when running at 2560×1440 resolution with the highest graphics settings in the game. The Intel compatibility issue isn’t too worrisome, as key applications like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office are already available in native M1 versions.

The iMac M1 can’t exactly be described as a gaming rig, but it’s more than powerful enough to handle productivity software like Microsoft Office, and even some photo or video editing workloads. .

Conclusions

The striking design of the M1-based 24-inch iMac will undoubtedly gain a place in many homes and offices, and the performance of the M1 SoC continues to impress. Even so, the design limitations are boring, given the high price tag even of the new iMac’s entry-level setup. My bank manager would probably tell me to buy the Mac Mini instead. But if Apple’s goal was simply to create a sensation and prove that it can still outperform its PC competitors, then the company has certainly made its point.

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