24-inch iMac review: There’s still no step three | GeekComparison

The 2021 24-inch iMac with Apple's M1.
Enlarge / The 2021 24-inch iMac with Apple’s M1.

Samuel Axon

Much has been written about people embracing homesick comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the bright colors and simplistic design of the new 24-inch iMac, Apple also seems to be indulging in the pangs of nostalgia.

But the nostalgia of the new iMac is only superficial. Inside, it has arguably the most advanced CPU currently sold in consumer devices: the M1. This chip is just as at home in an iPad as it is in a Mac, but the M1 delivers performance that in some cases matches or exceeds the best desktop chips.

While the M1 offers enough performance to appeal to power users, this new iMac isn’t really for them. Rather, the 24-inch iMac is first and foremost about simplicity. It’s a computer that promises users that they don’t have to think about configuring or maintaining a system. It’s a computer that cares more about fitting into the room than taking you elsewhere.

It’s a computer Apple could easily promote with the exact same ad it showed back in 1998 for its inspiration, the iMac G3. “We’re presenting three easy steps to the Internet,” says Jeff Goldblum, the commercial’s narrator. “Step one: connect. Step two: connect. Step three… there’s no step three.” Say hello to iMac.


Apple iMac (24-inch, 2021) product image

Apple iMac (24-inch, 2021)

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At the heart of it all is Apple’s acclaimed M1, which puts a CPU, a GPU, an NPU, an ISP, and a shared memory pool on a single chip, among other things. This is exactly the same M1 that we have now tested in several Mac and iPad products.

Similar to those 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. Furthermore, the cheapest model has a different cooling system, with only one fan compared to the two other configurations.

At purchase, the computer can be configured with 8 GB or 16 GB of unified memory and 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB of solid-state storage. Ethernet is also an optional upgrade for an additional $30 for the basic configuration (it’s automatically included in the more expensive configurations), but that Ethernet port is in the power brick, not in the Mac itself.

Specifications at a glance: 24-inch iMac from 2021
Operating system macOS Big Sur 11.4
CPU Apple M1
GPU Apple M1
HDD SSD of 512 GB
Networking Wi-Fi 6; Bluetooth 5.0
ports 2x Thunderbolt, 2x USB-C, 3.5mm Headphones, Gigabit Ethernet (on the power brick)
Guarantee 1 year or 3 years with AppleCare+
Price as rated $1,899

Other ports besides Ethernet include a 3.5mm headphone jack, two USB-3 (USB-C) ports, and two Thunderbolt/USB-C ports that support DisplayPort and USB 4 (up to 40Gb/s), as well as USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s). You need to buy some adapters for HDMI or anything else not listed here.

This is the first Mac in a long time to feature something like a MagSafe magnetic power adapter port, although Apple apparently doesn’t call it that this time. The port has a very different design than previous Macs with MagSafe, but it’s more or less what you’d expect, albeit much more resistant to popping than the old MagSafe. Also returning from previous iMacs is Touch ID, which was only available with Apple’s laptops until now. The iMac’s keyboard is included, and Apple says it will work with other M1 Macs like the Mac mini if ​​you pair the keyboard with those devices.

The 23.5-inch screen is the star of the show – without it, this is really just another M1 Mac mini. Fortunately, the screen manages to impress. With a resolution of 4,480 x 2,520, it matches the pixel density of the 21.5-inch iMac at 218 pixels per inch, which is plenty. The screen reaches a maximum brightness of 500 nits, so it won’t blow you away in HDR movies, but that’s quite a bit as far as office monitors go.

The screen is quite glossy, albeit not as aggressive as some previous iMacs, and Apple doesn’t offer a matte or nanotexture 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 comparable to the most recent 27-inch iMac. I say “sort of” because this camera far outperforms the 1080p camera in the 27-inch iMac thanks to the M1’s ISP.

The ISP enables computational photography and video capabilities such as tone mapping and noise reduction. In ideal shooting conditions, the difference to a non-M1 equivalent is modest, but we found the ISP makes a huge difference in sub-optimal conditions, such as low-light situations or when the user has a bright light behind them.

Three microphones pick up the audio from your video calls, and the new iMac has a six-speaker system, including two pairs of woofers, each accompanied by a tweeter. Apply says these speakers do spatial audio via Dolby Atmos, although I maintain that the benefits of Dolby Atmos are minimal in a stereo setup.

Wireless specs include Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 – about what you’d expect from a computer these days.


Never before have I seen a personal computing device so futuristic and rooted in nostalgia at the same time.

Let’s start with the futuristic part: the new iMac is only 11.5 mm (0.45 inch) thick. That means this 24-inch iMac has 50 percent less volume and a 30 percent smaller footprint than the 21.5-inch iMac that follows it. It also has 50 percent smaller bezels above 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 be in the power brick too. The latter is a clever solution to the fact that many users wanted Ethernet ports, but Apple’s laptops (and now desktops) have become so thin they no longer fit. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple offers the same option with future MacBooks.

As we learned from an X-ray and teardown at iFixit, almost all of the silicon is in the chin of the device, below the screen. (There is also a small display board in the form of a strip along the inside of the top of the chassis, above the display.)

At least that explains the chin. Apple clearly decided to keep that chin instead of making the machine thicker, either because the design team of the iMac felt that making the case thicker would take away from the overall feel of the room, because the chin is part part of what makes a modern iMac recognizable as an iMac, either because this approach provided the best thermal management solution, or because of a combination of one of those things.

In any case, the Apple logo we’re used to seeing in that chin isn’t there; it’s just empty space, which to me just accentuates how much, well, empty space there is. I don’t hate it, but it’s a little strange after the iMac has looked a certain way for so many years.

The thinness has some advantages in addition to aesthetics and space. The device is easier to transport between rooms, and the screen hinge is in a more manageable position because it doesn’t have to support as much weight. Unfortunately, adjusting the height of the iMac is still not possible.

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