I love the 24” iMac.
My plan was to buy it purely for the purpose of reviewing the new design, but as soon as I placed Apple’s colourful all-in-one on my desk, I knew I’d be in for the long haul.
It’s a stunning machine and will sell like hotcakes. Indeed, if you’re someone who needs to replace their ageing 21.5” iMac, or you simply need the best possible computer for everyone at home, nothing delivers quite as much bang-for-buck as the 24” iMac.
It’ll last you many years. It’ll look beautiful wherever you place it. The latent power and flexibility of the M1 chip will help you breeze through everyday tasks and dabble in more creative stuff if it takes your fancy.
There’s just one big question: should you go for the 8GB or 16GB version?
I’ve provided lots of guidance on this for the existing lineup of M1 Macs, but this is my RAM buying advice specifically for the 24” M1 iMac.
Why I’m qualified to talk about this
I’ve been using the M1 chip since launch. Every single day, it helps me run my business, smash my to-do list and ensure my videos and blogs are published on time and in the best possible shape.
Some people continue to scoff at Apple silicon. To them, it’s a toy, far too new to be reliable and incompatible with all but the most dumbed-down apps and platforms.
They’re totally wrong.
What gets their goat the most, however, is the fact the M1 maxes out at 16GB of RAM. In a world where you can still buy a 16” MacBook Pro that can be configured with 64GB of RAM, the M1 appears ludicrously underpowered.
This isn’t the case. As noted, I use both the 8GB and 16GB versions of the M1 every single day. The former rests in my MacBook Air, while the latter sits in my Mac mini, which is my default video and audio editing rig.
I can’t tell the difference between either version of the M1. No, really; for everyday computing tasks and even photo editing, they perform identically. The only time I’ve ever spotted the 8GB struggling was during a particularly complicated 4K timeline in Final Cut Pro.
I’m a typical creative user, granted. I don’t throw development work at my M1 Macs. But I really do put them to task, and I feel I’ve experienced both the 8GB and 16GB variants for long enough now to offer you the best buying advice for the 24” iMac.
If you’ve got it, spend it
You may now be wondering why on earth you’d ever bother spending the extra cash on 16GB of RAM. After all, if the performance is all but identical until you reach into the upper echelons of creative or development work, is it really worth your hard-earned?
This is where we take a step back to the old way of thinking. You see, as game-changing as the M1 might be, it still relies on the basic principles of computing. And for as long as I can remember, the advice has always been, “buy as much RAM as you can afford”.
This advice still stands.
It’s particularly important advice now that Macs are essentially sealed boxes. You can’t upgrade them yourself these days, therefore you’re stuck with whatever you buy from the outset.
Thankfully, this makes the buying process for the iMac (at least, the RAM element) pretty straightforward. To add another 8GB to the base spec version, Apple asks for an additional £200 (ignore the 7-core/8-core GPU thing – it has zero impact on anything and you can do without that extra core). If you have that £200 and can spend it without breaking the bank, do it.
The reason is simple: while the 8GB version of the M1 is a stunningly capable machine, it does have less headroom than the 16GB version. There’s simply less RAM for apps to play with and, in the future, that might be an issue for you. Whether it’s software demanding more memory or your workflow becoming more creative and intense, maxing out the RAM will give you the peace of mind you need.
There’s also an argument to say that a 16GB M1 iMac will last longer and offer a higher resale value than the 8GB version. I’d counter that with the fact many people continue to run their lower-powered Macs into the ground and that these things are built like tanks, but it’s worth taking into consideration if you have that additional £200.
Lastly, you might just be the sort of person who wants to own the best possible version of a computer. And that’s cool, too.
If you haven’t got it, don’t sweat it
So, what if you don’t have another £200 to spend on your new iMac? It’s not an inconsequential amount of money, after all.
In the land of Intel Macs, this would inevitably lead to a reluctant purchase. You’d end up buying the Mac you can afford while fully acknowledging the fact it’ll probably be a bit of a pain to live with. It’s a bit like signing up for an off-peak gym membership; you’ll use it, but it won’t work for you when you’ll probably need it the most.
Good news! This isn’t the case with the M1 Mac. It’s the all-day gym pass of Macs. It’ll work tirelessly for you day-in, day-out, and you won’t even think about the fact it ‘only’ has 8GB of RAM inside.
The M1 zips through every task I throw at it, and it’ll do the same for you. If you’re considering the 24” iMac, you’re probably not the sort of person who is going to be throwing complex development work or computer science at it, nor are you likely to be editing 8K video. So, if you haven’t got the £200, don’t sweat it – you won’t feel an ounce of buyer’s remorse.
I’ve just removed a section from this blog that was headed “If you’re indecisive, consider your use case”. And the reason for doing so is simple: as I started writing, I realised that the decision between 8GB and 16GB of RAM for the 24” iMac really is an easy one to make.
If you have £200 to spend on it and can do so relatively easily, upgrade to 16GB. If you don’t have that cash, there’s no need to lose sleep over it.
I’ve offered this advice numerous times to people who comment on my YouTube videos. Many of them return later to thank me for encouraging them not to worry about buying the 8GB version. I love that, and it proves my point: with the M1, we’re no longer in a position where RAM matters to everyday computer users.
To some users, RAM really matters. But as I noted earlier, if you’re considering the new 24″ iMac, that almost definitely isn’t you. This machine is built almost entirely for the home market, and whichever option you choose (based on your budget), you’ll be absolutely delighted. Trust me.
Oh, and if you’re interested, I bought the 8GB version.