Of all Apple’s releases this year, the new iMac has arguably been the most hotly anticipated. This is mainly because we haven’t seen a new design since 2012.
Only, it hasn’t really been much of a hardship, has it? The outgoing iMac design (which is still your only choice if you want the big one) has arguably lasted the test of time – just like the MacBook Air’s slender profile.
Design is a subjective thing, but I’ve rarely looked at my 27” 5K iMac and thought, “sorry, mate; the 2000s are calling – they want their computer back”.
However, it now appears as though the iMac we’ve known and loved for nearly a decade is finally making its way towards the exit. Heading in the opposite direction is a brand-new machine, built from the ground up and created specifically for Apple silicon.
I think the first new iMac is a masterful stroke by Apple. But it isn’t without its troubles.
The M1 was the right choice
If you were paying attention to the rumours about the new iMac, you probably had some pretty lofty expectations.
We’ll get onto the design aspect of that in a moment, but one of the most persistent whispers leading up to last week’s event was that the new iMac would feature the next iteration of Apple’s M-series chip.
A couple of names for the new chip gained traction, too. The new iMac will contain the M1X, said some. No, no, it’ll be the M2, and it’ll feature at least 16-cores and a 32GB RAM option, said others.
What did Apple do? They just chucked the M1 in there. In fact, all that technically amounted to was soldering the internals from an M1 Mac mini (plus one extra fan) into the chin of the new iMac.
No additional cores, no more RAM and no sparkly new name.
This is Apple through and through. While the rumour mill descends into endless debates about what will come next, Apple does what is, with hindsight, the most obvious thing.
They expel the least amount of effort possible for the largest market gain.
Putting the M1 into the first new iMac makes total sense. Every element of the marketing campaign surrounding this computer is aimed squarely at the home user. This is not a computer for professional video editors or developers, and it certainly isn’t for the owner of the current 27” iMac.
It’s for the family who has an ageing 21.5” iMac in the study. It’s for the couple who want to replace their 10-year-old Lenovo laptop. It’s the super-special gift to the kid who has long wanted their own Mac in their bedroom.
That audience couldn’t give two hoots about the M2 or the M1X. But they will be drawn in by Apple’s brilliant marketing for the new iMac, those vibrant colours and the relatively approachable price point. The fact that it contains the M1 will be the icing on the cake, once they get their hands on it.
The new iMac still has a chin.
I’m going to lean against the wind of disdain directed towards the new iMac design. I really like it. And, just like giving it the M1 chip, retaining many of the outgoing iMac’s design cues makes total sense.
That is, unless you got yourself lost in those rumours.
The new iMac was never going to look like the Pro Display XDR. Why would it? By removing the chin and all but erasing the bezels, it’d just look like a monitor; every essence of the iMac will have evaporated.
This stuff matters when you’re running a business. You want people to recognise your stuff; you want people to point at things to which they aspire to own and ask the owner, “what is that?”.
The iMac needs a chin. And I’m no designer, but I’d imagine those bezels offer an important degree of balance to the overall design.
When did we get so obsessed with removing bezels, anyway?
Yes, the decision not to include the Apple logo on the front is a little odd, but it still looks like an iMac. That’s the reason the design looks nothing like the rumours; if it had, the new iMac would have looked entirely unassuming, unless viewed from the rear.
Why do you think it’s taking Apple so long to remove the notch from the iPhone?
The spec options (oh dear)
If you’ve followed my thoughts on the M1 MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and Mac mini, you’ll know that I have a few gripes with the spec options offered by Apple.
You need look no further than the comments section of any M1 video I publish on YouTube to realise that there is a massive amount of buyer confusion. How much RAM should I get? Will 256GB of storage be enough? What’s with the 7-core GPU option?
Some of those questions are as old as the hills, but the GPU option on the base level MacBook Air and Mac mini is needlessly perplexing for most normal people. It’s therefore a shame to see it present on the new iMac’s configuration screen.
But it gets worse.
For a computer that is so clearly aimed at the consumer market, Apple really does seem to have made a pig’s ear of the spec options. Even the colours have been made ‘upgradeable’; if you want the orange or purple iMac, you’ll need to stump up another £200 from the base model.
But it’s the smaller print that might catch a few out. For instance, the base level iMac has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, just like the rest of the M1 line-up. But if you spend an extra £200, you get two more ports. Only, they’re USB 3 (they look identical on the back, bar a lightning bolt above the two Thunderbolt ports).
I have two questions. Why wasn’t this an option on the rest of the M1 machines? And how does Apple expect home computer users to assess the value of two additional-but-different ports for £200?
Then, you realise you do get more for your £200, which consequently leaves the base model more hampered than you first thought. Principally, that relates to the inclusion of gigabit ethernet (attached to the external power brick – smart) and a Magic Keyboard with Touch ID.
That’s right – Touch ID isn’t available on the base level iMac. At the time of writing, it’s unclear as to whether or not you can add it during the checkout process, because Apple won’t let you go any further than view the headline pricing until the pre-order day (30th April).
Regardless, it’s all a little bit confusing for the average user. The fact the 7-Core GPU makes an appearance on that base spec iMac will only serve to throw yet more spanners into the works.
Selfishly, that means I’ll have lots more video content to create in a bid to help people find the right machine. But, why does Apple do this? Why do they put so many hurdles in front of the check-out process? This isn’t a Mac Pro.
I’ll be reviewing the base level iMac when it arrives, so stay tuned for my thoughts on that. However, it’s not for me in the long term. As previously noted, this computer is built almost entirely for the home user market and, to a degree, the hobbyist content creator, designer or music maker.
It’s what comes next that really excites me. We’ve heard plenty of rumours about the next ‘big’ iMac, and it does sound rather exciting.
This is for two reasons. Firstly, that screen size. As lovely as I’m sure the 24” M1 iMac’s screen is, it isn’t big enough for me. I love the 27” 5K retina display on the current iMac, and the thought of something similarly sized or bigger is enough for me to prime my bank account for an inevitable purchase.
Secondly, it’s almost certain that the next new iMac to hit the shelves will include the next iteration of the M-series chip. Call it what you like, but my guess is that the M-whatever will have more cores, more RAM and even better I/O.
They had just better keep that SD card slot.