Apple's new iMac is the portable desktop I never knew I wanted. That alone makes it far more intriguing than the last few generations of iMacs. It weighs under 10 pounds, so it's a cinch to move around your home. Its thin and colorful design allows it to fit almost anywhere, even on your kitchen counter. In many ways, this iMac is a reminder of why all-in-one desktops can still be pretty useful, especially for families.
You can thank Apple's M1 processor for the iMac's radical redesign. That chip turned the MacBook Air into a powerhouse that didn't even need a fan. Since it's based on a mobile architecture, the M1 is far more efficient than Intel's competing PC hardware. That means the iMac no longer needs a thick frame and room for complex cooling. The new case is just 11.5 millimeters thin, a mere four millimeters more than the iPhone 12. And most impressively, it's that slim across the entire chassis; there aren't any humps like before.
Apple iMac (2021)
- M1 chip delivers fast performance
- Stunning 24-inch Retina display
- Colorful cases add personality
- Thin design makes it easy to move
- Only USB-C ports now
- No vertical screen adjustment
- Magic Mouse and Keyboard are still uncomfortable
The new case colors also go a long way toward making the iMacs seem more approachable to kids and less tech-savvy users. That was the whole point of the original bubbly iMacs, after all. Those helped set Apple apart from the sea of gray “IBM clones” of the '90s. Now, it seems Apple is trying to rekindle that sense of fun, after being bogged down by staid silver and gray designs over the last decade. Sure, brushed aluminum looks cool, but there's a reason why Apple keeps returning to multi-hued cases in iPhones. It turns out, plenty of people like colors.
I opted for the orange iMac for our review, but Apple should have probably just called it creamsicle. It has a bit of a pinkish hue along the "chin" below the screen, while the rear case looks more distinctly orange. And despite the playful aesthetic, the iMac still looks and feels like a premium device. I particularly like the way light bounces off the back of the sturdy base. The iMac hasn't had this much Pixar-esque energy since the days of the lampshade G4. Hell, Apple could still benefit from following some design ideas from that long-forgotten machine — or maybe I'm just the only one that misses being able to adjust my screen vertically.
There's at least one concession this time around for monitor obsessives: You can also buy the new iMac with a VESA mount, which makes it easy to attach to things like arms and hinges. It would have been nice to see that standard on every model, but I'd wager Apple decided an elegant stand design mattered more than being flexible for a handful of users.
Geekbench 5 CPU
ATTO disk speed (top reads/writes)
Apple iMac (M1, 24-inch)
7GB/s / 2.7GB/s
Apple MacBook Pro (Apple M1, 2020)
3GB/s / 3GB/s
Apple MacBook Air (Apple M1, 2020)
2.8GB/s / 3GB/s
Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
2.8GB/s / 3GB/s
So, the iMac looks cool, but how does it actually perform? If you've seen our reviews of the M1-equipped MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, you already know that chip absolutely trounces most Intel and AMD hardware. And, not surprisingly, the same is true of the iMac. Our review unit, which has the pricier 8-core GPU and 16GB of RAM, hit higher Geekbench 5 scores than powerful gaming laptops like the ASUS G15 and MSI GS66. And it was a dream to use for my daily workflow, where I'm typically juggling multiple browser windows filled with dozens of tabs, along with Slack, Spotify, Evernote and Pixelmator Pro. It also transcoded a 4K clip to 1080p in one minute and 22 seconds. That's 15 seconds slower than the MSI GS66 took, but a full 32 seconds faster than ASUS's ZenBook Duo.