This past Tuesday, the 20th of April (a day that certainly had no other concurrent events), Apple made some more exciting – albeit expected – updates to its product lineup. The biggest of all of these updates, though, was the announcement of the new M1 iMac.
If you haven’t seen it yet, definitely check out this short trailer on YouTube to see how massive this update is. Lately, I’ve been trying to avoid rumors so that I can be surprised by what Apple is going to announce. And though I knew a new M1 iMac was coming at some point, I had no idea that it was going to mark a complete redesign and refresh of the iMac lineup.
In this post, we’re going to cover it all. I wrote down everything Apple had to say about this machine, big and small, so for those who don’t want to watch Apple’s hour-long presentation or read through the product page, look no further.
An overview of the new M1 iMac
Before I get into the nitty-gritty dissection, I wanted to include a section in this post where we cover the biggest updates that most users are looking for. Here’s the general idea of everything new with this iMac.
The most visible change to the M1 iMac is the new colors. For the first time since the early 2000s, Apple has dropped the sterile grey and silver options and is now offering blue, green, red, silver, yellow, orange, and purple. My favorite is yellow but there’s something for everyone!
The least visible but certainly the most important change is the introduction of the M1 chip. Apple has already put this chip in its line of MacBooks and Mac minis, so adding it to the iMac was expected. With it, the iMac is going to see massive jumps in performance, making it a more powerful, future-proof device.
Finally, the pricing hasn’t changed much. $1,299 for a version with a 7-core GPU in four colors (blue, green, red, and silver) or $1,499 for the 8-core version in all seven colors. Physically, these devices are identical.
Everything you need to know about the new M1 iMac (and I mean everything)
Ok, so that’s the basics. For those that want to know every little detail that Apple has announced in the new M1 iMac, here it is.
New colors and a striking new design
As mentioned, the new M1 iMac comes in seven colors:
These colors mirror those of the iPhone 12 (minus yellow and orange, plus black). They range from pastels to deep blues and are all bright and bold. Perfect for Spring, and will make a statement on any desk.
Matching these new colors though is what I would consider one of the best iMac designs ever. Like the new iPhone 12 and iPad Pro/Air, this version of the iMac is perfectly flat. It’s a big, flat glass tablet on a hinge, and to me, it looks like magic.
Not only do I love that Apple has matched the design of the iMac with that of the iPad and iPhone, but I also can’t get over how crazy it is to see a desktop computer that’s as thin as a laptop. There’s no hidden box in the base of the stand where all of the computing components are stored. Apple has managed to fit everything you need for an excellent desktop experience into a tablet-like form factor.
Having grown up with beige-box computers, it’s something special to look at.
Another decision I praise Apple for is switching to a single monitor size for the iMac. It’s 24″ no matter what price you pay, which is right between the previous 21.5″ and 27″ options. And, by thinning out the bezels, this iMac’s display isn’t much bigger than the 21.5″ model from before despite featuring a 2.5″ increase in screen size.
I only have good things to say about this design. It feels like a return to the “fun” era of Apple while still keeping with their slick, minimalist style. And it’s modern without feeling sterile, which is something that Apple competitors like Google have been nailing for a while. I’m excited to see Apple bringing more color lightness to its products.
Now with the M1 chip
Of course, you can’t talk about the new M1 iMac without mentioning the M1 chip. It’s hard to say anything about it that hasn’t been said before. This chip is shaking up the industry and putting Apple firmly at the top.
The M1 is the reason Apple was even able to make an iMac this thin. It fits all of the CPU and GPU processing power into such a small, efficient space, that everything else can be laid flat. Apple was even able to cool the system with just two small fans, which was also important in making the iMac so thin.
According to Apple (no one has one to test yet), the new M1 iMac has incredible performance. It wakes instantly, just like the new M1 MacBooks. It’s 85% faster than previous generations at running media applications and has a GPU that’s 50% faster than the previous 21.5″ iMac.
Also, because the 2021 iMac runs on the M1 chip, which uses the same ARM architecture as Apple’s mobile devices, iPhone and iPad apps can now run on the iMac.
So yeah, again, I have no complaints.
The new M1 iMac has a great display update
Alongside the stunning redesign, another completely unexpected update for me was the change to the iMac’s display. I consider myself to be a pretty average user when it comes to displays. Apple’s generic Retina Displays look perfectly fine to me. Everything is sharp, colors are great, and my eyes aren’t being blasted by crummy LCDs.
That said, if you’re a designer, videographer, or just someone who appreciates a great display, then you’ll love what Apple did with this new M1 iMac. As mentioned, it’s 24″, which is big enough for everyone without being a monster like the previous-gen of 27″ iMacs.
In this 24″ frame Apple has placed a 4.5K Retina Display. It has a wide P3 color gamut, which can display more than a billion colors. It features 500 nits of brightness as well as Apple’s True Tone feature. True Tone matches the warmth of your display to your environment, making it easier on your eyes.
It’s not as insane as the changes to the iPad Pro’s display, but it’s still an excellent and welcome update.
The speakers on the new M1 iMac are pretty great too
I doubt anyone is too concerned by how great the speakers on the new M1 iMac are. If you work with audio, then you probably use studio headphones (and rest easy, Apple hasn’t removed the headphone jack from iMac yet). And if you don’t work with audio, then you probably already like your iMac speakers.
But it’s Apple, so of course, they made a point to put even better speakers than before in this iMac. The sound system on the 2021 iMac consists of two pairs of force-canceling woofers. This allows the iMac to provide a deep, bass sound without vibrating your iMac’s display.
The speakers also come with a high-performance tweeter, which, combined with the woofers, provides a rich spectrum of audio. You should only notice good things when listening to music and watching movies.
Apple finally updated the front-facing camera on iMac
If you’re someone who keeps up with iMac updates, then you’ve probably noticed how little care Apple has given to the front-facing camera on iMac over the years. It’s been crummy, to say the least, with noisy, dull videos being the default. Making a video call with an iMac has long resembled using a Nokia-quality camera.
Luckily, that’s changed. The camera on the new M1 iMac features 1080p HD video. It has double the resolution of previous versions, features a larger sensor that captures more light, and most importantly, it now has an image signal processor (ISP) that’s supported by the M1 chip.
This new ISP comparable calculations to the iPhone 12 (though not quite as sophisticated). This means that the difference between FaceTiming on iMac and iPhone will be minimal. It uses machine learning, noise reduction algorithms, tone mapping, and more to provide a much-enhanced experience.
Also, Apple updated the mics on this iMac. The new array blocks background noise far better than before (according to Apple) so you can make work calls without worrying about your kids or pets being picked up in the background. Perfect for a work-from-home lifestyle.
In short, making a video call on iMac doesn’t suck anymore.
The new 2021 iMac comes with matching accessories
The last major thing to announce with the 2021 iMac is the updated accessories. Apple is now offering a new Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard for each of the color options of the new iMac. If you order a yellow iMac, you can get yellow accessories for it, too.
From what I can tell, the new colorful Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad are the same as ever, just in new colors. The Magic Keyboard, however, is actually pretty different. The corners of the keyboard and the corner keys (fn, esc, and right-arrow) are far more rounded than before, giving the keyboard a softer appearance.
More significantly, though, this keyboard has TouchID built-in. It’s the first time iMac has gotten TouchID, so you can now do things like Apple Pay and password-free unlocks on iMac. The drawback is that you can’t use TouchID on iMac without this keyboard, but that shouldn’t affect most users.
Some other important changes
Before closing out, I wanted to touch on some other updates that don’t fit into any other categories. Like I/O ports, for instance.
The new M1 iMac now only has four USB C ports on the back, two of which are Thunderbolt ports. If you get the cheaper 7-core M1 iMac, though, you’ll only get two USB C Thunderbolt ports instead of two USB C and two USB C Thunderbolt ports. So no more slots for SIM cards, old USB standards, or ethernet ports on the back.
It’s important to note, however, that Apple has added an ethernet port on the power adapter for iMac. So you can still connect your iMac to ethernet, the port is just on the power cable instead of the iMac itself. The cheaper 7-core M1 iMac does not allow for an ethernet connection, however.
Speaking of the power cable, Apple is going all-in on its MagSafe revival. The new power cable connects via magnets, which makes it safer and easier to plug into your iMac.
The 2021 iMac also supports up to a 6K secondary display, so if you’re someone who needs that extra performance, it’s there. It just has to be connected via cable, not wirelessly.
I also thought it was interesting that this new iMac takes up 50% less volume than the previous model. Apple also claims that this iMac can run at under 10 decibels, which is so quiet that it can hardly be detected by the human ear. So you’ll never hear your fans whirring while using this iMac.
It comes in storage configurations of 256GB and 512GB, with the upgrade to 512GB costing an additional $200.
And that’s it! That’s everything you need to know about the new M1 iMac.
Well, almost everything.
When can you buy the new M1 iMac, and for how much?
The 2021 iMac will be available for purchase on April 30th, 2021. Though it won’t ship until the second half of May. I think the default 8-core GPU M1 iMac is likely to sell out, so if you want to get one of these asap, be sure to mark April 30th in your calendar.
The prices are as follows:
- $1,299 for the 8-Core CPU, 7-Core GPU M1 iMac
- Only comes in blue, green, red, and silver
- No more than 256GB of built-in storage
- A standard Magic Keyboard without TouchID
- Two Thunderbolts ports (instead of two USB C ports and two Thunderbolt ports)
- No support for an ethernet cable
- $1,499 for the standard 8-Core CPU, 8-Core GPU M1 iMac
- Comes in all seven colors
- 256GB of storage
- Four USB C ports, two of which are Thunderbolt ports
- Magic Keyboard with TouchID
- Support for an ethernet cable via power adapter
- $1,699 for the standard M1 iMac with 512GB of storage
- Identical to the $1,499 M1 iMac but with double the storage
There, now you know everything there is to know on the new M1 iMac.
Closing thoughts on the M1 iMac 2021 refresh
In case I haven’t made it clear, I love the new M1 iMac. It’s an excellent refresh, the new performance and design are great, I love color coming back to Apple, and I love seeing the 2018 iPad Pro’s design language being reflected in more Apple products.
The one complaint I have, and it’s a very minor complaint, is that I disagree with some of the changes made to the more affordable $1,299 M1 iMac. I love Apple offering iMacs at more affordable prices, but I disagree with the compromises they made to hit this price point.
I think a smaller screen or a lower resolution than 4.5K would’ve been better than getting rid of more ports, TouchID, and an ethernet cable. And downgrading the M1 chip from an 8-core GPU to a 7-core GPU seems almost petty? It’s such a strange decision, I’m not sure where it came from. I think a 21.5″ M1 iMac with a standard Retina display could’ve easily been sold for $1,299, and users who purchased this wouldn’t miss out on any features.
But Apple has their reasons, I suppose!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading about this update as much as I enjoyed writing it. For more news on Apple’s recent Spring Loaded event, be sure to check out the rest of the AppleToolBox blog. There, we’ll be covering everything that was announced over the next few days.