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Apple iMac 2021 review (24-inch)

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The Apple iMac 2021 (24 inches) is a refreshing breath of air for the aging iMac series. It features a stunning display, an excellent webcam, and a variety of bright new colors.

These virtues are especially welcome in a time when many of us have spent a lot of the past year at home enjoying endless video calls with loved ones and colleagues. Although you might consider the M1 chip on the new iMac its most intriguing feature, I was more impressed with the machine’s display, speakers and camera after testing it for my iMac2021 review.

The new iMac is no slouch when it comes to performance. The M1 chip is a unique bit of silicon that has already been proven to be efficient and powerful in the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and the Mac mini. Although it has not made the iMac a gaming machine, the 24-inch all-in-one is capable of handling any task a student or family might throw at it. It’s actually so good, that it won the award of best all-in-one PC in our Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.

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Apple iMac 2021 Review: Price and availability

  • Prices start at $1,299, the first units will arrive this Friday (May 21st).
  • Some features and colors are missing from the base model at $1,299

Apple’s website sells the Apple iMac 24-inch (2021), starting at $1,299. You get 2 Thunderbolt 4 ports and 256GB storage. Also, you get an Apple M1 chip with an eight-core CPU, 7-core GPU, and a data-label=”https://www.apple.com/imac-24/” href=”https://apple.sjv.io/c/221109/473657/7613?subId1=tomsguide-row-1157648591528099000. These entry-level models come with a Magic Keyboard, which doesn’t support Touch ID. They also only have 4 colors instead of the 7 on the higher-end iMacs. These confusing omissions seem to be designed to discourage customers from choosing the most affordable model.

The mid-range 24-inch iMac costs $1,499 and comes with an M1 chip that has 8 CPU cores. It also includes 8 GPU cores. There are 2 Thunderbolt 4 ports and 2 USB 3 ports. An Ethernet port is available.

The top-of-the-line model is $1,699 and comes with the same M1 chip, octocoral CPU, GPU, 512GB storage, and 8GB RAM. The model also includes 2 Thunderbolt 4 ports and 2 USB 3 ports. It also has an Ethernet jack, Touch ID-capable Magic Keyboard, and 2 USB 3 ports.

The full range of seven iMac colors is currently only available online by Apple. If you go to an Apple store to purchase one, you will be restricted to blue, green, pink, and silver.

There are options to upgrade RAM or storage, and accessories such as the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad can be purchased for an additional charge. Apple sent us a unit with the M1 chip, 8 CPU and GPU cores, and a 512GB SSD and 16GB RAM. It also included a Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID. The retail price would be around $2,028 for all of this.

Apple says that pre-orders are now open for the new iMac and that the first units will start arriving at customers’ homes this Friday, May 21st.

Apple iMac 2021 review – Design

  • The new chassis design is stunning and only 0.45 inches thick
  • No height adjustment options. This is a crime against tall people all over

The new 24-inch iMac has undergone a major redesign with several coats of paint. 7 new colors have been added to the iMac G3’s silver aluminum design. The Apple logo, which was found on earlier models’ lower lips, has been replaced by a larger version at the back.

The review unit arrived with a new yellow paint job. It looked a lot better than the black case that sat next to on my desk. The yellow option is not something I really enjoy. It was the same color as a yellow daffodil on the website, but it looked more like a Kraft cheese slice.

However, cheese is my favorite food, so even though the results are not what I expected, I would still choose this computer over a boring, silver all-in-one or plain black tower.

The rounded rear end of older iMacs is gone. Instead, it is a rectangular flat chassis measuring 0.45 inches thick and 14.75 inches from the top edge to the bottom lip. It stands at 18.1 inches when placed on your desk. There is a hinge in the back that allows you to tilt the screen back — about 20 degrees I would guess — and a hole in this stands for the power cable routing.

The display height cannot be adjusted, which is a missed opportunity. The omission was particularly noticeable to me as I am tall and work from a standing desk. To raise the iMac to an ergonomic eye level, I had to balance it on top of a stack of books. This didn’t go well with the sleek, stylish design.

You can buy the new iMac with a built-in VESA mount adapter.

Apple iMac 2021 review: The Ports

  • There are not enough ports on the base model, which is $1,299
  • It’s a great design decision to put the Ethernet jack on your power adapter.

The ports on Apple’s new 24-inch iMac, like previous iMacs, are located almost entirely on the back. This is the lower right-hand corner or the left-hand corner, depending on how you look at the back. This is a beautiful choice, and it can hide cables from view. However, you will have to squeeze them behind your desk or flip the computer around to access them.

The power button is located on the left side of the monitor across from Thunderbolt 4 (Image credit: Future).

The headphone jack was also moved from the front to the lower left of the display. This is likely because the iMac’s 0.45-inch thick display is thinner than the 0.55-inch depth of a standard headset jack.

Port selection is very limited, especially for the entry-level 24-inch iMac which has only 2 Thunderbolt4 ports and a headphones jack. Higher-end iMacs, like our review unit, have the full complement of 2 Thunderbolt4 ports and 2 USB3 ports on the back. There is also a headphone jack at the lower-left edge and a Gigabit Ethernet connection built into the power adapter. The new 24-inch iMac supports Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ax WiFi 6.

It’s worth mentioning because the Ethernet port on the power adapter keeps your Ethernet cable from dangling on your desk. This allows you to route it however you like. A clever design detail I wish more PC manufacturers would emulate. It’s also magnetized so that the iMac end can be plugged in easily. This is a nice feature that allows you to reach around the back of your display and hook it up without having to strain your neck.

Review of Apple iMac 2021: Display

  • 4.5K LCD makes movies and video games look amazing
  • Excellent viewing angles with minimal reflection

Apple’s new 24-inch display features a resolution of 4480 x 2520 pixels and 218 pixels per in. It also supports TrueTone, a setting that adjusts the display’s color temperature based upon the quality of the ambient light.

My review unit was placed next to a window in my office nook. TrueTone enabled, I noticed that the display began to shift to warmer and yellower tones when the light from the windows changed. It was quite noticeable and pleasant, although sometimes the screen became a bit too yellowish for me. Night Shift can make the effect even stronger. This automatically adjusts the display’s color to warm tones after sunset. However, you can control the timing and intensity of the warming effect.

This display is of excellent quality. I was able to see details in 4K videos and trailers even when they were moving fast. The colors seem to jump off the screen. I was able to see the various shades of yellow, orange, blue, and black in Fast & Furious 9’s trailer. The vibrant greens, reds, and pinks of 4K HDR nature videos viewed online made the iMac feel like a window into another part of the globe.

The screen is surrounded by a gray bezel with a thickness of 0.75 inches. There’s also a 2.38-inch lip at the bottom, which matches the color of the iMac. The display’s front is a single glass piece that extends all the way to the bottom. It has the same anti-reflective coating as Apple’s Pro Display XDR monitor.

It works in person. I have never noticed reflections when working on my iMac, especially when it is right in front of me. My phone’s flashlight was lit up and I could see the reflection, but the display was still clear and easily readable. You can clearly see reflections if you tilt your head to one side. This could affect the viewing experience for people clustered around the machine. However, even at these wide angles, videos on the screen remained clear and vibrant.

Review of Apple iMac 2021: Audio

  • Music and movies sound rich and vivid
  • Excellent bass and good spatial audio effects

Six speakers are built into the bottom of the new 24-inch iMac. Two pairs of low-frequency woofers, and one pair of high-frequency tweeters. Dolby Atmos support is available.

This means that the new iMac sounds great. Although the trailer for Godzilla vs. Kong had low bass, I was able to hear the characters’ voices and the spatial audio effects were clear even without headphones.

I was able to pick out bass hits while streaming songs like AC/DC’s Back in Black or The Eagles’ Hotel California. Trebles were clear and crisp, while vocals on tracks such as Norah Jones’ Don’t Know Why sounded warm and inviting.

Review of Apple iMac 2021: Webcam

  • 1080p webcam produces excellent image quality with the help of the M1 chip
  • Video quality is excellent, so you’ll look great on all your Zoom calls

The new iMac’s 1080p webcam is a great option for video calls. This is especially important now that more people work remotely.

Apple claims that the M1 chip has helped deliver excellent image quality. It is an image signal processor with advanced algorithms that help to reduce noise and adjust exposure and white balance.

The 1080p webcam offers great image quality for video calls. This is especially important now that more people work remotely.

The camera was difficult to use during my testing. I found that it struggled to focus on my mug’s details if my face was up within a foot of the screen. During several video calls, the iMac consistently delivered great image quality with precise colors and enough clarity to be able to pick out any fuzz or dust clinging onto my shirt.

The iMac’s 1080p Webcam captures the precise colors and details of this room that I have barely left for over a year. Image credit: Future

Photo Booth allowed me to add animated effects to my facial features. The facial recognition algorithms on the iMac were smart enough to ensure that the effects remained centered even as I moved around the frame. QuickTime was also a great tool for creating selfie videos. I was impressed with the quality of the captured images, and I wasn’t able to notice any blurring or image loss even though I moved quickly.

According to the people on the other side, video calls were also very good quality in terms of sound quality. Despite having the iMac in a closet near a window that faces onto a street, there was no echo or room noise. This may be due to Apple’s claim that three microphones in the front of the iMac use directional beamforming techniques that filter out the noise and focus on your voice.

Review of Apple iMac 2021: Performance

  • The first Apple M1 chip for an iMac delivers exceptional CPU performance
  • Lots of power for multitasking

This is the first desktop computer that ships with Apple’s M1 chip. After a week of trying to get it working, I am amazed at how much the 24-inch iMac can handle.

One time I had 30 Chrome tabs open and two videos streaming. Steam was also downloading and installing games. The CPU was never under 30% load.

Even when you have multiple tasks, navigation between apps is quick and responsive. Chrome opened with 30+ tabs, Safari with 5 tabs and two videos streaming from YouTube and Twitch. I also had Steam downloading and installing new games from Steam. It was all running at 30% load. The CPU barely shook.

Geekbench 5.4 CPU benchmarks showed that the new 24-inch iMac did well. It scored 7,684 in multi-core and 1,739 single-core tests. This is a lot better than the Intel-equipped 21.5 inch iMac it replaces, which scored scores between 6,400 and 1,200 in similar benchmarks. The 24-inch iMac passed our Handbrake test which requires transcoding a 4K video to 1080p in just 13 minutes and 38 seconds.

Review of Apple iMac 2021: Graphics and Games

  • The iMac is unable to play the most recent 3D games despite having 16GB RAM and an M1 processor.
  • Less challenging games look amazing on the 4.5K LCD

This new 24-inch iMac, like most Macs, is not designed to provide exceptional performance in the most recent games. The high-end review unit was able to deliver moderate performance in 3D games older than a few years. This is illustrated by the average 18.93 frames per second that it achieved while running the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmarking tests at 1080p and Very Low settings.

This is a decent result, but it’s not as fast as the 27 inch iMac which delivered 52.3 fps (which packs its own discrete Radeon Pro CPU) in the same test. Sid Meier’s Civilization 6 ran a little better on our review unit, achieving an average of 28.78 frames per second.

Although the 24-inch iMac is not able to handle graphically demanding games like Paradox Interactive’s Crusader Kings 3, titles such as Paradox Interactive’s Crusader Kings 3 are great (Image credit Future)

Modern 2D games, such as Loop Hero or Into the Breach, are easier to run on the new M1-powered iMac. This gives you many options if you are looking for games to play on your Apple all-in-one. However, you won’t find cutting-edge games such as Cyberpunk 2077 on the machine unless you wish to use a remote gaming service like Google Stadia that transfers the heavy lifting to a larger PC at a distant data center.

Review of Apple iMac 2021: Software and iOS Apps

  • M1 chips allow the iMac to run all iOS apps natively
  • Apple Arcade Games run smoothly and look great on the 24-inch 4.5K HDTV screen

The new 24-inch iMac’s M1 chip allows it to run native iOS apps. These can be accessed directly through the App Shop. Although not all apps will work on macOS, all the most popular apps I tested worked well on the new iMac.

Apple Arcade games such as Fantasian work well on the beautiful 4.5K display of the 24-inch iMac. (Image credit to Future)

Our review unit was running macOS 11.3 Big Sur. I had no problems downloading and running iOS apps such as Twitter and Fantastical. I found it much easier to navigate over to the Apple Arcade section in the App Store. There, I enjoyed playing iOS games such as Fantasian or Cozy Grove. In fact, the big 4.5K screen really helps the more graphically-intensive iOS games shine, and the hand-crafted backgrounds of Mistwalker’s Fantasian look incredible on the iMac’s display.

There are many native Mac apps available. We have selected the most popular Mac apps that you can install on your iMac.

Apple iMac 2021 Review: Keyboard and Mouse

  • Magic Keyboard & Magic Mouse are both well-designed, but too small
  • Magic Trackpad is easy to use and works well.

Apple’s new 24-inch iMac comes with a Magic Keyboard and a Magic Mouse. The mouse can be swapped for a Magic Touchpad by paying $50 or $129, respectively. You can purchase a TouchID-less Magic Keyboard as an option on the entry-level iMac, or you can spend $50 more to get the keyboard with TouchID support.

The TouchID sensor at the top-right of your keyboard makes it easier to log in. It can also save you some time if multiple users are signing in and out of the machine. TouchID is only available on M1-equipped Macs. If you connect it with an older iMac running an Intel CPU, it won’t work. But, if you connect the device to a MacBook Air, it will.

The keyboard and mouse are both lightweight and strong. The keyboard and mouse feel too small for my hands. I was born with large hands and never felt at ease typing on the (tenkeyless keyboard) or using my fingers to scroll and click on the mouse. After a few hours of trying, I finally gave up and bought my own ergonomic keyboard.

The trackpad was, however, spacious and easy to use. It’s roughly half the size of the keyboard and large enough that my fingers can feel comfortable using it to scroll through macOS.

Apple iMac 2021 review: Verdict

The excruciatingly small Magic Keyboard/Mouse is not my favorite. I also find the absence of a vertical height adjustment option almost an attack on all tall people. Even so, I enjoyed my time with the new 24-inch iMac.

It looks amazing and the speakers make it sound great when playing movies or other games. It’s easy to gather a bunch of friends or family around the iMac’s stunning display to view something. This is more than I can say about most computers. The iMac’s 1080p webcam allows you to see your loved ones in clear, crisp detail.

It is quite expensive to buy a new 24-inch iMac. This is especially true when you consider that the mid-level model comes with the M1 chip and all color options. This is a great deal if you’re willing to spend that much for an all-in-one Apple computer.

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