I’ve been using Apple’s M1-powered iMac for a week, and it's convinced me to buy one

·Technology Editor
·6-min read
Apple's new iMac features the power of the company's M1 chip, a redesigned chassis, and a bunch of power. (Image: Apple)
Apple's new iMac features the power of the company's M1 chip, a redesigned chassis, and a bunch of power. (Image: Apple)

I've been using Apple's (AAPL) latest iMac, the 24-inch model the company introduced back in April, as my go-to computer for the last few days. And I think I have my next major purchase all sewn up.

Available Friday, May 21, and starting at $1,299, the new 24-inch iMac is a complete redesign of the company's venerable all-in-one desktop. It's the first iMac to get Apple's customer M1 processor, sports an improved 1080p-capable FaceTime camera for video conferencing, and a slick new speaker setup that makes your music sound like it's enfolding you at your desk. And did I mention those colors?

The iMac comes at a time when employees are increasingly calling for their employers to allow them to work from home, at least part of the time, which could boost sales.

Despite the iMac’s many great features, there are some downsides. The charging port for the Magic Mouse is still on its underside, making it impossible to use and charge at the same time. I also wish the company added the new Center Stage face tracking feature found on the iPad’s FaceTime camera to the iMac.

Beyond that, though, there’s truly little to complain about when it comes to this excellent machine.

A rockin’ bod

Okay, let’s start with the iMac’s slick new design. Apple’s new ARM-based custom M1 processor is a miracle worker for the company’s design aesthetic. Rather than the Quasimodo-esque hump found on older iMacs, the new desktop is totally flat up front and back.

Apple says the system is now just 11.5mm thick, excluding its base, and overall volume has shrunk by 50% compared to the 21-inch iMac. All of that is possible thanks to the increased power and thermal efficiency of the M1 versus the Intel (INTC) and AMD (AMD) chips the company previously relied on.

All of that is to say, Apple is having a very good time dunking on its former chip suppliers by pointing out just how much better its processors are in this kind of application.

The iMac offers a minimalistic aesthetic thanks to its single power cable. (Image: Howley)
The iMac offers a minimalistic aesthetic thanks to its single power cable. (Image: Howley)

Apple has also gone back to a multicolored design approach for the new iMacs, offering consumers seven color options ranging from pink and orange to green and purple. Of course, the rear of the iMac gets a slightly off-colored Apple logo, as well. Up front, the iMac uses one single sheet of glass from top to bottom, making for a seamless look.

One of the slickest changes to the iMac is its new braided nylon cable. Yes, it's just a cable, but Apple has also incorporated the iMac's ethernet connector in the power brick. That means, outside of anything you connect via the desktop's USB and Thunderbolt ports, you should only have one cable connected to the back of your iMac. It makes for a stunning design that stands out from the crowded desktop market.

I’m also loving the new Magic Keyboard with built-in Touch ID fingerprint reader. Apple even added the ability to switch between user accounts based on your fingerprint, making this especially helpful in larger households.

Sweet screen, booming speakers, and a great webcam

Apple’s latest iMac sports a slick 24-inch 4.5K Retina Display. It also supports the company’s True Tone function, which adjusts the screen’s color temperature to match the color temperature of the ambient light in your room, as well as Wide color P3 for ensuring accurate color in video and photo editing apps.

If you’re looking for a big-screen desktop, this iMac has what you need. Its resolution is sharp, and colors are vibrant. There’s not much else you could ask for, short of an even larger display.

Apple has also crammed some serious audio power into its super-thin desktop. There are two pairs of woofers matched with two tweeters that create powerful audio whether you’re watching a movie, or bumping some tunes with friends. Apple says its speakers use force-cancelling technology to prevent that awful warble that happens when you listen to something with especially heavy bass, and it works very well.

That said, the iMac’s speakers aren’t going to replace a dedicated smart speaker in terms of volume, especially if you’re going to be hosting a wild party with your newly vaccinated friends and family.

The rear of the iMac is completely flat and accentuated with a colorful Apple logo to match the chassis's overall scheme. (Image: Howley)
The rear of the iMac is completely flat and accentuated with a colorful Apple logo to match the chassis's overall scheme. (Image: Howley)

Then there’s the iMac’s new 1080p FaceTime camera, which offers improved low-light performance and a sharper overall image. Laptop and desktop makers, like Apple, have seen demand for improved webcams skyrocket due to the massive increase in use of video chat apps caused by the pandemic and the new work-from-home environment.

Big performance

OK, let’s talk about the new M1 processor. The iMac is available with either an 8-core central processing unit (CPU) and 7-core graphics processing unit (GPU), or an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU.

Apple says the M1 iMac offers an 85% boost to CPU power compared to the 21.5-inch iMac with an Intel Core i5 processor and that GPU performance is two times as fast. In my anecdotal usage, the M1 iMac proved incredibly capable. Whether I was streaming from various websites and apps or playing games like “Metro Exodus” video ran smoothly on the iMac with graphics settings on medium, even when running two instances of Chrome, streaming video, and using Tweetdeck at the same time.

The M1 chip is important for Apple. It proves that the company’s own silicon is capable of handling heavy processing workloads, ensuring that it doesn’t have to rely on third-parties like Intel or AMD to power its desktops and laptops.

Apple’s M1 gambit seemed like a huge gamble at first, but it’s clearly paying off and proves the company is more than capable of tangling with the heavy-hitters in the chip market.

Should you get it?

If you’re looking for a new desktop for your home, and aren’t wedded to Microsoft’s Windows, the 24-inch iMac is really the best option out there. Yes, it’s a bit pricey starting at $1,299 for a base model, $1,499 for the 8-core model with a Touch ID keyboard that I reviewed, but it’s something that will certainly handle mostly anything the average consumer throws at it.

As for me, I’m likely going to pick one of these bad boys up in the next month or so.

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