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How does the 24-inch iMac M1 stack up against older iMacs?

By Nadeem Sarwar April 20, 2021, 11:43 pm

A new iMac is here, and this one is a huge upgrade. The latest 24-inch iMac marks the debut of a new design language and the arrival of in-house silicon inside the Apple all-in-one instead of Intel processors. But those are just some of the key upgrades, as a lot has changed on the inside too. Here’s a detailed comparison of the new 24-inch iMac with Apple silicon against the older 21.5-inch iMac 4K and the 27-inch iMac with a 5K panel. Have a look to see what has changed:

An all-new design language for iMac

The biggest change, of course, is the design. Apple is finally saying goodbye to the boring all-silver metallic profile of the older iMacs with a new design that embraces bright colors. The chin is here to stay, but the bezels have been shrunk. The side profile now looks flat, compared to the curved look on the older iMacs. Apple is actually going for a symmetrical approach here with its new 24-inch M1 iMac, it extends all the way to the straight lines of the base stand. And oh, the bezels are now white instead of black.

iMac yellow color

Additionally, the power plug now attaches magnetically, somewhat like the MagSafe charger for iPhone 12 series. Coming the color part, the new 24-inch iMac with M1 silicon will be up for grabs in blue, green, pink, silver, yellow, orange, and purple. Apple has also jazzed up the accessories with a similar splash of colors.

Talking about the accessories, Apple has also redesigned the Magic Keyboard, as it now comes in a variant with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor too. And yeah, it does rock some bright colors too, just like the updated iMac, and not just a bland white color.

Massive internal changes for the iMac

old imac side

The latest iMac comes equipped with the same M1 silicon that powers the new MacBooks and the Mac Mini. Apple offers the machine in two variants – one packing a 7-core GPU, while the higher-end model has been armed with an 8-core graphics engine. There is either 8GB or 16GB soldered memory and 256GB/512GB of onboard storage, but you can go all the way up to 2TB of SSD.

Coming to the 27-inch 5K iMac, it comes equipped with 10th Gen Intel processors, with your options ranging between the 3.1GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 CPU, a 3.3GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 chip, a 3.8GHz 8-core Intel Core i7 processor, and the 3.6GHz 10-core Intel Core i9 behemoth. Graphics options start at AMD Radeon Pro 5300 with 4 gigs of VRAM and go all the way up to AMD Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB of GDDR6 memory. The device can be configured with 8/16/32/64/128 GB of RAM and up to 8TB of onboard storage.

specs imac title

The smaller 21.5-inch iMac will let your pick between the older 8th Gen Intel processors, with SKUs starting with a 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3 processor and topping at an Intel Core i7 CPU clocked at 3.2GHz. As for the GPU, it lets you choose between AMD Radeon Pro 555X (2GB GDDR5), AMD Radeon Pro 560X (4GB GDDR5), and AMD Radeon Pro Vega 20 (4GB HBM2 memory). It can be fitted with 8/16/32 GB of RAM and 256GB SSD / 1TB Fusion Drive.

M1 iMac has a much better camera and audio hardware

Apple has fitted a 1080p FaceTime HD camera backed by a dedicated image signal processor on the new iMac, and it takes advantage of the 16-core NPU too. Thanks to the upgraded hardware and AI smarts, the company is promising better output in low-light scenarios, better dynamic range, exposure, and white balance during video calls.

old imac front

The 27-inch iMac also features a 1080p FaceTime camera, but without any dedicated image processing chip behind it. The smaller 21.5-inch iMac offers a lower resolution HD FaceTime front camera for video calls. But that’s not all, as the mic and speaker hardware are also starkly different.

The colorful new 24-inch iMac offers a three-mic array with a high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming support. Plus, it comes equipped with a high-fidelity six-speaker system with force-canceling woofers and supports spatial audio while playing Dolby Atmos content. On the other hand, the 27-inch iMac has stereo speakers and a standard three-mic array, while the 21.-inch model has a single mic and stereo speakers. The latter also lacks support for hands-free ‘Hey Siri’ voice commands.


imac angled apple

The new iMac with M1 silicon offers a 24-inch 4.5K display with a resolution of 4480 x 2520 pixels. It covers the P3 color gamut and is backed by True Tone technology, while the peak brightness is capped at 500 nits – a number that stays the same for the two models it is being compared against.

As for the 21.5-inch iMac, you get a 4K display, but without True Tone technology. On the other hand, the 27-inch iMac offers a 5K screen that also covers the wide P3 color gamut and employs the True Tone tech. Additionally, the latter also lets users opt for a nano-texture glass layer on top.

Ports and connectivity

old imac front

Port selection between the two 24-inch iMac models also varies. The base model offers two Type-C Thunderbolt ports that support DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s), USB 4.0 (up to 40Gb/s), and USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s) standards. The higher-end sibling adds two more USB 3.0 Type-C (up to 10Gb/s) ports and a Gigabit Ethernet port as well. There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the side, while the Thunderbolt port can drive a 6K panel at a peak refresh rate of 60Hz.

On the smaller 21.5-inch iMac 4K, you’ll find Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, four USB-A ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and an SDXC card slot. Port selection on the 27-inch iMac 5K is identical, but it takes things a notch higher by upping the peak Ethernet port output to 10 Gigabit and supports UHS-II standard for the SDXC card slot.

blue and pink imac

Another area where the new 24-inch iMac reigns supreme over its older siblings is the wireless connectivity suite. It offers support for faster Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.0 standard. The 27-inch iMac supports Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth v5.0, while the 21.5-inch variant sticks with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and even older (and slower) Bluetooth v4.2 standard.

Price & availability

The M1 iMac starts at $1,299 and will be up for grabs starting Friday in the US and a host of other markets. The 21.5-inch iMac 4K is no longer listed for purchase on the Apple website, while the 27-inch iMac 5K is available starting at $1,799 in a single silver shade.


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