The latest version of Apple’s venerable all-in-one desktop is an excellent and beautiful computer. It just doesn’t fit most modern computing needs.
Of all of Apple’s Mac news this fall, the updated 24-inch iMac is perhaps the most minor. The only difference between this model and the one from spring 2021 is an upgrade from the M1 chip to the new M3. Along with that upgrade comes improved Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios and a higher maximum RAM option. Nothing else has changed in terms of design, features, use cases, or price.
That isn’t too surprising considering the previous model was a complete redesign that replaced the older 21- and 27-inch Intel iMacs. The fact that Apple is updating it at all is a nice acknowledgment that it hasn’t totally forgotten about the iMac, which has gotten far fewer updates than the rest of the Mac lineup. (There was never an M2-equipped iMac, for example.)
The $1,299 and up M3 24-inch iMac remains an excellent all-in-one computer for lighter workloads. It’s still gorgeous, still comes in seven different colors, and still satisfies the pitch of the Macintosh all the way back in 1984: a simple, approachable computer that you can take out of the box, plug into the wall, turn on, and go.
But it’s clear at this stage that Apple does not intend the iMac to be anything more than that. The company has confirmed that it will not be making a 27-inch iMac with Apple Silicon, dashing the hopes of many that Apple might be working on a version with a larger screen or more powerful hardware.
That’s also not very surprising. For many years, the vast majority of Mac customers have opted for laptops. It seems that Apple is content to let the iMac stay as a niche device for people who want an all-in-one desktop computer for basic home use or for those trendy shops and spas that love the look of an iMac on the checkout counter or reception desk. But most people will continue to be better served by one of Apple’s many other Mac options.
Apple didn’t make any external design changes, but the 24-inch iMac remains as stunning as it was when it debuted over two years ago. When I set up my purple review unit in my living room, my extremely not tech-inclined spouse immediately remarked, “Wow, that looks nice.” There are few computers that can match the iMac as a design statement in your home (or place of business).
A big part of that appeal is due to the iMac’s shockingly thin profile — it’s hard to believe, even now, that there’s a whole computer housed in its 12mm thick aluminum frame. And the iMac remains a complete computer right out of the box: inside that frame are the webcam, display, and all the computing parts, speakers, and microphones. With the built-in stand, the whole thing weighs less than 10 pounds. Apart from the included wireless keyboard and mouse (or trackpad), there’s nothing else you need on your desk.
The iMac’s port selection remains limited, too. The base model comes with just two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports on the back and a 3.5mm audio jack on the left side. The upgraded models add two 10Gbps USB-C ports and an ethernet jack built into the power brick. Either way, it’s not a lot of I/O, and if I were using the iMac as my main computer, I’d need to plug in a Thunderbolt dock to accommodate the amount of peripherals I rely on.
The 4.5K (4480 x 2520) 24-inch display remains very good, with sharp resolution, punchy colors, and enough brightness to overcome the glare in even the brightest of rooms. I don’t have any problem with the white bezel, and the detail is sharp enough at comfortable distances that I never see individual pixels.
But unless you are coming from a 21-inch Intel iMac, the 24-inch iMac just does not have a very big screen. I immediately felt more cramped and had less room to spread out compared to the 27-inch Studio Display I typically work from. Splitting the screen equally between Slack and Mimestream on the 24-inch iMac meant I often had to scroll horizontally to see the content in emails, something I rarely encounter on my 27-inch monitor. Those who have a 27-inch Intel iMac will likely consider the 24-inch model’s screen to be a downgrade. But as I mentioned earlier, Apple has no plans to make a 27-inch iMac anymore.