The new 24-inch iMac is one of the most buzzed-about Apple products in recent memory, serving up a strikingly slim design in a range of fun color options that bring the iMacs of old to mind. And with the muscle of Apple’s blazing new M1 processors, an enhanced webcam and microphone array and some welcome display upgrades, the new iMac could prove to be the best computer in the company’s arsenal for those working from home.
That being said, the latest iMac does carry some caveats when it comes to storage and connectivity, and there are a fair amount of Windows all-in-one PCs that offer features that Apple’s desktop doesn’t. Here’s why the new iMac (which goes up for pre-order on April 30 starting at $1,299) is shaping up to be a great fit for the home office, as well as a look at some alternatives worth considering before you take the plunge.
The blazing power of M1 (and a promising display)
Despite its eye-catching looks, some of the iMac’s biggest upgrades are tucked under the hood. This is the first iMac with Apple’s new M1 processor — the same chip that blew us away on the latest MacBooks thanks to its sheer speed and multitasking muscle.
For example, on the new M1-powered MacBook Air, we were able to run as many as 16 apps at once (including demanding programs such as Final Cut Pro and Photoshop) without any freezing or slowdowns. We exported advanced 4K video files in a handful of seconds, and saw performance benchmark scores that crushed every competing laptop we tested. And the MacBook Air stayed whisper-silent through it all. Needless to say, we’re excited to see this level of power come to a larger desktop computer.
When you pair all that muscle with the iMac’s large display, you could have one heck of a multitasking machine with lots of real estate for jumping between emails, photo edits and video calls. The desktop’s 24-inch Retina display comes in a crisp 4.5K resolution and promises a high 500 nits of brightness, which seem ideal for cranking out visually intensive tasks and kicking back with a movie when the workday is done.
The new iMac also borrows the MacBook’s True Tone functionality, allowing the screen to adjust its color temperature to your surroundings to keep things as natural-looking as possible at all times. We praised last year’s 27-inch iMac for its rich colors, high level of detail and impressive brightness, so we have high hopes for the new model’s smaller (but more advanced) screen.
An improved webcam and microphone experience
Looking and sounding good on video calls is more important than ever now, which is why the new iMac features what Apple is calling the “best camera, mics and speakers ever in a Mac.” That’s a bold claim, but based on the high-quality webcam and audio experience we had on previous iMac and the added benefits of the M1 chip, we think Apple has a chance to live up to it.
The latest iMac sports a 1080p webcam — that’s the same resolution found in last year’s 27-inch iMac, which we found to be a notable upgrade over the 720p cameras featured in most Macs. However, Apple says the M1 chip enables this new iMac to deliver even better video quality than before, offering better dynamic range, auto exposure and white balance to make you look as lively and present as possible during calls.
You’ll also get the same three-microphone array as the previous iMac, which delivered solid audio pickup in our testing. Additionally, the latest iMac packs a six-speaker sound system complete with spatial audio support for making movies and shows more immersive. If it’s anywhere near as booming and crisp as that of Apple’s previous iMacs, it could be a big winner when it comes to hearing colleagues and important presentations clearly (or just watching YouTube; we won’t judge).
A compact design that should fit nicely in any room
The new iMac’s gorgeously slim design doesn’t just look great — it’s also practical. This new desktop looks more like a monitor than a full-on computer, with a roughly 10-pound body that’s just over 11 millimeters thin. Apple says it’s also 50 percent smaller than the most recent 21.5-inch iMac, which should hopefully result in a PC that can easily fit into wherever you work — be it a large desk or a small kitchen counter.
While there’s a lot to like about Apple’s desktop, it has a few drawbacks that make it worth looking at some alternatives before you buy. The new iMac is getting some flack for its low amount of storage space to start — you get just 256GB on both the $1,299 and $1,499 models, and that amount can fill up fast. It has a relatively small amount of ports, with a maximum of just four USB-C connections. There’s also the computer’s fairly big chin.
If those are turn offs for you, here are some popular and well-reviewed options with a wider range of connectivity options as well as more seamless displays.
For more storage and ports: Dell Inspiron 7790 ($1,079, originally $1,319; amazon.com)
Dell Inspiron 7790
If you want more storage and connectivity options within a PC that costs around the same as the new iMac, Dell’s Inspiron 7790 is worth considering. This particular model gets you a 512GB solid state drive (SSD) for quickly booting and transferring programs and files, as well as a 1TB hard drive for storing everyday documents. The Inspiron also goes way bigger on connectivity, with four USB-A ports, one USB-C port, an SD card reader and both HDMI-out and HDMI-in ports (the latter allows this PC to double as a monitor).
One of the big trade-offs here is that you’re getting a 1080p display compared to the richer 4.5K display on the iMac. And while the Inspiron has more ports overall, it doesn’t have the Mac’s Thunderbolt ports — these allow for extremely fast file transfers and let you connect to external 4K displays, just to name a few benefits.
For a more seamless screen: Asus M241DA ($699; bestbuy.com)
The latest iMac has a pretty sleek screen, but it’s still got that same chunky bottom bezel from previous iterations that prevents the display from looking completely seamless. If you want something even more immersive-looking, the Asus M241DA has barely visible borders on the sides and top, and a bottom speaker array that’s far less pronounced than that of the iMac. It also has the advantage of packing a touch screen.
Asus’ all-in-one desktop also makes a nice budget alternative to the iMac at $699, but you will make some trade-offs at the lower price. Its 1080p screen is lower in resolution than the iMac’s 4.5K display, and you’re not going to get nearly the same level of power from its AMD Ryzen 5 processor. But if you want an iMac-like aesthetic without paying iMac-like prices, the M241DA is worth having on your list.
For a bigger iMac: Apple iMac 27-inch ($1,684, originally $1,799; amazon.com)
If you’re set on sticking with Mac and want an even bigger display, Apple’s 27-inch iMac from last year is also worth considering. This Mac gets you significantly more screen space and an even richer 5K resolution, which may be useful for those who multitask heavily and do lots of visual work. The 27-inch iMac also packs more overall ports, with four USB-A ports, two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt and an Ethernet jack.
You’ll be giving up some of the 24-inch iMac’s more modern conveniences, particularly the performance benefits of the M1 processor. But if you need a larger display and more connectivity options, the 27-inch iMac is still a solid choice.
The latest Apple iMac is shaping up to be one of the best work-from-home computers yet, with extremely powerful internals, a promising webcam and a beautiful and slim design that should fit nicely into most setups.
Those after more connectivity options should consider the Dell Inspiron 7790 as well as Apple’s own 27-inch iMac, and the Asus M241DA is a solid choice if you want an even more seamless screen. But the new 24-inch iMac looks like an exciting evolution of things we already love about the Mac. Apple’s new computer goes up for pre-order on April 30 and will start shipping in mid-May, so stay tuned for our full review to see how it fits into our daily work lives.