The original iMac was revolutionary. But in recent years, the iMac has become stale. Sure, the innards dutifully kept pace with modern demands, but it’s been a decade since Apple did anything daring with the design.

With this latest revamp, Apple’s being daring on multiple fronts. These new iMacs arrive in an explosion of colour that recalls 1999’s vibrant line-up. More importantly, the computer has been redesigned – inside and out.

Display: Half time

Apple might call this a ‘24‑inch model’, but the display’s 23.5in across the diagonal. Hmm. Still, it’s superb, packing in more pixels than larger 4K screens. In fact, this is a 4.5K display, with 4480×2520 pixels at 218ppi. It’s bright (500 nits) and colour accurate (P3; optional True Tone).

In use, it looks wonderful. You expect that from Apple displays, but it’s worth saying. Even with the brightness at around 50%, photos, videos and games look the part. Ramp it up to full and you get seriously impressive, rich colours. That said, given Apple’s infatuation with curved corners, it’s interesting to note the iMac display’s are square – unlike the iPad’s.

A/V and inputs: The human touch

Apple reckons this iMac has the best camera, speakers and mics ever in a Mac. The camera is an improvement, albeit from a low bar in the Mac range. It sadly lacks the Centre Stage subject tracking smarts coming to the new iPad Pro, but nonetheless makes you look good on web chats, even in relative low light. The mics are solid for FaceTime and Zoom, but you won’t use them to record a top-40 hit.

The speakers are special. We ramped them up to maximum, fired up ear-monstering tunes in Apple Music, and were thrown by the bass wallop and sound stage depth. Does it match dedicated desktop speakers? No, but fewer people will need some now.

Apple’s reworked the input devices too. They match the colour of your Mac, which on our purple model neatly made the keys stand out. A black mark for Apple, mind, in not using an inverted-T for the arrow keys. A gold star, though, for Touch ID, which works perfectly, with a larger target for your digits than the tiny one on the MacBooks.

Random observations

  • The entry-level iMac has a 7-core GPU rather than an 8-core. Expect MacBook Air-level performance.
  • The cheaper Mac also omits the two USB 3 ports and Touch ID – and you get fewer colour choices.
  • Beyond HandBrake and Ungine Engine, getting the fans to spin up during review was nigh-on impossible.
  • There is an Ethernet port – it’s on the power brick.
  • USB-A and HDMI are absent – sorry, legacy port fans. There’s no SD card slot either.
  • But there is a headphone port – handily on the side. See? Thinner Macs can force good design decisions!

Verdict: iMac to the future

On its original reveal during Apple’s Spring Loaded event, the iMac elicited a sense of joy – and concern. It brought back a sense of fun to the iMac – but would those colours work in the real world? And had Apple done enough to provide a platform for the iMac’s future?

During review, we were repeatedly and pleasantly surprised. Scepticism thawed and gave way to delight. The design works. Pick a colour; have a ball. The M1’s oomph is welcome – but the iMac is whisper quiet.

So who should buy one? If you’ve an ageing 21.5in iMac, it’s an obvious choice. But even owners of 27in iMacs will often find the M1 kicks their computer’s face off. More demanding folks might want to hang on for whatever Apple’s cooking up in the pro space, but if you can tolerate a smaller display, this 24in iMac is no slouch. Do consider plumping for 16GB RAM, though, to give yourself more headroom for the future.

Tech Specs 
23.5in Retina 4480×2520 with P3 and True Tone
Apple M1
256GB–2TB SSD (1TB max. on 7-core)
macOS Big Sur
802.11ax Wi-Fi 6; Bluetooth 5.0; 3.5mm headphone; 2×Thunderbolt 3 (USB 4); 2x USB 3 (8-core only)
54.7×46.1×14.7cm; 4.46kg (8 core 4.48kg)
Stuff says... 

Apple iMac 24in (2021) review

A worthy update that marries the best of iMac’s past and present – and that even managed to eradicate our cynicism.
Good Stuff 
Wonderful visual overhaul
M1 chip is blazing fast
Touch ID on the keyboard
Excellent display and speakers
Bad Stuff 
No Centre Stage or Face ID
Entry-level unit missing some features
Can’t adjust screen vertically
Game performance not amazing