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  • Soon Kai Hong

Apple M1 iMac Review: We Tried It, A Radical Change!

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

We like our desktops; multiple monitors, accessories, a full custom PC, all that stuff. But the biggest drawback is space, or rather, the lack thereof. And that’s where the iMac really shines, and arguably the main reason why it is also the most popular desktop which Apple makes. It is an entire PC in this form factor alone and you really only need some space in front of it as your working area, for your keyboard and mouse.

This year, the new M1 iMac replaces the previous base model with the 21.5-inch iMac, but as we all know by now, Apple chose a rather radical approach to the design of this new M1 iMac. It’s unlike anything that Apple has ever done, ever since the iMac was introduced and Apple is really going all-in with this whole new design with the various bright colours. They really thought of every single thing and it all starts right from the unboxing itself.

Since we have it in blue, the box itself shows the very same blue M1 iMac. But even the text is blue, and the carrying handle is blue. And once you open it up and take out all the accessories, while they aren’t necessarily new, with the exception of the keyboard with Touch ID, they are colour matched now, so blue. Most importantly, you also get colour matched Apple stickers.

Personally, I wouldn’t really mind even if they weren’t colour matched, especially for things like power cables that go behind my desk, but Apple did it anyway, and while I didn’t ask for it, I can still appreciate it. It’s just the icing on the cake and it really is a great unboxing and overall user experience that you’ll only really ever get from Apple.

But accessories aside, let’s talk about the M1 iMac itself.

The first major difference is definitely the display. It’s now larger, at 23.5-inches, and with slightly thinner bezels no less. It also has a 4.5K IPS display with a resolution of 4480 x 2520, can get up to about 500 nits in max brightness and supports P3 colour.

Honestly, this display is downright fantastic, and for the price you’re paying, especially if you’re just looking at the baseline M1 iMac, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a PC with comparable performance and with a display of this calibre.

Just comparing the display on this M1 iMac with either my Asus MG279Q or my Prism+ P270, putting refresh rate aside, those displays don’t even come close. Apple really has their colours right down to a T and simply using the M1 iMac for browsing, YouTube, or even photo or video editing, it’s just a really great experience.

But now, whether you like the white bezels and whether you like that glossy or glass-like finish, that’s really up to preference. Personally, I don’t prefer it, I much rather have a matte display with black bezels. But that’s not to say that I can’t live with it because if I were to weigh my preference of white or black bezels against the quality of the display itself, I’ll take the display, any time of the day.

We then get the webcam, and it’s actually a 1080p webcam which is nice. The quality of this webcam is actually not bad at all, and I would say it is much better than the MacBook’s for sure. The studio-quality microphones are also pretty decent and are supposed to be able to grab your voice even if you’re a little far. Overall, it’s a good webcam.

But now we come to the chin, and technically, this relatively small space is all that makes up the actual computer of the M1 iMac. The rest of the iMac is essentially an enclosure for that display. It is also because of this design decision, that Apple was able to achieve the incredible 11.5mm thinness of this new M1 iMac. And like Apple said, it’s thinner than the length of the standard 3.5mm headphone jack and thus they had to put that jack over to the side instead.

It is an incredible feat of engineering and truth be told, it does make for a really beautiful product. But that only works if you have this M1 iMac in your living room or perhaps in the office at the reception desk… somewhere where it stands out by itself.

If I were to get rid of all my monitors and then have just the M1 iMac as my only computer, in my room, where it’ll basically be up against the wall, I’ll never notice the thinness. With that thinness, Apple also had to sacrifice a little on the power front, and that comes in the form of the 143W power adapter.

Yes, an external power adapter may not be such a huge deal since this is not a laptop, you aren’t bringing this around, but I would’ve still preferred having none, and rather have it built-in in the M1 iMac instead.

But despite the thinness, Apple has managed to pack in a really good set of speakers on this M1 iMac and honestly, I was caught by surprise. Now it’s still lacking in the bass department, but the overall volume and clarity far surpass any other comparable PC All-in-One that I’ve personally tried before. It really is a good set of speakers, and it works for the kind of user that this M1 iMac is meant for.

At this point, we now have to talk about ports, and there really isn’t much, especially considering the previous iMac which it replaces. Now don’t get me wrong, these are much more powerful ports per se, and our model does come with 4 USB-C ports, two of which are Thunderbolt 4 capable.

But this is only available on the more expensive SKUs. If you were to get the base model M1 iMac, you only get two Thunderbolt 4 ports. Not to mention that the Gigabit Ethernet port on the power adapter also doesn’t come default, but rather as an upgrade option. If you’re already in the Apple Ecosystem with the new iPad Pros or the new MacBooks, then I’m sure you probably already have USB-C or Thunderbolt 4 accessories lying around, but if you’re someone who’s new to the Apple ecosystem, then yeah… be prepared to have lots of cables on this M1 iMac.

Speaking of the base model, that also will not come with the new Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and there isn’t even an upgrade option for it. If you’re used to the new MacBooks with Touch ID or even an older iPhone, this might just make or break your purchase decision. It just works and is good.

So we’ve gone through pretty much everything new about the M1 iMac and so we have to talk about something that’s not that new. The performance. The M1 chip that can be found on this M1 iMac is essentially the same chip that can be found in the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro, or even the recent iPad Pro.

But as you know on this channel, we’ve yet to review all of those. So instead, we’re gonna focus on the benchmarks that we usually do, which is mainly Cinebench and DaVinci Resolve, but we’ll also dive in and talk a little bit more about thermals and stuff.

So first up, Cinebench R23. It was able to score 7747 on the multi-core and about 1492 on the single-core. These results are pretty much in line with the M1 chip on the MacBook Pro and understandably so.

For DaVinci Resolve, the performance is actually really outstanding. The 10-minute 1080p project took just about 14 mins to render while the 15-minute 4K project took about 17 mins. Not to mention that actually scrubbing through the timeline and previewing your edit was smooth with little to no hiccups at all. I can’t quite say the same for Windows. Now, it’s not quite real-time just yet but when you take the temperatures into account, I’ve almost nothing to say.

The M1 chip basically hovered around 70-degree celsius at most, and it was able to do so almost silently. The fans were literally running less than 50% of their maximum capability. Barely any noise, if at all. Silent, just like Apple intended it to be.

Now we didn’t go through a whole ton of benchmarks and there are variances in performance between M1 optimized applications and those that are not… but overall, you can expect really similar performance to any of the other devices running the M1 chip and honestly, it’s been pretty mind-blowing for my first experience with the M1 chip. It is honestly really good, and perfectly fine for all your basic computing needs and more, even with just 8GB of RAM.

But if you dabble more heavily into photo or video editing, I do highly suggest you go for the 16GB RAM upgrade because unlike previous iMacs, RAM is no longer self-upgradable, since it’s now built onto the M1 chip itself.

So all in all, what do I think about the new M1 iMac from Apple?

Honestly, it’s just a very good computer. For the average person who just needs a computer that can do pretty much everything and you don’t want to buy anything extra to go with it, this fits the bill, and it is exactly how Apple is positioning this M1 iMac. If you’re coming from the previous 21.5-inch iMac, this is a huge upgrade and will run circles around that. Just take note of differences between the various SKUs available, especially the ports selection, the RAM and the storage.

But if you’re a professional who requires a lot of GPU horsepower and specific GPU technologies, or perhaps your workflow consists of applications that don’t play too nicely with the M1 chip just yet, then I would say to hold off for now. Wait and see what Apple comes out with for their Pro line of products, especially the iMac Pro and the Mac Pro as they slowly transition to the use of their own silicon. Things might be more interesting then.

Nevertheless, even though I know I’m not part of the demographic that this M1 iMac is targeted towards, it has definitely impressed me, no doubt about that.


Content by Soon Kai Hong

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