It’s colorful, slim and full of power, which is exactly what you expect from Apple’s newest iMac computer. It also comes with the most efficient and powerful chip. With the 21.5-inch iMac no longer available, the question becomes whether to get the newest iMac or the 2020 27-inch refresh. Is the latter worth the extra cost? Let’s look at why one model may be the better choice for you.
One of the most immediate differences between the 2021 iMac and 2020 27-inch Mac is the display size. With the 21.5-inch model gone, both options will give you a boost in screen real estate. At 24 inches, the 2021 iMac comes with 4480 x 2520 pixels and a beautiful resolution. However, there is no support for a 5K display. The 27-inch iMac has a 5120 x 2880 display, so 5K is standard.
Screen size aside, the displays are fairly similar with color, brightness and clarity all coming across as the same. The question is whether or not you need 5K quality. For most people, 5K is still an anomaly, and they won’t know the difference. If you absolutely need 5K quality, then the 2020 27-inch Mac is the one for you.
When compared to the 21.5-inch iMac, some reports say the M1 chip in the 2021 iMac is more than 50 percent faster. This is a significant improvement. Everything from loading applications, running multiple applications and even video playback will feel faster. Gaming in particular will also be faster, and you have the ability to use certain iOS/iPad OS apps on your M1 iMac.
Things are a little murkier when you look at the 2020 27” iMac. The latter still offers stronger multi-core performance, which makes the decision a little more difficult depending on your needs. If power is your biggest need, and you perform tasks that require encoding or rendering for content/media production, the 27” iMac is still your best bet. For everyone else, unless you absolutely need the extra three inches of screen real estate, the M1 chip has tremendous upside.
The 27-inch iMac is the better option if you need a variety of ports, including USB-A, SD card, Thunderbolt, etc. Apple’s move to a strict allotment of USB-C only for the new 2021 iMac is likely going to lead to some confusion with new buyers. Anyone who frequently uses their iMac to charge the iPhone or iPad (non-Pro and older models) may find themselves unable to do so.
Ultimately, the 27-inch iMac is the way to go if port compatibility is at the top of your must-have list. That said, should you need more ports on the 2021 iMac, picking up a hub online is easy and relatively inexpensive. Given the cost difference between the two sizes, adding a hub of additional ports can be far, far less expensive than jumping up to the 27-inch iMac.
Aside from your 2021 iMac purchase matching colors with your keyboard, the latest model also has Touch ID. That extra level of security that is not currently available in the default 2020 Magic Keyboard offers a big security advantage. Not needing to consistently enter a password, simply using your fingerprint instead, can help prevent anyone from using your iMac without your permission. It’s far easier to look over your shoulder and memorize a password than it is to fake a fingerprint.
It’s worth noting that the base 2021 iMac does not come with the Touch ID keyboard. Instead, you have to jump up to the mid-level to receive it as part of the package. Alternatively, 2021 base model buyers can spend $50 more and order it as a separate accessory. You also get the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad in the same color spread as the new iMac, and that makes it even more attractive. If you are picking up the 2021 iMac specifically for its array of colors, this only helps to solidify this is the right purchase for you.
With the newest 2021 iMac, what you see is what you get. After your purchase, there is no opportunity to add more RAM. That’s one of the reasons millions love the 27-inch iMac. Having the ability to add RAM months or years after purchase is an option that cannot be overstated.
The new (incredibly) thin design of the 2021 iMac doesn’t allow this level of customization, so you need to make sure that your initial purchase is exactly what you need both now and in the future. When asking yourself if the 2021 iMac is right for you, you need to consider whether 16GB of RAM and 2TB of storage are enough for all of your needs. Those max options compare against the available 128GB of RAM and 8TB of storage in the 27 inch iMac. Yes, it will cost you far, far more, but depending on your needs, it may be worth the cost.
The array of colors available on the 2021 iMac should not be understated. Apple has gone back to the future from previous iMac generations and introduced a rainbow that has something for everyone. For some, a non-gray computer may feel awkward in a home office, but the reality is that these colors are fun and look great in any environment. Do you want something with some personality or the standard Apple gray?
With all of the options to consider, knowing which iMac is right for you is difficult. For most people, the 2021 iMac is more than enough computer and both the base and top-end options are still less expensive than the 2020 27-inch iMac. That you can only customize so much is probably the biggest factor most users need to consider, while the average user should be more focused on price and having a future-proof computer. The addition of the M1 chip all but guarantees that Apple will support this computer well into the future.