Review: Apple's 2021 iMac is a remarkable combination of style and power

Newshub's Daniel Rutledge reviews Apple's 2021 iMac.
An orange 24-inch iMac with an Apple M1 chip. Photo credit: Newshub.

This week, Apple releases its latest iMac range in New Zealand.

The brightly coloured all-in-one computers now boast a 24-inch screen with a Retina 4.5K display and new promise of power via the M1 chip.

But are they a case of style over substance? Is Apple charging too much money for a trendy device that will only be cool for a year or so?

In New Zealand, they start at $2149, but can cost over $5000 if you choose every top-end option possible with every accessory and pre-installed software option available.

The new iMacs will be available to customers from this Friday, but I was loaned one early to review. Here are my thoughts.

The good


That's what I said when I pulled this out of the box. It's also one of many things Newshub's Lifestyle Editor Sarah Templeton exclaimed as she got more excited than she has over any tech gadget I can remember opening in the office.

It really has been designed with aesthetics in mind and be prepared for these showing up in your Instagram feeds soon, particularly if you follow a few creative professionals.

Apple logo on M1 2021 imac.
Apple's logo on the back of the iMac screen. Photo credit: Newshub.

The model I am using is orange - dazzling bright orange on the back and a faded, peachy orange on the chin - the strip below the screen.

There are six other colour options: pink, purple, yellow, blue, green and plain old silver.

The colour scheme is extended across the accessories in the box - keyboard, mouse, trackpad, even the cords - and even to the default desktop background when you boot it up.

Coloured accessories for the 2021 iMac.
The customer's chosen colour extends beyond the iMac itself to the accessories. Photo credit: Newshub.

The iMac is also strikingly thin - the screen is 11.5mm thick and the whole thing weighs just 4.5kg. It doesn't take up much space and is easy to move about.

The wow factor continues after booting up, too. The Retina 4.5K display is stunning, making watching 4K video or looking at a high-res photo a real pleasure.

As with the M1-powered MacBooks released last year, Apple's own silicon proves an absolute beast again.

Early benchmark tests show these new iMacs are vastly more powerful than any previous iMac - even about 38 percent more powerful than last year's Intel Core i7-10700K 27-inch model.

For standard day to day users, that means you'll pretty much never have to wait for anything because of hardware. I certainly haven't while juggling loads of apps at the same time, including demanding ones.

It never seems to heat up or make any noise, either. 

Beyond standard use, the iMacs are more than powerful enough to carry out a lot of professional work too.

Using Final Cut Pro, I comfortably edited some 4K video content, with other apps open that I was able to tab between with no problems. In a demo, I saw an iMac play four tracks of 4K video simultaneously, without dropping a frame.

Like many tech devices released since the outbreak of COVID-19 and ensuing shift to working from home, the new iMac has beefed up video meeting capabilities.

It has the best camera, best mic system and best speakers ever in a Mac, all intelligently adjusted on the fly by the M1 to ensure really high quality video calls.

Although this isn't a gaming PC, it obviously handles anything on Apple Arcade without cracking a sweat. You can easily connect an Xbox or PlayStation controller to it too, if you want.

As someone who has predominantly used PCs over Macs, despite being an iPhone owner, one of the most refreshing things of the iMac is its iPhone continuity features.

If you're looking at something in Safari, Notes, or any of Apple's apps on your phone and you're near the iMac, a little icon of that app will pop up on its screen. You click that and it opens up on the iMac.

Orange 2021 iMac with Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse.
Every new iMac comes with an Apple Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse in the box. Photo credit: Newshub.

In practice, this is exceptionally handy. It's even quicker than AirDrop and means never emailing or Slacking yourself anything. Just imagine starting an email on your phone while walking back from the café then just sitting down and finishing it on the iMac as soon as you're back at your desk.

Making everything as quick and simple as possible goes further, too. Some of the new iMacs, including my review unit, have a keyboard with a touch ID button that allows unlocking, but also switching between profiles. 

There are too many examples of this sort of convenient feature to list and I'm discovering more all the time.

The bad

The worst thing about the new iMacs is they cannot be upgraded, so you must really think ahead if you're looking to invest in one.

It's super powerful and you can increase storage capacity with removable drives, but it's difficult to say how much more power or space you may need in a few years' time.

USB-C and Thunderbolt ports on the 2021 iMac.
This iMac model has four USB-C ports, two of which are Thunderbolt. Photo credit: Newshub.

Although the iMac is light and easy to move about the house or office should you want to, I do worry about its durability in certain use examples Apple put forward.

Specifically, using the iMac as a smart screen in the kitchen is a bit dangerous for my liking, given how ingredients and oils can splash around, not to mention things being knocked off the bench.

There are much cheaper smart screen options around, too - this iMac could easily be overpowered for such uses and, with more options than one needs, where a simple tablet would suffice.

Likewise, as powerful as it is, this is not designed to be a serious gaming machine - that's still the realm of the PC, where powerful graphics cards can be replaced with even more power year after year.

But of course, that's not what the iMac is going for. Just one top-end graphics card alone would cost more than an iMac, before you buy every other component and accessory required to get it working.

The M1 chip is an ARM processor and apps made for its Big Sur OS run amazingly well, while those built for Intel-based Mac models generally run well via Rosetta 2. But some older apps just won't work - if there's an older app you need to run on a new iMac, check if it'll do so before you buy.

And while the bright design will be loved by many folk, some others will hate it. I personally dig it but if I was to get really picky, I'd want smaller bezels around the screen. They're far from ugly, but they are fairly sizable compared to some other screens and it might be nicer to have a smaller border.

2021 imac screen bezels / border.
The screen's border will have fans and detractors. Photo credit: Newshub.

The verdict

Apple's new iMac is a remarkable combination of vibrant, stylistic design and mighty power.

The eye-catching colour schemes and inability to be upgraded mean these won't be for everyone, but it's hard to imagine a better all-in-one computer being released this year.

Particularly for iPhone users, this is a super intuitive, easy to use unit that is more than powerful enough to handle everything general users would need.

If you like the look of them I'd find it hard to believe you don't love using one. I sure do.

Newshub was supplied an iMac for this review.