Till the pandemic shooed us inside our houses, I was a two operating systems kind of guy — Windows at the office and macOS at home. Since last March, I have very clearly become a Windows-less user, with all my work being executed on the MacBook. So much so that when I have to drop into the office once in a while for some work, I am now like a duck out of water figuring out what Windows 10 used to be like.
But confined to my MacBook for months, I have been wondering if it is time to invest in a desktop, given it is much better for my posture and adds anchoring to my work-life — otherwise, I am all over the place from the sofa to the bed and work table.
This is why I was excited to get the new iMac for review — the excitement was heightened by the fact that in all my years of reviewing gadgets, this was going to be a first. A fortnight later, this is my review.
It is not often that a device comes along which can redefine a segment. But strangely Apple has a habit of bringing out such devices. If you ask me, this year’s iMac is one such device.
Here is a desktop computer that is not very different from an extra-large tablet. The new iMac is that thin, not much thicker than what the MacBook is when it is closed. Powered by Apple’s new M1 chipset, which also powered the new iPad Pro, the iMac has no issues with going slim without any impact on power or performance.
The iMac’s 24-inch screen is propped up on an aluminium stand which has a hinge that will let you adjust the display to just the angle you want. There is also a new magnetic charger that snaps to the back of the iMac like Apple’s other MagSafe cables. A nice touch, this one. The iMac has just an array of four USB-C ports at the back and a 3.5-mm jack on the right side. The other big change is the addition of a Full HD camera to the front.
The stunningly thin design of the iMac does give it a premium and very futuristic look. After having used custom-made Windows desktops for many years, a computer that does not take up most of the space on my work table and beneath it was a real surprise. In fact, the iMac, despite being an ominous presence it is, does leave a lot of space on my table. And that is good, because in the box is the ultra-sleek keyboard, trackpad, and mouse from Apple.
The 24-inch display has a 4.5K resolution (that is 4480x2520p at 218 ppi) which is better than most televisions out there. The resolution means you can fit in more than what you would with a 24-inch Full HD resolution. For me, this meant I would have two windows open side by side and still not feel a bit cramped for space. The colours on this screen are also vivid and natural, making this a great investment for those who deal with photography and design.
If you want to use the iMac for a short entertainment break in between the daylong work-from-home sessions, the display is large enough to rise to the occasion. Then there is a six-speaker hi-fi system with Dolby Atmos which makes you feel like there are cars and monsters swishing past behind you and the screen.
A lot of this iMac’s existence is, however, because of the new M1 processors. Despite being 8-core, this has a low thermal footprint allowing a design that is convenient for a powerful computer. The model I had review came with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD storage. This meant all the apps open in a jiffy and I can keep on opening more and make them all work as small partitions on the display without any complaints from this thin giant.
An hour of work for me usually means about 20-odd tabs each open on Safari, Chrome and Firefox — I use different browsers to segregate personal and work profiles. On most computers, this becomes a deadweight on performance, on the iMac this was just setting the stage for going on a Zoom call and opening presentations for live share. This is that kind of device.
I was not sure how some of the desktop apps I am used to would work on the M1-based iMac. That doubt was cleared the moment I downloaded and ran Slack. Rosetta kicked in as I was installing and the app was running like normal a minute later.
Then there is the entire world of gaming via Apple Arcade or other apps, and utilising the display and audio performance of the iMac. An hour into a gaming session — always an effort for me — I could run my hands on the rear panel and feel it as cool as when it was switched off.
The biggest visible change for me using the iMac was the stunning Full HD FaceTime camera powered by the M1 image signal processor. Given the mess my room is in, I am used to switching on the background blur on Zoom calls. But on the iMac this becomes a deadly combo as others see me almost like a 3D cutout emerging from my box on Zoom. I have lost count of how many times I was asked what magic I was doing on these calls. This is the device you would get if you are a star who has to be seen on streaming calls by millions of people. I would buy the iMac just for this feature if needed.
It was a pleasure typing on the new keyboard that comes with the iMac. In some models, like the one I got for review, this comes with a TouchID button. Moving to the iMac from a MacBook, this keyboard is a bit small and takes time to get used to. But once you are in the groove it’s a pleasure to type on. While there was the stylish Apple mouse on the table, I found myself using the trackpad far more — it could have been the muscle memory of having been working only on laptops and tablets for well over a year, or just the effort of moving the mouse all over the table to get to the far corners of this 24-inch screen.
For a computer that stunned me in more ways than one, it is hard to find fault with the iMac. However, there is one warning for those planning to buy this one. This iMac needs a 16amp power outlet, which I had none of in the places I could keep this computer. So I had to order a converter online and wait for it comes before starting the review. Also, it’s hard to find a UPS that has a 16a slot, so do keep this in mind.
I don’t know about others, but given that I see myself working from home a lot more in the coming months, I am buying one for sure. Yes, this is a worthy investment for those who do quality work from home, whatever be your sphere of activity. And then this costs as much as a MacBook only and even portable to a large extent within the household. So it is a clear buy from my side for everyone looking to get a new computer for the home, or work from home to be specific. The fact that this can double up as a TV and Music system is just a silver lining. For me, the iMac 2021 is the first computer for the pandemic generation.