M1 iMac 2021 vs. Intel iMacs

The new m1 iMac is just about to be released and it's different from its predecessors. With the new CPU chip, new design and new features, this iMac is definitely worth taking a look at.

Apple recently released the super-thin 2021 iMac that runs on the M1 chip. Aside from a new CPU that veers away from the Intel processors, it also features a unique bezel design, seven color options, and many component upgrades. 

So, how does it stack up with its predecessor, the 2019 4K Intel iMac and the 2020 5K Intel iMac? This post will try to answer some of the most important questions you have about these desktop models to decide which one you should choose. 

Processor and Graphics

m1 iMac Specs
(Image Credit: Budiey)

Under the hood, the new 2021 iMac runs on an 8-core, ARM-based M1 processor, Apple’s homegrown CPU for its desktop and laptops. The two-port model has a 7-core graphics card, while the four-port unit has an 8-core GPU. Apple claims that the M1-based iMac’s CPU speed is expected to have an 85-increase compared to its predecessor. 

Meanwhile, the 2020 iMac has various options for its i5 and i7 models. The 6-core and 8-core variants are available with Intel’s 10th Gen CometLake processors. The top of the line unit runs on a 3.6 GHz, 10-core i9 paired with AMD Radeon Pro Graphics. The 10900K CPU can even be turbo-boosted up to 5Ghz. 

Storage and RAM

Compared to its predecessor, the 2021 iMac has limited storage options, with the largest one being a 2TB SSD. On the other hand, the 2020 4K Intel iMac has several storage options, including the top-of-the-line 1 TB Fusion. Meanwhile, the 5K Intel iMac has a storage of up to 8 TB SSD. 

In terms of RAM, the 2021 iMac only has 8 GB or 16 GB options. The 2020 4K Intel iMac has up to 32 GB, while the 2020 5K Intel has up to 128 GB of RAM. 

Consequently, the newer 2021 iMac also has the latest Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 ax), whereas its 2020 predecessor still uses the Wi-Fi 5 (802.11 ac). Only the 2021 iMac and the 2020 5K Intel iMac have Hey Siri support.

Design

How m1 iMac charges with magnetic charger
(Image Credit: Apple)

The new 2021 iMac features a significantly thinner design with narrower bezels with a white surround rather than black. Moreover, the woven six-foot-long power cord connects magnetically to the charging port. 

According to Apple, the new iMac’s total volume has been reduced by 50-percent, and its thickness lessened to just 0.45 inches. There are also seven colors to choose from for the 2021 iMac — blue, green, orange, pink, purple, yellow, and classic silver. 

Display

The M1-based iMac also has a new display size of 24.5-inch with 4480 x 2520 pixels. Compare that to the 2019 4K Intel iMac with a smaller 21.5inch display and 4096 x 2304 pixels. Meanwhile, the more premium 5K Intel iMac features a bigger 27.5-inch with 5120 x 2880 pixels. All displays have a Retina Display, a 16:9 aspect ratio, and a brightness of 500 nits. 

Additionally, the new 2021iMac has thinner bezels than before as its large screen is fitted into a smaller chassis. The screen also features a white border instead of the more traditional white background. Apple also ditched its logo, which is usually located on the chin. 

Furthermore, the 2021 iMac uses a 1080 pixels HD FaceTime webcam equipped with the M1 ISP. The older 2020 5K Intel iMac has the same camera without the M1 ISP, while the 2020 4K Intel iMac has a smaller 720 pixels HD camera. 

Ports and Connectivity

m1 iMac ports at the back
(Image Credit: Apple)

In terms of ports and peripherals, the new 2021 iMac has varying port offerings across its models. The base model, for example, has two USB-type Thunderbolt 3-supported ports. Meanwhile, its more premium offering adds two more USB-C ports, albeit they don’t have Thunderbolt. The latter also gets an Ethernet cable power connector. The headphone jack was also moved from the rear and is now located on the side. 

In contrast, the 2020 iMac has two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support and four USB Type-A ports, an SD card slot, and an Ethernet jack. Both iMacs are equipped with Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard, but only the four-port 2021 iMac comes with a Touch ID sensor for better security and easy sign-ins. 

The 2021 iMac also uses a six-speaker system with a woofer with force-canceling features and three mic arrays. In contrast, the 2020 iMacs use stereo speakers. 

New iMac vs. Old iMac Spec Sheet Comparison

Here is a spec sheet of the 2021 M1 iMac alongside the 2020 4K Intel iMac and the 2020 5K Intel iMac:

M1 iMac21.5-inch, 4K Intel iMac27.5-inch, 5K Intel iMac
CPU3.2 GHz M1 8-core3.2 GHz 6-core Intel i73.6 GHz 10-core Intel i9
GPUM1-8 CoreUp to AMD Radeon Vega 20Up to AMD Radeon Pro 5700 XT
StorageUp to 2 TB SSDUp to 1 TB Fusion DriveUp to 8 TB SSD
RAM8 or 16 GB8, 16, or 32 GB8 to 128 GB
Screen Size24.5-inches21.5 inches27 inches
Resolution4480 x 2520 pixels4096 x 2304 pixels5120 x 2880 pixels
Aspect Ratio16:916:916:9
Retina DisplayYesYesYes
Brightness500 nits500 nits500 nits
Wi-FiWi-Fi 6 (802.11 ax)Wi-Fi 5 (802.11 ac)Wi-Fi 5 (802.11 ac)
Hey Siri Support YesNoYes
Webcam FaceTime 1080p HD plus M1 ISPFaceTime 720p HDFaceTime 1080p HD
SpeakersSix-speaker systemStereo Stereo
ColorsBlue, orange, purple, green, yellow, pink, silver (white bezels)Classic silver (black bezels)Classic silver (black bezels)
Height 18.1-in (46.1-cm)17.7-in (45-cm)20.3-in (51.6-cm)
Width21.5-in (54.7-cm)20.8-in (52.8-cm)25.6-in (65-cm)
Pricing Base Model 256 GB SSD/ 8GB RAM$1,299$1,299$1,799

Which iMac Should You Get?

The 2021 24-inch iMac with the new M1 chip is an upgrade compared to its predecessors. Aside from the faster CPU speeds, it also has a more vibrant facade that younger Apple users will appreciate. Both the 2021 iMac and the 2020 4K Intel iMac also have the same base price of $1,299, making the former the more straightforward choice between the two. 

However, the newer iMac is not a complete replacement for the 2020 5K Intel iMac, which has more graphics, storage, and processor options. Apple might release a bigger chassis for the new iMac soon. Overall, the 2021 iMac is a solid choice for a workstation desktop. It can even have the M2 processor sooner than anyone expected.