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Apple Silicon & the M1 Chip – the best chip ever?

Apple Silicon chip changed everything. We were happy, for a time, but asked for more. But where does it stop?

M1 Chip & Apple Silicon

I am eagerly, and patiently waiting for my new 16-inch MacBook Pro M1 Max to arrive, so in some respect, I am guilty of what I am about to write. The M1 chip, showcased at last year’s spring event, and it changed the rules of personal computing. Fast, power efficient, virtually silent and immensely capable. The tech community went bonkers, well, for a while at least!

It’s used in all sorts of devices including the Mac mini, MacBook, MacBook Air, iPad Air & iPad Pro. Apple only has one, all-in desktop currently, and that is the 24-inch M1 iMac. Why is it so overlooked?

The forgotten hero

This year, after the release of the Studio Mac and Studio display, Apple withdrew the other iMac in the range. The 27-inch iMac has touched many of our lives over numerous years. It became the ever so consummate iMac Pro for a time, being a great bridge for pros that weren’t quite pro enough to warrant the eye-watering expense of the Intel powered Mac Pro. Currently, the only iMac in the lineup is the M1-powered version, and Apple seem in no hurry to expand on the range. Many wonder if Apple will ever replace the large, and much-loved iMac. The natural successor would now seem to be the Studio rig, but that comes at a price. £3500 to be exact if you choose the base spec on both the monitor and Mac. But for many, that is far too much. Not only regarding cost, but also in raw computing power. However, for some reason, the hero of last year, seems now a bit-part player. Purely a pretty face and not much else. Why, though?

More than enough for most

The M1 iMac comes in three configurations. The base machine has one less GPU core with only 7, only two Thunderbolt ports and no ethernet option. The only differences between the mid and top of the range options is storage. Other than that, on both those top-tier two options you get an 8-core CPU/8-core GPU M1 chip, two thunderbolt ports, two USB-C ports, a gigabit Ethernet connection and the Magic Keyboard with touch ID. The entire range represents great value as well, with prices ranging from £1249 through to £1649 (in base specs).

Design

On release, there was chat and discord over the chin. The chin has always made the iMac, well, an iMac. It is an instantly recognisable, iconic design. Even someone who knew little about Macs could pick that computer out as an iMac. The chin is not purely a design aesthetic, though. It is functional as it houses the entire computer. Colours were a big part of the release, and it was the first time that iMac’s had been anything other than brushed aluminium. On the higher end choices, there are seven lovely, warming, pastel colours from which to choose. The reverse is where the colour is at its most vibrant, which has made it perfect for use in front-of-house scenarios, such as restaurants and reception areas. The iMac is slim, very slim, only 11.5mm thick, so, the Ethernet connector is in the power-brick. Makes sense as most Ethernet cables come in to the house at skirting board level. Having the Ethernet in the power-brick keeps one more cable out of sight, so is a thumbs-up from me.

The display is gorgeous. Typical of what we have come to expect from Retina displays. It is a 4.5K panel, offering support for up to 1 billion colours, P3 wide colour and 500 nits of brightness. It’s a monitor that is easy to use day-long and views well from even oblique angles. I mentioned value earlier on. If you compare the iMac, which is a powerful, complete computer, against the new Studio Display, you’ll see just what I mean. In the base spec, the iMac is, £250 less than the studio display! OK, so the Studio Display is bigger at 27-inches, it’s 5K and its max brightness is 600 nits. But on the iMac you get, arguably, a better webcam experience, and speakers that are virtually the equal of the Studio Display. The webcam does not offer Centre Stage, but the colours, details, and sharpness are better than those of the troubled Studio Display panel.

Is it right for you?

If you want out of the box, plug and play simplicity, then there really is no other choice in the Mac lineup as of now. At £1249 you are buying in to the Mac world with a computer, that for most, will be more than adequate. And this is the frustration with this great machine.

It is way better than most give it credit for. If your typical day involves emailing, spreadsheets and scrolling through web pages, then this M1 iMac will be more than you’d ever need. In fact, on those tasks, you’d be hard-pressed to know if you were using the M1 or M1 Ultra chip. It is snappy, responsive & quick. If you were to tick all the option boxes, add on 2 TB of storage and 16 GB of unified memory, then this entry-level iMac could easily be a capable video editing set-up. Pound for pound, there is even an argument that this could be the best consumer iMac ever.

At 24-inches, some say it is too small. If you are concerned, go and have a play on one in-store. The super display, and thin, white bezels make it so immersive to use, that going from a 27-inch iMac to the 24-inch model is almost undistinguishable. It is honestly thatgood.

Concluding

Where Apple will go with iMac is anyone’s guess. Will there ever be another 27-inch model? Would they put an M1 Pro in the 24-inch sized body? Will there be an M2 option later this year? When, Apple withdrew the 27-inch iMac without mention last month, nothing was said whether we should expect a direct replacement. Your guess is as good as mine. But to relegate this current, colourful iMac to a pretty by-stander is wrong. For most people, this machine will be more than quick and efficient enough. Just because there are faster, costlier options out there, does not make them right for you.

Unless you simply want the latest and best that money has to offer, then go and revisit the only iMac currently available. Fast, quiet and discreet, this forgotten beauty is just waiting to satisfy. When, is enough, finally, enough?

Are you looking for a desktop Mac right-now? What are your considerations? Would you consider looking at this iMac?

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