In the spring of 2021 Apple introduced a new 24in iMac. This new iMac represents the biggest redesign for over a decade and the introduction of Apple's own processor - the M1.
The M1 has beaten all expectations of what Apple was capable of doing with a Mac processor: combining power and efficiency with graphics capabilities that far surpass integrated Intel graphics. However, where the other M1 Macs - the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and Mac mini - replaced Macs that previously featured integrated graphics, the iMac traditionally had discrete graphics.
This 24in iMac is better than the 21.5in iMac in many ways, but if you need a graphic capable machine it probably won't be the right Mac for you. Which begs the question of whether you should buy the 27in iMac, which does offer discrete graphics and supports much more RAM than the 24in iMac.
The 27in iMac was last updated in August 2021 - almost exactly a year ago at the time of writing. When we reviewed the model shortly after the launch we praised it as a worthy update, despite it coming just a couple of months after Apple announced its plans to transition from Intel processors to its own silicon.
The 2020 27in iMac starts at £1,799/$1,799 and has a number of pro-focused features in its favour including 6-core or 8-core (or build-to-order 10-core) 10th generation Intel processors, the option to add up to 128GB RAM (while the 24in model maxes out at just 16GB RAM), and high-end Radeon Pro graphics cards.
In our tests we found that the M1 chip in the 24in iMac actually bets the 10th-gen processor in the 27in iMacs, but in graphics tests the 27in iMac was a long way ahead, as you can see from the graphic below.
With these results it would seem that the 27in iMac, even a year on, is a good purchase, and if you need a Mac with the capabilities that this iMac boasts then we still recommend it. The problem is that now that it is a year old there is an expectation that Apple will soon update it, and when it does the update is likely to involve the successor to the M1, which is expected to go someway to match the graphics capabilities required by professional users.
This is the biggest reason why it might not be a great time to buy the 16in MacBook Pro (read: Should I buy the 16in MacBook Pro?). Apple is very likely to update the MacBook Pro with the next generation of the M1 chip in the near future. This successor to the M1 is expected to offer more processor cores and more graphics cores, and hopefully support for more RAM.
However, where the update to the MacBook Pro is expected to come in the autumn of 2021, the expectation is that we will be waiting a little longer for the new iMac, for which a spring 2022 launch seems most likely. Read our 32in iMac release date article.
This spring 2022 iMac update could bring a larger screen along with the processor and graphics improvements.
By the time it launches we should know just how capable Apple's M1 successor is, and whether the company can meet the demands of pro users.
It's a long time to wait if you need a new iMac now though. For those who need a new iMac the 27in model is still worth purchasing.
If on the other hand you can wait a little longer, but perhaps not long enough to make it to spring 2022, then another option that could appeal might be the upcoming 16in MacBook Pro revision. Read about the new 16in MacBook Pro here. The specs of the new MacBook Pro are likely to be very similar to the iMac when it does arrive.
Of course the biggest differentiator will be the screen, which we anticipate being bigger than 30in for the new iMac. You may consider that there is no competition between a 30in display on one side and a 16in display on the other, but you can of course plug both Macs into a secondary external display, so really the argument that you need an iMac to get a big enough display is mute.