Apple (AAPL) watchers have been expecting the company to release Retina display iMacs for months.
When Apple shut down its online store briefly to refresh the iMac line, most people were caught off guard when no Retina iMacs appeared — instead, there was a cheaper, new iMac going for $1099, a savings of $200 compared to the previous lowest entry level model (that one now becomes the mid-range option).
Visually, the iMac released on June 18 seems identical to the more expensive 21.5-inch models Apple sells. So what’s the difference? Is this new iMac a bargain, or has Apple cut corners somewhere to get the price down?
Read our new iMac review to find out.
New iMac Review (2014): All of Apple’s Legendary Design
Regardless of how you feel about Apple products — whether you prefer Microsoft (MSFT) Windows to OSX, don’t like all-in-one form factors or think its gear is too pricey — you have to admit that the iMac is a sleek-looking device.
As far as PCs go, this aluminum and glass machine with its tapered edges is as much a piece of industrial art as it is a computer. Like all current iMac models, you won’t find an optical drive, you won’t be able to crack it open for later upgrades (unless you’re very brave), and you’re definitely not going to be playing hardcore video games on it.
But this new iMac has the same Full-HD, LED backlit display we’ve come to appreciate, it runs OSX (and will support the new OSX Yosemite demoed at WWDC 2014) and even at $1099, includes Apple’s matching wireless keyboard and wireless Magic Mouse.
New iMac Review (2014): But Slower…
The ways in which Apple shaved $200 off the price began apparent during the new iMac review process.
The CPU and graphics were the first components to take a hit. Instead of a 2.7 GHz quad-core Intel (INTC) Core i5 CPU, the new iMac has a 1.4 GHz dual-core version. And rather than Intel Pro graphics or a dedicated video card, the new iMac relies on lower end integrated Intel HD Graphics 5000.
Finally, storage was also cut. Instead of a 1TB hard drive like the previous entry level iMac, this new iMac has just 500GB of storage.
Compared to the model it replaces, the new iMac is noticeably slower on CPU-intensive tasks and has half the storage.
New iMac Review (2014): Specs
- 21.5-inch LED display at 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) resolution
- 1.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 CPU
- Intel HD Graphics 5000
- 8 GB RAM
- 500 GB hard drive
- FaceTime HD camera
- Stereo speakers, dual microphones
- 4x USB 3.0 ports, 2x Thunderbolt ports
- MiniDisplay port
- Gigabit ethernet
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
- 12.5 pounds
- Includes Apple Wireless Keyboard and Apple Magic Mouse
- Runs OSX
- MSRP: $1099
Note: When ordered from apple.com, base configuration can be upgraded by this new iMac review uses the base configuration.
New iMac Review (2014): Conclusion
Apple never does anything without reason, and it’s a good bet the company didn’t release a cheap new iMac with a cut in specs just to irritate critics. It’s likely this new 21.5-inch iMac was rushed out in response to the growing popularity of cheap PCs running Google’s (GOOG) Chrome in the education market.
Now that PC manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Samsung (SSNLF) are making Chromeboxes for education (in the desktop PC form factor) in addition to Chromebooks, Apple needed to take drastic measures to protect its lucrative education market — slashing $200 off the price is a good way to appeal to budget-conscious school boards and parents.
Should you buy this new Apple all-in-one PC?
As our new iMac review shows, you still get much of what makes an iMac appealing (including the cool design), just slower. For homework, general productivity and casual home use, you’ll likely never notice the difference. More demanding users should resist the savings and opt for a more powerful version, though.
As of this writing Robert Martin doesn’t hold any securities mentioned here.