Last updated: 2 weeks ago
The iMac has utilized the same external design language since its move to aluminum in 2007, but that all may change soon. It is rumored that Apple will introduce an all-new 24-inch iMac with a design similar to the iPad Pro or the Pro Display XDR running Apple Silicon.
● iPad Pro-like design language
● New internal component layout
● All models will have SSD, no more HDD or Fusion drives
● 24-inch Display
● Concept from @appleleaker2020 on Instagram
The external design of the iMac has not changed much in 13 years, with minor alterations to screen size or aspect ratio being the most noticeable updates. The new 24-inch iMac is rumored to break that cycle and offer an all-new design paradigm similar to other modern Apple devices.
Not much is known about this potential all-in-one desktop, but the updates it may receive can be inferred from other product rumors and recent releases. The imminent transition to Apple Silicon also means this could be the first desktop running ARM.
24-inch iMac Rumored Features
The redesign will not be the only news surrounding a refreshed iMac, as other technologies could debut in the machine. It is expected that Apple will finally ditch spinning disk drives altogether, and maybe introduce a new LED technology.
Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that the newly designed 24-inch iMac will have an ARM chip and be released sometime in 2021. The new technology in Apple Silicon will likely drive the price higher, too, simply because of the costs associated with the shift and the supplier burden.
The iMac is an all-in-one desktop PC with all of its computing components tucked away behind the screen. This means that Apple has had to work with an increasingly high thermal load in the same hump-back casing. The shift to Apple Silicon brings new challenges, but will likely allow for much simpler cooling systems, as all current Apple A-series devices are fanless.
The addition of RAM slots and an external GPU would require more cooling, but the overall thermal load might be low enough for a more svelt design language.
The iMac Pro changed the internals entirely to allow better airflow and quieter fans, but the thermal limitations still exist in that design. The redesign is expected to take on elements of the iPad Pro or the Pro Display XDR, both of which reflect Apple's modern design philosophy, and apply the better cooling methods learned from building the iMac Pro and Mac Pro.
The iPad Pro saw a significant redesign in 2018 that removed the home button and chin in favor of a near bezel-less display, Face ID, and flat sides. If the iMac does shift to a similar design, it will mean pushing the 21.5-inch display out to 23-inches by removing the large bezels and chin.
A Twitter user with the handle "iFinder" posted the icons found in leaked iOS 14 code, which indicate some change to the iMac form factor. The bezels indicated by the icon do seem more uniform, but not as thin as rumors suggest.
The Pro Display XDR has a design similar to the Mac Pro tower, with an all-screen display, "cheese grater" holes in the back, and a stand that can pivot and rotate the display. The controversial stand is $999 and fits in with a sleek aluminum design.
The 24-inch iMac with similar design aesthetics could make for a good looking machine, but compact enclosures face challenges with cooling. The iPad Pro — and any Apple Silicon iMac — won't have the same cooling needs since it is using ARM at a much lower computing power per watt metric.
Like with the previous major iMac refresh, only one model will likely be updated this year, and the other updated later. Rumors point to a 24-inch display, meaning the smaller iMac 4K will get the redesign first. A recent legal filing with the EEC for a single Mac also suggests that only one model will be updated.
There is little reason for the resolution to change for the larger display, as 4K at 24 inches will maintain the Retina pixel density. Technologies used for improved color accuracy found in the Pro Display XDR could be used in the 24-inch iMac, however.
Reports from Ming-Chi Kuo suggest a move to Mini LED across the Mac line, which will allow better contrast and color recreation similar to OLED.
The most apparent update for refreshed iMacs is upgrading to the 10th-generation Intel processors. Combine that with a new AMD Navi GPU as rumored, and Apple will have a competent desktop offering.
The recently released Comet Lake series used in the 13-inch MacBook Pro is likely to be used again. Due to the Intel Iris Plus Graphics, they feature 80% more graphics performance over the previous year.
The AMD Radeon Navi 2X cards were announced in March 2020 and could bring powerful new graphics operations to the Mac. It is unknown if the chips are ready yet, but once released, they will improve everything from gaming to rendering on the 24-inch iMac. The first-generation Navi cards could be used instead.
The same rumor also says that Fusion Drives will be abandoned in this model. Apple has moved to SSD only configurations in every other computer they sell, with the iMac being the last holdout. An SSD will improve speeds across nearly every process on the machine as loading apps and documents from storage will be much more responsive.
The iMac Pro changed the connectors from USB-A to USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 support. The 24-inch iMac will likely have a similar port arrangement, likely with the adoption of USB 4.
While the Apple Development Kit ships in the physical form of a Mac mini, it does not have the latter's Thunderbolt 3 ports. It isn't clear why this is at this time, but with USB 4 including the Thunderbolt 3 protocol and USB-C physicality, Apple Silicon Macs, including the 24-inch iMac, will likely see compatibility at consumer launch.
24-inch iMac Price
The 4K iMac has acted as a good entry point for first time Mac buyers. For just $1,299 you got a decent processor, 1TB HDD, and discrete Radeon Pro graphics in a 21.5-inch 4K screen.
Ming-Chi Kuo says that Macs running Apple Silicon will be more expensive due to the costs of the chip transition itself and the burden of the supply chain. While details aren't yet clear, a price premium for new technology is not unheard of, especially for Apple, but may be worth it considering the performance upgrades promised by Apple Silicon.