The iMac is the go-to choice for consumers and pros across the industry. Especially when you factor in the iMac Pro, Apple's most popular desktop computer reaches from the casual user all the way up to the most demanding pro. You can trace this iconic desktop's history all the way back to Apple's late 90s revival.

● All-in-one design
● Aluminum unibody
● 27-inch and 21.5-inch options
● Nano-Texture option
● 5K and 4K Retina Display
● 500 nits and P3 color gamut
● Configurable to 8 cores and 2TB SSD
● Pro option for more performance

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Frst announced in 1998, the iMac was a large departure from Apple's hardware design. Today, the design continues to place the computer out of sight and keep the large screen front and center. The all-in-one Mac is Apple's most popular desktop.

The peak of all-in-one design The iMac Pro is the peak of all-in-one design

The Mac desktop has recently seen long gaps between updates, a botched Mac Pro launch in 2013, and neglected operating system software. Through all of that, the iMac has remained the standout product for reliability and design.

The most recent iMac Pro helped bridge the gap to the ultimate release of the new Mac Pro.

iMac Design and Features

Its design saw a slow evolution through the first decade of the desktop’s existence – starting as a gumdrop-shaped, colorful plastic blob, and evolving into the silver-gray aluminum of today. It has always had an all-in-one design, housing the motherboard and components in a housing behind the screen.

All-in-one Design

The all-in-one desktop has a 5mm tapered casing with a large hump on the back to house internal components and a large chin under the screen.

The aluminum unibody of Apple’s all-in-one desktop is an iconic design The aluminum unibody of Apple’s all-in-one desktop is an iconic design

The 21.5-inch iMac and 27-inch iMac have silver aluminum chassis, and the iMac Pro has a space black chassis. A small door in the rear allows users to access user-replaceable parts. A giant weighted "foot" juts out from beneath the screen to hold the display upright. 

The iMac 4K has a 21.5-inch screen at 4096 x 2034 pixels. The iMac 5K and iMac Pro have a 27-inch screen at 5120 x 2880 pixels. They all support the P3 gamut at 500 nits brightness.

Keyboard and Mouse

The iMac line ships with a keyboard and mouse in the box, and Apple gives you the option of ordering an extra during checkout. The standard models come with the silver version of the devices, and the pro model ships with the space gray version.

The space gray version of the Magic Keyboard is only available with an attached num-pad. It has no standard option.

Ports and Upgradeability

The standard iMacs have the same ports: two Thunderbolt 3 ports that support output to additional 5K displays or an external GPU. Four USB 3 ports, an SD card reader, and a gigabit Ethernet port are also in the back of the monitor.

Four Thunderbolt 3 ports The iMac Pro has a lot of ports considering how few come with other modern macs.

The iMac Pro has four Thunderbolt 3 ports that allow connections to four 4K displays or two 5K displays, as well as external graphics. It also has four USB 3 ports, a 10 gigabyte Ethernet port, and an SD card reader.

All three desktops have user-upgradeable RAM, but the larger desktops do not have an access hatch in the rear of the display. They require extensive deconstruction and rebuilding to replace the RAM, leaving users in the position to damage the computer in the process.


iMac 4KQuad-core 3.6GHz Intel Core i3
6-core 3.2GHz Intel Core i7
Radeon Pro 555X
Radeon Pro Vega 20
iMac 5K6-core 3.0GHz Intel Core i5
8-core 3.6GHz Intel Core i9
Radeon Pro 570x
Radeon Pro Vega 48
1TB Fusion
iMac Pro10-core 3.2GHz Intel Xenon W
18-core 2.3GHz Intel Xenon
Radeon Pro Vega 56
Radeon Pro Vega 64X


21.5-inch iMac and 27-inch iMac

The latest designs have not changed since their introduction in 2014 The latest designs have not changed since their introduction in 2014

The 2014 product keynote was held in October with viewers hoping for some upgrades to the ill-fated 2012 Mac Pro. Instead, we got the iMac 5K, a powerful machine with a new display. Apple touted it as having the highest-resolution of any display at the time. The company was also quick to highlight the new timing controller and display panel it built from scratch to make the display work.

One year later, Apple introduced the 4K model with various upgrades also passed to the 5K model. These included new chipsets, SSD options, and the P3 color gamut. It was an incremental update, but the wider colors made envious many who already owned the 2014 model.

Also of note was the launch of Apple's new peripherals, and an all-new rechargeable Magic Mouse, keyboard, and trackpad, which were included in the box.

The all-in-one desktops saw a new performance update in March 2019. While it say in the iMac Pro's shadow, it still held strong as the budget-minded pro desktop. With the option to go all-out with an i9 processor and new Vega graphics, these computers can still fill most consumers' needs.

In August 2020, Apple changed the naming configuration of the two all-in-ones, referring to them as the 21.5-inch iMac and 27-inch iMac. They retained the same resolutions, but shifted to an all-SSD lineup.

The 27-inch iMac can be configured with nano-texture glass, just like what is used in the Pro Display XDR for an additional $500. On the 27-inch model, this update also included the T2 chip for added security.

These updates should be the last ever to the aging design paradigm for Intel iMacs. The rumored 24-inch iMac should bring an all-screen monitor with better internal designs running on Apple Silicon.

iMac Pro

The iMac Pro is the newest deviation of the all-in-one desktop line, supporting its updated chipsets with an all-new internal structuring and cooling system. Apple released the desktop to fill the "powerful desktop" vacancy left by the lack of a new Mac Pro.

Space gray has been used to designate Apple’s “pro” desktopsThe iMac Pro and its space gray finish make it stand out from the crowd

To earn back the trust of some of Apple's most demanding professional crowed, Apple teased the new pro variant at WWDC in June 2017, six months before its release. The base model starts at $4,999 and was meant to keep prosumer buyers at bay.

On August 4, 2020, the iMac Pro was updated with a very small change to its available processor. It would now be configured with a 10-core Xenon processor instead of an 8-core Xenon processor.

The new update did not include nano-texture glass.

iMac History

Design over the years. Image from WikipediaThe iMac design over the years. Image from Wikipedia

From the first iMacs in 1998 all the way to the powerful iMac Pro of today, this desktop computer line has seen a rollercoaster of changes to itself and the company that produces it. Upon its release, it was the saving grace that allowed Apple to pull itself away from near bankruptcy and begin its journey to the company it is today.

Plastic to Aluminum

2007 aluminum vs 2006 plastic casing 2007 aluminum vs 2006 plastic casing

The transition to the sleek aluminum unibody we know today happened from 2006 to 2009. The first Intel iMac shipped with a plastic body, essentially identical to the iMac G5 it replaced. It had a white plastic body and 17-inch screen.

Like with the MacBook Pro's transition to aluminum, the next iMac release in 2007 updated the body to an aluminum design but maintained the same screen size and aspect ratio. The 2009 update slimmed the design down a bit, changed the aspect ratio, increased the screen to 21.5" and made it an aluminum unibody.

PowerPC era

The iMac G3 and its friendly presentation became a blockbuster hit The iMac G3 and its friendly presentation became a blockbuster hit

The original iMac G3 – and all subsequent models until 2006 – ran on PowerPC. Steve Jobs introduced the massively popular iMac G3, with its gumdrop design and bright colors. It saw four years of updates before Jony Ive moved the line to the white plastic floating monitor design.

The iMac G4 design was also unique with a desk-lamp-inspired design, placing the computing components in the "foot" and connecting the screen via a pivoting arm. The shift to plain white plastic was jarring, but it was also the first step in Apple moving into the more business-like silver and space gray colors it uses today.

The iMac G5 realized the modern design that is still used today, although it's much refined and slimmed down.


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