iMac 4K

iMac 4K

Last updated: 2 days ago

The iMac 4K launched in 2015, replacing the previous 21.5-inch iMac entirely. Nearly indistinguishable from its larger counterpart, it retains the same design we associate with the iMac line. This machine lives strong as a good budget desktop Mac with decent specs and a beautiful display.

● 21.5-inch 4K Retina Display
● 500 nits and P3 color gamut
● up to 6 core i7
● up to 32 GB RAM
● up to Radeon Pro Vega 20
● up to 1TB SSD
● starts from $1299

Starting at $1299, the iMac 4K is what you would expect from an entry-level Apple desktop. Middling specs, a beautiful display, and modern processors make this the perfect buy for any casual user.

The baseline iMac is equipped with a 3.6GHz quad-core 8th generation Intel Core i3 processor. Other processor options include a 3.0GHz 6-core 8th generation Intel Core i5, and 3.2GHz 6-core 8th generation Intel Core i7 processors.

iMac 4K features


Since its reveal in 2014, the iMac has changed almost nothing about its outward appearance. The same 21.5-inch screen, 4K resolution, P3 color gamut, and 500 nit brightness has been in place through every upgrade.

The unibody design hasn't changed either; the frame tapers at 5mm up to a large hump in the rear to house the internal components and a sizable chin under the screen on the front. Cooled from an internal fan and vented below the screen, there is beginning to be some concern that this design will be thermally limited in the coming generations.

The iMac hides its exhaust vents underneath the screen The iMac 4K hides its exhaust vents underneath the screen.


The iMac 4K comes with an 8th generation Intel Core i3 and i5 chipsets by default. You can configure this to include the i7 as well.

You can select between the Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, or go all out with a Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of HBM2 memory. Although, users who need more power and are willing to spend in this range will likely jump up to the iMac 5K or the iMac Pro.

Upgrade Path

Unlike its 5K counterpart, there is no rear door to access the RAM, but the RAM is upgradeable if you take apart your iMac. The smaller iMac has the same ports as the iMac 5K; two Thunderbolt 3 and four USB-A, an SD card reader, a headphone jack, and gigabit Ethernet port. 

The ports on an iMac The iMac 4K comes with the same ports as its larger 5K counterpart

If users need more graphics capabilities, Thunderbolt 3 allows users to attach powerful external GPUs like those from Black Magic. This means that users can purchase a new external GPU instead of replacing the entire iMac when newer specs are required.

Thunderbolt 3 can also be used to attach external monitors. The iMac 4K can drive a single 5K display or two 4K displays. Apple partners with LG to produce official monitors for Macs, like the LG 23.7-inch 4K UltraFine Display, which Appleinsider reviewed.

History of the iMac 4K


As stated before, the modern iMac 4K saw some nice speed boosts, new intel chipsets, better GPU options, and better memory when Apple updated the line this year. The biggest issue being that the baseline HDD is still the same slow 1TB drive that any user who cares about speed will need to upgrade.

Everything else remains the same, with the same design and screen. It is the iMac we've grown accustomed to.

Geekbench scores show obvious upgrade path for users Geekbench scores show an obvious upgrade path for users


2017 brought several new updates to the iMac. New Kaby Lake Intel processors, discrete Radeon Pro GPUs, and Thunderbolt 3 all arrived in the same year. This meant speed improvements across the board, making the base iMac 4K a much better value than before.

The entry-level machine still had the slow HDD that needed upgrading despite the other speed improvements.


The iMac 4K was announced in fall 2015 to no one's surprise. After the 27-inch iMac 5K released the year prior, it was only a matter of time before the smaller 21.5-inch iMac received similar treatment. It released with a new feature to the iMac line: support for P3 color gamut.

Alongside the 4K model, Apple updated the iMac 5K with the same new features and launched upgraded peripherals. Shipped in-box with the new iMacs, the new Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic keyboard featured a modified design and rechargeable batteries.

Options and Pricing

The iMac ships with a base configuration of 3.6GHz quad-core i3, 8GB DDR4 RAM, 1TB HDD, and Radeon Pro 555X graphics for $1299. This can be configured with faster Intel processors up to the intel core i7, an SSD of up to 1TB, more RAM up to 32GB, and improved graphics with a Radeon Pro Vega 20.

Maxing this machine out would cost $3149. AppleInsider recommends the middle tier iMac 4K for $1499. Be sure to check out our price guide.


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