Apple iMac (24-Inch, 2021) Review: Powerful and Colorful

As someone who usually uses an ultrawide monitor, the 24-inch screen on the iMac feels cramped. Still, I’ve been able to make it work, with Safari front and center and Slack and Telegram readily accessible in the background. (Note: You can only natively connect one external display on M1 machines, so if you wanted a triple-screen setup, you’ll need to look at third-party workarounds.) I do miss the nano-texture glass Apple uses in the 27-inch iMac. I had that machine set up in the same exact spot now occupied by the new iMac, and I never saw any glare. That’s not the case with this model. It would’ve been nice to have that glare-free glass as an optional add-on for people who can only place their iMac near a window.

A bigger annoyance arises when you realize you can’t adjust the height of the screen. You can only tilt the screen up toward your eyes by tugging the bottom edge forward. That’s not ideal; for proper ergonomics, the top of your computer’s display should be set at eye level, so being able to adjust the height is important. I currently have the iMac sitting on top of a stack of six books to boost the iMac’s screen to the correct height. I am tall, but I shouldn’t have to suffer, Apple! If you want to mount the whole iMac to an adjustable arm and gain the freedom to move the screen anywhere you want, you can. But you have to buy the version that only comes with a VESA mount preinstalled and does not include Apple’s stand. It’s silly that you have to make this decision at checkout.

The webcam is the same 1080p camera in the 27-inch Mac, but Apple says the M1’s image signal processor allows for better clarity, noise reduction, dynamic range, and smarter exposure. It would’ve been nice to get a privacy shutter to round out those improvements, but alas. Still, the image quality is pretty good. It’s easily better than any other Mac webcam. My face comes up bright, and colors don’t look muted despite me sitting in a dimly lit bedroom. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it blew me away. It still looks slightly low-res. The bar for a good webcam is really low across the industry, so I’d have liked to see Apple go further here and leapfrog the competition.

It’s a similar story with the six speakers. The bass is underwhelming, but music and movies still sound great. However, too often I had the volume all the way up, whether during a Zoom meeting or when I was watching a show. It can fill up my small bedroom, but introduce some ambient noise, like the drone of an air conditioner or the TV in the living room, and you’ll wish it could get louder.
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The triple-mic array, on the other hand, captures my voice really well—good enough for the Gadget Lab podcast! Just make sure to remove the plastic wrap around the iMac before joining your Zoom meeting. I didn’t notice the thin layer of protective film when I was unboxing the machine and was very confused when my editor said I sounded awful. Days went by before I realized my mics were still covered.

Family Fun

The best part of using an iMac comes when you pair it with other Apple hardware. It always feels like magic when I can copy text on my iPhone and paste it on the iMac thanks to the universal clipboard. Or when I load up a Safari webpage on the iMac and immediately open it on the iPad with just a tap, then continue reading on the couch. This kind of seamlessness is nearly unmatched on any other ecosystem.

Whether everyone in the household uses an Apple gadget or not, the new iMac is a great little machine that excels in its simplicity. Yes, you can buy cheaper machines, whether it’s a Windows all-in-one, a PC you built, or even by just hooking up the M1-powered Mac Mini to another monitor and peripherals. But that all requires a bit of fussing.

You’ll find little of that fussiness here. It’s just pure, colorful bliss.

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