3 changes Apple should make to next-gen iMacs

Since Apple suspended sales of the Pro version, iMacs are the subject of much speculation. While no one outside Apple knows for sure, here are three features Erik Eckel hopes to see in next iMacs.

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Much Mac hoopla is understandably focused on Apple’s powerful and portable aluminum laptops. But the desktop isn’t dead yet, especially with so many employees working from home or exploring long-term WFH arrangements and as integrated cameras and microphones continue proving Microsoft Teams– and Zoom-meeting friendly. Because spring is the season of renewal and Apple is expected to announce next generation of iMacs soon (no event date has been announced), here are three changes I’d like to see in the new desktops.

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1. Introduce the M1 chip to the iMac lineup

Apple’s move from Intel CPUs to its own silicon may have left some observers skeptical, at first. But reviews and technical commentary have proven remarkably consistent; Apple’s M1 chip is a hit. The 8-core Apple chips, as TechRepublic’s Jesus Vigo explained in November 2020,  are low-power CPUs designed to balance performance and power consumption, and the resulting performance is impressive. Thanks in part to an integrated 8-core graphics processing unit, which assists powering efficient video, and a Secure Enclave security chip, which secures system data on the fly, the new M1 chip is earning its popularity.

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The only problem? The M1 is only available in a select few Macs, as of spring 2021. At the same time, the iMac, Apple’s long-standard desktop computer, has grown long in the tooth. Though an attractive all-in-one system, the computers are due for updates.

By adding the significant performance, graphics and security boosts the M1 delivers, incorporating the Apple Silicon M1 power plant within new iMacs will make the systems attractive, practical additions to most any home or business.

2. Shrink the bezel

My iMac is positioned beneath a shelf on my desk. If new 21.5-inch versions grow any bigger in physical size, the machine won’t fit the intended locations for many users.

Fortunately, multiple reports suggest Apple intends to retain the same iMac footprint, while increasing the real estate dedicated to the display. How do you do that? Trim the bezel surrounding the display will free the required space, and old iMacs boast plenty of bezel for trimming.

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The additional pixels—current 21.5-inch traditional displays support 1920-by-1080 resolution with support for millions of colors, while Retina 4K versions support 4096-by-2304 resolution with support for one billion colors—will prove handy, especially when working with just a single display. But the ability to squeeze a contemporary M1-powered Mac into the same space used by previous traditional models? That’ll make a purchase a no brainer for multitudes.

3. Add more and reasonably priced SSD options

Apple’s always charged a premium for hardware upgrades. When available, SSD upgrades are no exception. But iMac SSD choices have proven limited for some time.

Current iMacs start at $1,099, with the Retina version boosting the price to $1,299. Those are certainly reasonable costs. And, as should be expected, both models’ base configurations include 256GB SSDs. Try upgrading the storage at the time of purchase, though. A 1TB Fusion Drive—with a Fusion Drive the iMac combines 32GB of fast SSD storage with a standard traditional 1TB hard drive—is the only option. Good quality 1TB SSDs are commonly available from a variety of manufacturers for less than $140 or so. Why is it, then, so challenging to specify a 1TB SSD upgrade at the point of purchase?

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Apple can do everyone a favor by including a 1TB SSD upgrade option, for reasonable expense, at the time of purchase. While cloud computing continues growing in popularity, the widespread need—regardless of industry—for ever-expanding video, imaging, application data and actual application storage would prove easier to accommodate on a desktop, were the option available. And desktops, by their almost unwritten rule of purpose, tend to be systems upon which large amounts of data are stored over time.

Providing additional SSD storage options at a reasonable price would help professionals avoid aftermarket upgrades. While the process has increasingly become more complex, the difficulty hasn’t discouraged the activity, which also introduces warranty issues. Extending additional optional SSD choices would help businesses and professionals working from home better prepare new iMacs for long-term demands.

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