Should You Get Apple’s New Entry-Level 21.5-inch iMac?

Coming on the heels of a slight price drop in the MacBook Air earlier this year, Apple is now bringing the entry-level love to the all-in-one desktop iMac. Today, Apple created a new 21.5-inch model with a price of $1,099 — besting the previous entry price by $200.

It offers a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz, 8GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive, and Intel HD Graphics 5000 for its graphics processing.

[Check it out on Amazon: ~$1,049]

As specs go, these are basically fine for an entry-level Mac or PC — but nothing insanely great. In fact, the only reason I would recommend it is if someone is desperate to get into an iMac but is hampered by a serious budget crunch. And if that was the case, I would recommend a Mac mini that could use the person’s existing external monitor, keyboard, and mouse — or even snag an 11-inch MacBook Air for a little over $850 at Amazon.

The Best iMac

As Apple’s lineup stands right now, the previous entry-level version at 2.7GHz with a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive, as well as Intel’s newer Iris Pro Graphics, is a much smarter buy. That quad-core processor will keep you running with satisfactory performance for years to come. It’s really a fantastic buy if you want the brilliance of Apple’s all-in-one desktop design with performance that will last for most families and standard work situations.

Still, all of Apple’s standard iMacs come with standard hard drives. If you buy direct from Apple, you can order them with faster SSD drives, but you’ll pay an insane premium — $200 extra for just 256GB of flash storage or $500 extra for 512GB. That’s just painful. The better option is Apple’s Fusion Drive solution, which pairs 128GB of flash with traditional hard disk to give you 1TB of total drive space. That option is still another $200. (I sure wish Apple would bundle in the Fusion Drive as the default option without raising the sticker price.)

Special Note: B&H is running some sweet deals on iMacs both with and without Retina displays. If you like the idea of a powerhouse iMac, take advantage of the savings and free two-day shipping.

And the best iMac? Right now it’s the 27-inch 3.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 model with NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M with 1GB of video memory graphics processing. The 27-inch screen is big, bright, and glorious . . . and while it’s not a 4K monitor, most people aren’t willing to pay the price for a 4K option anyway. (Apple will eventually introduce a Retina display iMac, but it’s not clear when or how much more it will cost over existing models. Should you wait? If it’s going to happen this year, think about waiting until October. Once November hits, Apple won’t introduce anything new until after the holidays.)

Who Is the New iMac Really For?

Obviously the new iMac is a fit for budget-conscious consumers who also love Macs. More likely, the new iMacs introduce a system that Apple can more easily use to sell into educational markets as well as business accounts. The bottom line is that this new iMac will handle those workloads just fine for years . . . and do it with a wickedly good-looking all-in-one design.

Check out iMacs at Amazon:

About the author

Chris Maxcer

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I've been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and I still remember the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. I'm a big fan of elegant gear and great tech, but there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. Online I like to call out cool stuff on Wicked Cool Bite and blog with my buddies at Man Makes Fire. To catch me, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at the url of this site.