There’s an iMac for Everyone 

2017 iMacs

When the original iMac went on sale, it was undoubtedly a consumer product. Some professional Mac users mocked the colorful design and lack of legacy ports, unaware that their beloved Power Mac would soon follow in the iMac’s USB-shaped footsteps.

The iMac G4 was also a consumer machine, but it creeped into the workplace slowly, thanks to its incredible design.

The iMac G5 brought the mighty PowerPC G5 CPU to Apple’s all-in-one, which now sported the design we recognize today, with the computer tucked behind the screen. This machine, and the plastic-clad Intel iMacs that followed it got more powerful and more capable over time.

In 2007, when Apple unveiled the first aluminum and glass iMac, Steve Jobs specifically mentioned professional users who were adopting the iMac, saying that the new model was designed with them in mind, in addition to the army of consumers who enjoyed the iMac in their homes.

Many, Many Models

Since then, the iMac line has only grown more broad, stretching from an entry-level machine to one that can handle just about anything.

This breadth means the iMac can fit the needs of users looking for a low-cost family computer to ones who make their living as audio and video editors. There is an iMac for just about everyone.

As of January 2018, these are the stock configurations of iMac for sale on Apple.com:

$1,099

  • 21.5″ 1920 x 1080 sRGB display
  • 2.3 GHz dual-core i5 (3.6 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • 8 GB 2133 MHz RAM
  • 1 TB HDD
  • Intel Iris Graphics

$1,299

  • 21.5″ 4K P3 Retina display
  • 3.0 GHz quad-core i7 (3.5 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • 8 GB 2400 MHz RAM
  • 1 TB HDD
  • Radeon Pro 555 with 2 GB video memory

$1,499

  • 21.5″ 4K P3 Retina display
  • 3.4 GHz quad-core i7 (3.8 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • 8 GB 2400 MHz RAM
  • 1 TB Fusion Drive
  • Radeon Pro 560 with 4 GB video memory

$1,799

  • 27″ 5K P3 Retina display
  • 3.4 GHz quad-core i5 (3.8 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • 8 GB 2400 MHz RAM
  • 1 TB Fusion Drive
  • Radeon Pro 570 with 4 GB video memory

$1,999

  • 27″ 5K P3 Retina display
  • 3.5 GHz quad-core i5 (4.1 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • 8 GB 2400 MHz RAM
  • 1 TB Fusion Drive
  • Radeon Pro 575 with 4 GB video memory

$2,299

  • 27″ 5K P3 Retina display
  • 3.8 GHz quad-core i5 (4.2 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • 8 GB 2400 MHz RAM
  • 2 TB Fusion Drive
  • Radeon Pro 580 with 8 GB video memory

There’s an iMac model spaced every $200 or $300 apart, each one slightly better in one way or another than its cheaper sibling. It’s easy to justify spending just a little more for a faster CPU or a nicer screen. It’s a pricing tactic Apple does well.

Suggested Improvements

Not everything is roses here, though. The non-Retina iMac ships with a pitiful 5400 RPM hard drive and just two CPU cores. Even the RAM is slower than what’s in every other iMac.

Other than the bag of bones that is the entry-level Mac mini, this is the slowest Mac currently for sale. I have a customer who has one of these computers, and I’m here to report that using it is downright frustrating at times, waiting on that hard drive to catch up.

I am glad there is an iMac for just $1,099; I just wish it had a Fusion Drive in it.

Moving up the line, every stock iMac configuration comes with 8 GB of RAM and a Fusion Drive. The RAM isn’t ideal, but I understand why the Fusion Drive has lasted so long. Every Mac comes with 1 TB of storage by default, which is perfect for home users with lots of photos and media. If Apple had to ship 256 GB SSDs to preserve the price point, it would make the iMac experience worse for most users.

Annoyingly, the maximum size for the optional SSD is limited by the standard SKU you start with. The $1,099 iMac can only have a 256 GB SSD, the $1,299 a 512 GB module. To have 1 TB of SSD storage in a 21.5-inch iMac, you have to start with the $1,499 model. These restrictions aren’t present on the 27-inch models.

King of the Hill

Just for kicks, I configured the most expensive 27-inch iMac I could on Apple’s website. This is what $5,299 will get you:

  • 27″ 5K P3 Retina display
  • 4.2 GHz quad-core i7 (4.1 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • 64 GB 2400 MHz RAM
  • 2 TB SSD
  • Radeon Pro 580 with 4 GB video memory

This machine is a big jump over the most expensive stock configuration, which makes me think Apple could offer a SKU with an i7 and SSD as standard at the top of the line.

Of course, at $5,299, you should just order an iMac Pro instead…