The Case For — and Against — Apple Shipping a Larger iMac

There’s been a lot of discussion about the iMac recently, and the thing I was struck by this time around was the place the iMac holds in Apple’s product line.

I’ve shown this chart a lot over the years, but it highlights that when it was launched, the iMac was squarely on the consumer side of the grid:

Grid of 4

Apple blew away the Grid of 4 a long time ago — first breaking it with the G4 Cube — and over time, the iMac slowly creeped up to encroach on the professional side of things.

First, it got FireWire, then a G4 and a SuperDrive, then it was the first Mac (by a few minutes) to switch to Intel.

In the Intel era, the iMac truly shined, becoming more and more capable.1 The 5K iMac was jaw-dropping, and the iMac Pro that followed it was the best all-in-one Apple has ever shipped.

In the Apple silicon era, the iMac was reinvented yet again, The current M1-powered machine is beautiful and powerful, but Apple has let it sit since introducing it in April 2021, even as almost every other Mac in the lineup has been updated to an M2-based system on a chip.

The lack of updates and the 24-inch display have left many considering the iMac to be a consumer-level machine again. “Sure, it’s pretty,” you may be tempted to tweet post, “but it’s not the powerhouse the iMac Pro was six years ago when it was introduced.”2

The iMac and iMac Pro

This all brings us to the fact that, for the first time in two decades, Apple is only selling one size of iMac. Let’s dive into why Apple should (or shouldn’t) change that, mostly ignoring the web of rumors that surround this topic.

The Case Against a Larger iMac

All-in-ones are inherently compromised due to their form factor. Do you think Apple wanted to put the headphone jack on the side of the M1 iMac? What about when the computer is out dated? Target Display Mode is long gone, and doesn’t seem to be coming back, so it just seems wasteful to pay for a nice, big display just to have the computer behind it drag it down like an anchor after its useful life is over.

Apple has fixed all of this with the Studio Display and its other desktops! The M2 Pro Mac mini is great! Need more? Get a Mac Studio! Shoot, you can even buy a notebook and use it as a desktop without many of the compromises that would bring back in the bad old Intel days! You just don’t need a big iMac anymore with the riches that Apple silicon has brought to the lineup.

The Case For a Larger iMac

The big iMac fits many workstations better than a display with a computer hanging around somewhere. Who wants cables?! Gross! All-in-ones are graceful and elegant, and when’s the last time you actually had an iMac around and you wanted to use its display as a display? That sounds like a fairy tale made up to argue with someone on a forum somewhere.

The iMac is the flagship Mac, and Apple should treat it as such. I’d be willing to pay for the all-in-one experience with a 27-inch (or larger!) display. The company had something really special on their hands with the iMac Pro, and having a Mac mini just doesn’t have the same feeling to it. A big iMac has a presence about it that Apple should preserve.

Apple spent two decades shaping the iMac into something that pros could really use, and they shouldn’t throw away all that good will. Apple should give the people what they want; just listen to Dan Moren:

As an all-in-one desktop, the iMac offers a convenience and price unmatched by any other Apple desktop. Even a base-level Mac mini starts to get pricey once you add an Apple Studio Display to it, and while the flexibility is appreciated, there are still customers (including institutions and education) that appreciate the simplicity of a one-and-done purchase. Adding a more powerful configuration could entice people who might otherwise by a cheaper model to upgrade to a better configuration, especially if they don’t also have to buy a display.

What Do I Think?

I, for one, would like to see a larger iMac make it out into the world, complete with a Pro-level SoC, like the Mac mini has received. The RAM and storage caps on the base-level SoCs feel too limited for a larger iMac. Yes, it would even more SKUs to an already-crowded desktop line, but for twenty years, iMac users have been able to choose a larger, more powerful machine if it fits their needs and preferences, and the M1 model just doesn’t live up to that legacy.

  1. There is a caveat to this, and it’s the fact that Apple kept spinning hard drives around for way too long in the iMac, and the 21.5-inch model languished in the last few years of its life pretty badly. 
  2. Don’t think too hard about the fact that the M1 iMac is faster than the iMac Pro in a bunch of tasks.