Should you buy the new budget iMac?

Apple iMacApple just launched a new iMac and it is a budget model that costs just US $1099 or UK £899. The obvious questions are what is different, apart from the price, and is it worth considering if you are thinking of buying your first Mac or upgrading from an older model? Is the new iMac a bargain you should immediately snap up, or would it be better to pay a bit more and get one of the other models?

The screen

There are now three 21.5in iMacs and the screen is the same no matter which one you get. That takes it out of the equation and we must look at other features to see what is different.

Processing power

The new budget iMac has a 1.4GHz dual core Intel Core i5 processor, which might not sound very fast, but it can turbo up to a more respectable 2.7GHz. It has 3MB of cache memory. There is 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard disk drive, and Intel HD Graphics 5000.

For just US $200 or UK £150 more though, the middle of the range 21in iMac gives you a lot more processing power. It has twice as many cores and is clocked at nearly twice the speed – a quad core Intel Core i5 running at 2.7GHz with turbo to 3.2GHz and 4MB of cache.
It might be worth paying the extra price just for the better processor, but there’s more.

Apple iMac June 2014


The budget iMac has a 500GB hard disk drive, but the next iMac up has 1TB as standard, which is double the capacity. A 500GB drive might be enough for some people, but you could struggle for space if you have large photo, music and video collections.


All three 21in iMacs have exactly the same memory and each comes with 8GB. However, the budget model will not let you upgrade and 8GB is the maximum, whereas you could boost the next model up to 16GB if you found you were running short.


The budget iMac has Intel HD Graphics 5000, which is OK, but the next model up has Intel Iris Pro Graphics, which is better.


Although the new iMac is cheap, the extra processing power, bigger storage, memory expansion options and better graphics make the next model up much more appealing. If I was going to spend $1099 / £899 for an iMac, I’d somehow find the extra $200 / £150 for the middle 21in iMac. It is far superior and the budget model isn’t really worth it unless you are seriously short of money or are a very light user, just checking email, Facebook and Twitter.

What about the top end 21in iMac? That’s another $200 / £150 up from the middle model, but there are fewer benefits. Add $200 / £150 to the base model and you get a lot more, but the law of diminishing returns applies and there is less benefit in opting for the model after that.
The $1299 / £1049 21in iMac is the pick of the bunch and you should forget the other two.




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