The M1 iMac Is Here, but What Does Apple Have in Store for Creative Power-Users?

The M1 iMac Is Here, but What Does Apple Have in Store for Creative Power-Users?

The new iMac is here, and of course, it’s sporting the fancy new M1 processor that’s inside everything Apple these days. That’s great news all around, but I have a feeling that Apple’s got something even bigger up its sleeve for the real creative set.

Believe me, as someone who’s wringing the last bit of life out of what is now the last-generation iMac, I’d like the new 24-inch model to be the upgrade for my photography needs, but smart money doesn’t make it seem that way. Let’s start with some of the key omissions that signal that this may not be the machine Apple’s aiming at creatives that need the extra power.

Smaller Screen

I love the screen on my MacBook Pro (when it’s not having a flex cable issue, natch). The color accuracy and brightness are top notch. But it’s only 13 inches, and having the extra elbow room on a 27-inch iMac to edit photos or look at spreadsheets in full is huge, literally and figuratively. I suspect photographers won’t so readily give up those extra 3 inches, even for a newer generation machine. I sure don’t want to.

Resolution is also down a notch - while it’s higher than the 4K of the outgoing 21.5-inch model, it’s still not quite 5K of the current 27-inch model. Makes sense because of the screen size, but perhaps Apple could have worked some magic with the pixels here to get that kind of resolution in a smaller package?

Laptop Internals

While it’s hard to get detailed tech specs out of Apple when it comes to computer guts, the omission of a dedicated graphics card signals that this iMac is every bit the first-generation machine that the M1 Mac Mini and MacBook laptops are. While the onboard graphics processing is by all accounts pretty good, there’s no doubt that creatives will want more. How is something integrated onto the main chip supposed to handle 12K footage from the latest 360 cameras?

Configurability doesn’t seem to go beyond what’s offered on the other models either (between memory and hard drive upgrades), and unfortunately, following the examples of the laptops, the SD card slot is gone. Photographers still really, really need those. I’ve accepted that USB-A ports are gone.

Lack of Professional Colors

Perhaps the biggest tipoff that more “professional” models aimed at multimedia folks are coming down the road is the colors available. While there’s the standard silver and a multitude of much more fun colors, there’s a distinct lack of Space Gray or black color options.

The darker color of the previous generation iMac indicated the Pro model, and so, perhaps we’ll soon see the same convention pop up in the new Macs.

Will You Get One?

Are any of these things dealbreakers for you? Will you replace your old iMac with the new 24-inch models? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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This iMac seems a bit of a letdown for creatives. It feels like just a Mac Mini housed in an iMac (especially the limited ports on the back). At least when I bought my M1 Mac Mini I was able to choose a nicer looking 28” 4K monitor. I guess anyone needing a Mac for professional work will just have to wait much longer for a better spec’ed model and hopefully one with less cutesy colours.

Just bring back "target display mode" for the love of god. All iMacs are off the table for me because they can't be used as external monitors if, for example, you want to plug in a laptop. This is a major oversight imo

I'm finding that I'm using my 15" MacBook pro and 2 external screens more than my 27" iMac and a 24" iMac with my external screens will provide better real estate but I suspect need more ram than what this offers and a bigger SSD as my GIS is more stable with all the data on the same drive as the software. But ultimately, this is not designed to be the replacement 27" iMac but for those who have a 21" and want to upgrade, or public settings such as shops or libraries I can see this machine being popular. I'll personally wait for the 32" and I don't mind the fun colours, but darker is best.

It’s obvious that these iMacs aren’t intended for professionals. Just guessing here but, one reason may be that this M1 design incorporates discreet graphics that probably aren’t up to par for the graphics performance that professionals need. Perhaps further development is needed for the M1 architecture in order to gain that performance.

It is sad that during this hard time, people but mostly men would waste money on the latest junk that big companies throw out! There is no hope in society.

So you'd prefer for people to buy nothing, and for the global economy to get even worse than it is, leading to even more poverty? That's sick and depraved.

Apple is on a longer journey to say goodbye to all professionals. Nothing new. The MacPro was a DOA, with this slow and overpriced Intel Chip in a Time AMD was already Shipping CPUs as double as fast. No Nvidia GPUs... . Professional Software from Apple as no roadmap, same with the "pro" Desktop Macs. Incompatible OSX updates (just ask professional audio producers), weird strategies with graphics APIs. Introducing and Advocating APIs like openCL and then totally ignore them...
Professionals have differend demands and are asking for things which are totally incompatible with the apple lifestyle brand. Demanding digital content creation is mostly migrated to windows because of this.

Apple's approach to I/O with the new iMacs is baffling. These are desktop systems yet come equipped with either 2 Thunderbolt 4 ports or 2 TB4 ports plus 2 USB 3.0 ports. While I suppose there are folks out there who'll never plug anything into their iMacs, the dearth of functional I/O built into these systems may be a deal-breaker for many serious users. Apple doesn't make a USB 4 / TB 4 peripheral (whether you call it a break-out box, port replicator, hub, or dock) so iMac users wanting to tap the functionality of those TB4 ports are going to need to shell out for a third-party solution which is bound to come with a number of drawbacks. Based on my own experiences with external docks (on both Macs and PCs), drawbacks include: (i) higher rate of failure vs built-in interfaces; (ii) need for external power supply (usually a brick or wall wart); (iii) inconsistent quality control; (iv) requiring the user to check for, and perform, manual firmware updates; (v) random glitches (like external drives disappearing randomly or failing to mount at startup); and (vi) lackluster support.

I could perhaps see it differently if Apple offered an iMac expansion dock of its own that had been rigorously tested to work reliably in tandem with these new systems.

At a minimum, folks who opt for the lower configurations will need an adapter just to plug in any of the bajillion USB thumb drives out there. It's not like I/O is all that expensive, particularly SuperSpeed USB 3.x or USB 2.0, in terms of component cost so it's unlikely the omission was driven by cost-cutting concerns.

These are aimed at consumers not professionals or prosumers; I think you'll have to wait a few quarters for the redesigned professional focused iMac. That one might disappoint you too - but I really don't think you're the target market for the small screened, colorful iMacs

The millennials buying this one might not even know what a thumb drive is.

It comes in retro iPod colors, with a Zune-like bezel. Win-win! Unless of course you're a power user, to borrow a term from that era. The M1 chip and its successors hold enormous promise, so let's hope Apple delivers at the higher end. And let's also hope they CAN deliver. Because TSMC makes the chips for Apple, and the geopolitics in that area are heating up fast.

I have learned that I do not need to iMac or Apple Inc. Anything. However, I do try to keep abreast of developments on the Mac influenced front.

Perhaps one day something interesting comes out from it all that causes me to sit up and take note. 😊