iMac Pros and Cons: How Apple’s New Desktop Compares to a PC



CNN

I constantly test all kinds of laptops and desktops, but none of them have been able to replace my Windows gaming PC as the main device for work and play. Between my PC’s powerful specs, versatile dual-screen settings and comfort level with Windows 10, it was hard to switch to anything else—until a 24-inch iMac made it to my desk.

I’ve been using Apple’s new desktop almost exclusively since I brought it in for review, and with a few exceptions, I’m in no hurry to get back to my computer. Between its great screen, excellent webcam, and everyday macOS features I’ve been missing out on as an iPhone user, the latest iMac (starting at $1,233; expresscom.com and amazon.com) comes dangerously close to being the only desktop computer I need.

Here’s what it’s like to switch to an iMac as a longtime PC user — and why I can’t completely give up on Windows just yet.

I covered most of what makes Apple’s latest desktop computer so great in my 24″ iMac review, praising the all-in-one for its ultra-thin design, great Retina display, great accessories, and powerful multitasking capabilities made possible by the M1 chip inside. But now that I’ve lived with the new iMac for about a month, some advantages (and disadvantages) are starting to show more than others. Let’s start with the good stuff.

Webcam, microphone and speakers are perfect for working from home

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Even being someone who floods their home office with the best webcams and the best microphones, I still find myself taking most calls using the new iMac’s built-in camera and microphone. It’s just good.

With its sharp 1080p lens and a few M1-enabled software tricks, the iMac makes me look brighter and more vibrant even than my trusty Logitech C920—especially when I’m under less-than-ideal lighting. I’ve been talking to colleagues and taking briefings with the iMac’s built-in microphone for weeks, and I haven’t had a single complaint about my voice quality.

But it’s the iMac’s six built-in speakers that have really stood out over the past few weeks. When I listen to meetings, colleagues’ voices are so loud and clear that they might be in the same room as me. The iMac’s booming speakers have become my favorite way to get out to pop-punk tracks when it’s time to get ready for the day, or relax with some Julian Baker while staring at the ceiling in bed. I can’t wait to turn the iMac into an even more entertainment hub when macOS Monterey arrives this fall, where I’ll be able to send songs and movies from my phone straight to my desktop via AirPlay, all without having to touch a mouse or keyboard.

These great multimedia features have resulted in a huge unexpected benefit – my work area is now simpler than ever. While the computer side of my desk is filled with an external microphone, set of speakers, and a webcam that partially obscures my screen, the iMac gives me all three possibilities. Even better, it’s housed in an incredibly attractive, slim slab of purple metallic. I still wish my iMac had more than four USB-C ports (I currently use a Satechi USB-C hub for more connectivity), but I find myself not needing to use them as often when the built-in stuff works just fine.

The 24 inch screen continues to amaze me

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As someone who swears by multi-screen settings, I’m still amazed and delighted at how much I love working on the iMac’s single 24″ screen, which gives me plenty of real estate for navigating between important documents and Slack conversations.

When I delve into Google Docs and look at press releases, the iMac’s 4.5K Retina display makes the body text look bold and inky, as if it’s been sprayed onto the screen with a pen. Everything is simply easier and more fun to read on an iMac, and Dell’s favorite 24″ gaming monitor (which has a resolution of under 1440p) now looks a bit lackluster by comparison.

The iMac’s display is great for a lot of other things, of course — movies, YouTube videos, and Twitch streams pop with color and detail, and even the default purple background is a sight to behold. But it’s that little bit of richness and clarity for everyday work tasks that really helps the iMac maintain its place as the everyday home desktop computer.

Apple’s macOS reminds me of what I missed

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For all its great features, my favorite thing about the new iMac isn’t exclusive to Apple’s newest PC ever. As I use my MacBook here and there for work, a full month-long immersion in the Mac reminded me how nice it is for all my Apple gadgets to work seamlessly with each other.

Many of these features have been around for years, but using Messages to text my iPhone friends on the desktop or starting a note on my phone and snapping it up on my iMac still feels like magic to me. The Continuity features Apple has introduced over the years are really useful — when I’m browsing a website on my iPhone, I can click a single icon on my Mac to blast it onto my big screen, for example.

After finishing an interview recently, I was able to send the voice memo recording from my iPhone to my iMac in an instant. As someone who constantly uses Google Drive or email to share files between your iPhone and PC, I was a little dumbfounded by the ease of the process.

This level of seamless interaction between devices is something I don’t get on a Windows desktop. While the Microsoft Your Phone app allows Android users to access their apps and messages from the big screen, all iPhone users can do is send links from their phones to their PC. And while I’ll be able to join FaceTime calls from Windows starting this fall, I’m still unable to send iOS text messages from my computer, or access my iCloud notes or AirDrop files right away from my phone.

It almost makes me dread going back to Windows – although I still have some good reasons for it.

Your Mac isn’t great for gaming

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While the iMac’s large, slick screen and powerful M1 processor make it a capable casual gaming machine, Apple’s desktop can’t replace my powerful Windows machine when it comes to the high-end PC titles I love to play — in terms of performance and choice.

When I open my Steam library on my iMac, only 13 of the 170 titles I own can play on my Apple desktop. This small group mostly consists of unofficial titles like Jackbox Party Pack, vintage game ports like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, or less demanding indie experiences like Gone Home and Her Story. If I want to play the latest blockbusters like Star Wars: Squadrons or Marvel’s Avengers (or access hundreds of games in my Xbox Game Pass library), I have to switch to my PC.

iMac supports quite a few big budget PC games, but isn’t quite equipped to run them optimally. For example, when testing Shadow of the Tomb Raider on Apple’s desktop, I had to lower the resolution to 1600 x 900 just to run the game at 30 frames per second. If you’re hoping to take full advantage of the iMac’s beautiful 4.5K display for big, cinematic video games, you’ll probably be disappointed.

This does not mean that there is no fun with iMac when it comes to gaming. Fortnite has played its massive online shooter game well on Apple’s desktop, and you won’t have any issues playing lighter experiences like The Sims 4 and Minecraft. Apple Arcade titles like NBA 2K21 and The Last Campfire come alive on Apple’s big screen computer, and play nicely with a PlayStation console that I’ve been able to pair so easily with an iMac. But these titles are ostensibly mobile games blown up on a big screen.

As someone who owns a gaming machine packing an Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card, an iMac can’t come close to replacing my PC when it comes to the number of games I can play — or how well they run.

I still prefer multitasking on Windows 10

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I mostly enjoy using macOS, but it sometimes makes me want to pull my nonexistent hair whenever I need to split the screen between multiple apps. On Windows 10, it’s easy to juggle the myriad of Google Docs, press releases, video call windows, and Slack chats I open at any time. I just drag one window to either side of the screen to take it in place, and Windows will let me choose which app I’d like to fill the other half of the screen. Pull and click later, and I’m all set.

Things are not that simple on Mac. If I want to use Split View mode on my iMac, I need to hover over the full screen icon (or choose a keyboard shortcut) in a specific window and select the “tile window left/right screen option”.

The rest of the process works similarly for Windows, but once I get into Split View in macOS, I’m stuck in a grueling full-screen experience that makes it very annoying to go back to any other apps I have open. To be fair, both macOS and Windows make it easy to see everything I open with a three-finger swipe up, but Windows only allows me to close any of those apps instantly with a quick tap of the “x” icon. And while Windows gives me plenty of flexibility to snap several Windows together on the same screen, Apple’s Split View just lets me cycle between two apps at once.

It’s a relatively small variety, and it’s largely down to personal preference. But I find Windows’ approach to multitasking a rare example of Microsoft being described as “just doing” way better than Apple itself.

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As someone who primarily uses a computer for daily work tasks with a few games, music production and content creation on the side, the new 24-inch iMac ticked almost every box for me after more than a month of heavy use.

I love having a great screen, plenty of power and a great webcam and speakers all packed into one screen-size device, and the way iMac works in sync with my iPhone makes it easy to keep up with my friends and bounce important files between devices. If you are thinking of switching from PC to iMac, these are probably the biggest benefits that you will enjoy right away.

It’s worth noting that I was using an upgraded version of the $1,699 iMac configuration, which has 512GB of storage, a total of four USB-C ports and a Touch ID-enabled Magic Keyboard. The $1,299 configuration isn’t a bad option if you’re looking to spend as little as possible, but given that it only gives you two ports and a smaller 256GB SSD, I’d recommend investing in the higher version if you can.

  • Apple iMac 24-Inch $1,233; Expocom or $1,249; amazon.com): Configure iMac prefix, with 256 GB storage and two ports.
  • Apple iMac 24-inch ($1,699; amazon.com And the bhphotovideo.com): Recommended configuration, with 512GB of storage and four ports.

However, if you are serious about PC gaming, then the iMac is not for you. While you can play over 100 lightweight arcade games from Apple Arcade and a few hits like Fortnite and Tomb Raider, the iMac’s game selection and graphics capabilities can’t hold a candle on a properly configured Windows desktop.

There is also the issue of upgradability. I can swap out my computer’s processor, storage, RAM, and graphics whenever I want to keep it up to date, while all the iMac parts are locked out — apart from the external storage option, what you buy on day one is what you’ll use for good. And if you’ve grown to rely on Windows 10’s multitasking features, macOS may come with a bit of a learning curve.

However, as a PC, I loved my time with the latest iMac despite these quirks. If you are great with the above caveats and are looking for a computer that can do a lot in a nice, slim design, it might be the best desktop computer you can buy right now.