January 17, 2022

The Greatest Desktop Macs of 2021

different colored imacs lined up
Jack Skeens/Shutterstock.com

What to Search for With a Desktop Mac in 2021

Apple’s Mac lineup is at present in flux as the corporate transitions away from Intel chips in favor of ARM-based Apple Silicon. Since Intel processors use a distinct processor structure, software program builders should account for each Intel and Apple Silicon when constructing their apps at this second in time.

Intel chips will probably be supported for years to return, however in some unspecified time in the future, new Mac software will now not be suitable with them, and they are going to be left behind. New Macs with Apple Silicon can emulate most software written for Intel chips, operating at round two-thirds of the native pace.

With round half of the corporate’s lineup already utilizing Apple Silicon, it’s hard to recommend the older Intel fashions in all however a couple of area of interest circumstances. Apple’s first ARM-based chip, the M1, has wowed early adopters and reviewers alike with its excessive efficiency, vitality effectivity, and comparatively inexpensive worth level.

Apple has dedicated to transferring its whole Mac lineup to Apple Silicon by the top of 2022. Excessive-end Macs have but to obtain the ARM therapy however will see extra highly effective Apple Silicon systems-on-chip earlier than lengthy, with extra cores and RAM. In the event you want a robust Mac, it might be value ready to see what Apple comes up with.

The primary query you have to be asking when searching for a desktop Mac is whether or not you want an all-in-one, just like the iMac, or simply the pc like a Mac mini. If neither of those is highly effective sufficient, your solely actual alternative is to attend for extra highly effective Apple Silicon chips or purchase a Mac Professional.

family using imac at home
Apple

Execs

  • Nice worth Mac with all the pieces it is advisable get began
  • 4-port mannequin has extra room for growth and a barely higher M1 chip
  • Surprisingly good downward-firing audio system
  • Accessible in six colours and silver

Cons

  • Won’t be the very best worth alternative if you have already got a show and peripherals
  • Solely 4 Kind-C ports
  • The primary iMac with an influence brick
  • White bezels and protruding “chin” to not everybody’s tastes

The iMac is Apple’s all-in-one desktop Mac, offering all the pieces it is advisable get began. The 24-inch 2021 iMac is the primary of Apple’s all-in-ones to obtain the Apple Silicon therapy. A base mannequin M1 delivers comparable efficiency to an entry-level MacBook Air with its 8GB of unified RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive.

RELATED: How “Unified Memory” Speeds Up Apple’s M1 ARM Macs

Within the field, you’ll discover an iMac with an attractive 4.5K show, an Apple Magic Keyboard, a Magic Mouse, and an influence brick with a color-matched braided wire. The iMac may be bought in six vibrant colours (blue, inexperienced, pink, yellow, orange, and purple), in addition to a extra conventional silver model can also be obtainable.

We’re recommending the four-port variant right here, which ships with a barely extra highly effective model of the M1 processor with an 8-core GPU (up from 7 cores on the two-port mannequin) and two followers as an alternative of 1. That further fan ought to make it doable for this mannequin to function at greater speeds for longer earlier than thermal throttling units in. Because the title suggests, this model additionally has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports and two normal USB Three Kind-C ports.

One of many predominant causes to go for the iMac is its show. It delivers 500 nits of brightness, full P3 wide-gamut coloration protection, and a pixel density of 218 PPI. This offers loads of display actual property for inventive work or multitasking and a excessive sufficient pixel density to make textual content and webpages seem crystal sharp.

Contemplating a similarly-specced Mac mini prices $699, you’re successfully paying $800 extra for a best-in-class 24-inch show, surprisingly good built-in audio system, a Magic Keyboard, and a Magic Mouse. This makes the iMac wonderful worth and the very best Mac on this record contemplating the efficiency and high quality on supply, and that’s earlier than you’ve fallen in love with the wafer-thin design in a coloration of your alternative.

Greatest Desktop Mac

24-inch iMac M1 (Four ports, 2021)

Apple’s redesigned 24-inch iMac seems to be the half and delivers next-generation efficiency because of the M1 chip and an attractive 4.5K Retina show.

Mac mini near a dark red light
Apple

Execs

  • The most cost effective and best-value Mac with an M1 chip
  • M1 chip places older Intel fashions to disgrace
  • A wider choice of ports than most, with USB-A and HDMI out
  • Formally helps as much as two 60Hz screens concurrently (one 6K, one 4K)

Cons

  • Laborious to discover a show that competes with the 24-inch iMac for the cash
  • Dongles or hubs essential to get extra ports
  • Can’t be upgraded just like the older Intel-based Mac mini

The 2020 Mac mini was the primary desktop Mac to make the transition to Apple Silicon. Its M1 chip has Eight CPU and eight CPU cores, with satisfactory cooling to maintain the chip at load in a approach that the fanless MacBook Air can not. A base mannequin Mac mini comes with 8GB of unified RAM and a 256GB SSD, although these may be upgraded to 16GB and as much as 2TB, respectively.

For $699 you get a pc and an influence wire. You’ll want to produce your individual show, with the Mac mini supporting one 6K show (60Hz) and one 4K show (60Hz) concurrently through HDMI or USB-C. You’ll additionally want to supply your individual peripherals, which is ideal if you have already got a keyboard and mouse you’d like to make use of. In the event you want the entire bundle, although, you would possibly need to go along with the iMac as an alternative.

Efficiency-wise the Mac mini M1 is roughly equal to the iMac, delivering large positive aspects in apps which have been optimized for Apple Silicon. The Mac mini additionally has the widest port choice of any M1 Mac, with an HDMI 2.zero out, two USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt/USB Four ports, and Gigabit Ethernet It additionally has an non-obligatory 10 Gigabit Ethernet improve obtainable when shopping through Apple.

The Mac mini M1 is ideal if you wish to dip your toes into Apple’s new structure with out breaking the financial institution. It’s supreme for Home windows customers who need to tinker with macOS, or Mac customers preferring to convey their very own mechanical keyboard or ultrawide display. For a very sensible purchase, get the bottom mannequin and add your individual exterior solid-state drive to extend complete storage.

Greatest Funds Desktop Mac

M1 Mac mini (2020)

The 2020 M1 Mac mini is Apple’s finest worth pc, however you will must convey your individual show and peripherals. It is small, low cost, and particularly effectively suited to the Mac-curious.

Exterior USB 3.2 SSD

Greatest Desktop Mac for Video and Photograph Enhancing: Mac mini M1 (2020)

Mac mini in front os screen
Apple

Execs

  • Identical video and picture modifying efficiency because the 24-inch M1 iMac, for a lot much less
  • Upgradeable to 16GB of RAM for heavier workflows
  • Many video editors already optimized for Apple Silicon

Cons

  • Base mannequin’s 256GB of strong state storage would possibly refill rapidly
  • Solely two Thunderbolt/USB Four ports
  • Discovering a show that competes with the 24-inch iMac could possibly be tough

From a efficiency standpoint, the four-port M1 iMac and base M1 Mac mini are very carefully matched. Each share Eight CPU cores and eight GPU cores, with a cooling answer that ought to assist them stay performant below load. Each may be upgraded with 16GB of RAM when buying by Apple, which is an improve that’s effectively value doing in the event you bounce between apps like Final Cut Pro, After Results, and Da Vinci Resolve when modifying.

The M1 is a succesful system-on-chip that may chew by most 4K video codecs with ease. Whereas 8GB of RAM is ample for this activity, extra RAM offers extra overhead for serial multitaskers. It additionally takes the pressure off your inside drive, typically used as a “swap” disk by macOS to dump RAM contents to disk for later retrieval.

The Mac mini takes our suggestion from a worth perspective. You’ll want so as to add your individual show, and also you’ll possible need to calibrate it for color accuracy too. You gained’t get a keyboard or mouse within the field, however you could have already got these in your modifying atmosphere. Search for a 24-inch 4K show just like the LG UltraFine 24 UHD if you need one thing similar to the 24-inch iMac.

The Mac mini offers the pliability to construct your modifying workstation round a strong start line within the M1 chip, however it’s not good for everybody. If the thought of buying round for screens and keyboards defeats the purpose of shopping for a Mac within the first place, have a look at the 2021 M1 iMac instead.

Alternatively, it’s also possible to look forward to Apple to refresh the 27-inch iMac or the iMac Professional. Each of those higher-performance iMacs ought to hopefully be introduced and shipped with an Apple Silicone processor by the top of 2022.

Greatest for Photograph/Video Enhancing

M1 Mac mini (2020)

Apple’s M1 system-on-chip can eat by 4K video and high-resolution RAW images with ease. The M1 Mac mini has the identical wonderful efficiency as a four-port iMac at a fraction of the worth, with one catch: you have to provide your individual show and peripherals.

24-inch 4K Monitor

LG UltraFine 4K 24-inch Monitor

LG’s 24-inch 4K UltraFine connects through Thunderbolt and delivers full P3 vast coloration gamut protection, 500 nits of brightness, and a pixel density of 183ppi.

child using imac to study chemistry
Apple

Execs

  • Every part it is advisable get began
  • Laborious to discover a show that may compete at this worth level
  • Apple Silicon M1 chip delivers large positive aspects over Intel fashions

Cons

  • Not moveable, so not supreme for all college students
  • Mac mini could also be higher for college students who’re snug sourcing their very own show and peripherals
  • Efficiency similar to M1 MacBook fashions

Many college students go for laptops just like the MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro (a couple of of our favorite MacBook models) to allow them to carry their workstations round campus. With the arrival of the M1, the efficiency hole between desktop and laptop computer Macs has closed significantly. For instance, the two-port 24-inch M1 iMac has the identical 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU as an M1 MacBook Air.

Nonetheless, the iMac has higher thermals and may run below load for longer than the Air. This will probably be noticeable in duties that basically stress the pc, like rendering video, operating 3D functions, or compiling software program. It’s powerful to discover a full system that performs this effectively, with a show that appears this good.

The iMac has a a lot bigger display than Apple’s laptops, which provides you way more display actual property to multitask. You may have a number of internet pages or paperwork open at a time, however on a laptop computer, you’ll be flicking between desktop spaces.

However in the event you’re shopping for an iMac within the mistaken perception that it’s going to carry out significantly higher than a MacBook (particularly a MacBook Professional, which can also be actively cooled), then you need to rethink. Purchase the M1 iMac in your dorm room since you desire a colourful all-in-one answer that may chew by faculty work, internet searching, and inventive duties like video modifying. Simply don’t get an iMac if portability is necessary to you, particularly now that Apple Silicon has evened the enjoying discipline.

Greatest for College students

24-inch iMac M1 (Two ports, 2021)

The 24-inch M1 iMac has all the pieces it is advisable examine laborious: a brand new Apple Silicon system-on-chip, a shocking 4.5K Retina show, and color-matched Apple-branded peripherals.

Greatest for Excessive-Finish Efficiency: Mac Pro (2019)

Mac pro side and front on yellow background

Execs

  • Essentially the most highly effective Mac, bar none
  • Massively customizable relying in your wants
  • Eye-catching “cheese grater” design
  • Accessible as a tower or rack

Cons

  • Not but upgraded to Apple Silicon
  • Costly in comparison with comparable PC builds
  • Overkill for many customers’ wants

In the event you completely need to have the very best of the very best, look no additional than the Mac Pro. It begins at $5,999 and is barely obtainable immediately by Apple. It is a purpose-built machine designed for professionals who’ve a particular want for an expandable high-performance pc that runs macOS.

The Mac Professional has but to be upgraded to Apple Silicon, and nonetheless makes use of Intel Xeon processors. The bottom mannequin has an Intel-based 8-core CPU clocked at 3.5GHz, however you’ll be able to go for as much as 28 cores (at 2.5GHz) if in case you have the money. There may be help for as much as 1.5TB of RAM (with 32GB as normal) and 8TB of inside storage (256GB as normal).

You may join as much as 12 4K shows, six 5K shows, or six of Apple’s Pro Display XDR monitors (which begin at $4,999 every). Nonetheless, you’ll must go for the 12 Thunderbolt Three port possibility at checkout to drive that many monitors. Contained in the chassis, you’ll discover eight PCI Categorical slots prepared to just accept high-bandwidth growth playing cards and highly effective graphics playing cards.

RELATED: How to Use Multiple Monitors to Be More Productive

If it’s a must to ask in the event you want a Mac Professional or in the event you can afford a Mac Professional, then you definitely most likely don’t want one. Apple has mentioned it is going to be transitioning the whole Mac line to Apple Silicon earlier than the top of 2022, so in the event you’re considering of investing, then it could be clever to attend and see what the next-generation Mac Professional seems to be like.