2018 21.5″ iMac

The iMac is Apple’s workhorse desktop computer line. The 21.5″ iMac packs a fast, feature-packed computer into the size of a 21.5″ screen, starting at $1099. While it’s not portable, the 21.5″ screen gives you plenty of space for students, and home or business offices to do what they need to do.

All of these come with fast processors, 8GB of RAM, and 1TB traditional mechanical hard drive storage. As to connectivity, there is a gigabit ethernet port, two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, four standard USB 3 ports, an SDXC card slot, and a headphone jack. We love that setup, because right now most peripheral devices use USB 3…but over the next several years, more and more devices will feature USB-C connections because they are faster. You’ll be able to use what you have now, and what you get in the future.

The computer comes with a Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2, both wireless (Bluetooth).

The base model, for $1099, is basic desktop workstation with quad 2.3GHz Intel i5 processors, great for students and office work.

The midrange model, for $200 more, adds significantly faster quad-core 3.0GHz Intel i5 processors, a much more capable graphics card, and a screen can that display 4K images, which are much higher resolution than standard screens. This is a worthwhile upgrade, because each new version of MacOS or software upgrades includes new features that require your computer to read more code to do what it does…which slows things down after the upgrades. The faster a computer is when you buy it, the longer the period of time because it gets too slow to be useful.

The top line model, for an additional $200, has even faster quad-core 3.4GHz Intel-i5 processors, more video RAM, and features an Apple Fusion Drive. The Fusion Drive is a combination of a traditional mechanical hard drive with a small solid state drive that work together as a single drive. Solid state drives are capable of reading and writing data 20-50 times faster than traditional mechanical drives, so the inclusion of the small solid state drive provides a modest speed increase.

While these iMac are not user upgradable, they can be upgraded by an experienced Apple service technician. You can upgrade these Macs from 8GB to 16GB or even 32GB of RAM, and you can completely replace the internal traditional mechanical drive with a solid state drive…which, alone, will dramatically speed them up. Best of all, you don’t have to do those things until you need to.

For that reason, we thing that while the base model is a great choice for a home/student/office workstation, the midrange model’s faster processors, much higher resolution screen, and upgraded graphics card make that the best bang for the buck in this group.