Apple’s entry-level iMac has an upgrade problem

Chris Davies - Jun 19, 2014, 9:09 am CDT
Apple’s entry-level iMac has an upgrade problem

Apple may have lowered the entry point to picking up an iMac, with its new more affordable model announced yesterday, but a teardown of the new all-in-one shows it comes with an sting in its upgrade tail. The $1,099 21.5-inch iMac – which some had expected to be announced at WWDC 2014 earlier this month – became the most affordable version in Apple’s range, but there’s a catch.

From the outset, Apple’s official upgrade options are slim. Buyers who don’t want an off-the-shelf iMac can upgrade the 500GB of standard storage, stepping up to either a 1TB HDD, 1TB Fusion Drive – which mixes an HDD and flash storage together – or 256GB of all-flash storage.

However, there’s no RAM upgrade from the 8GB supplied as standard, and in a teardown of the new machine, Other World Computing discovered that Apple has soldered the memory to the mainboard.

The 21.5-inch iMac has never been as straightforward with regards memory upgrades versus its 27-inch bigger brother; the latter has a dedicated port hidden behind the stand, through which new sticks of RAM can be added. Nonetheless, those willing to rise to the challenge were free to open up their smaller iMac in a more laborious way, and add in extra chips that way, since the 8GB of standard RAM used standard sockets.

In contrast, the new $1,099 iMac will be limited to 8GB for its lifetime.

Exactly how much of an impact that will have on users is questionable, perhaps, and for those looking at an entry-level system, the default amount of memory may well be sufficient. Whether that’ll be the case a couple of years down the line remains to be seen, however, and while the next iMac up in the range carries a $200 premium, considering the extra specs and upgrade flexibility it may be a more rounded buy.


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