Apple iMac 21.5-inch Review

Apple iMac 21.5-inch Review

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

The Apple 21.5-inch iMac is one of the best value all-in-one computers on the market if you are planning to switch from Windows to macOS. Even though it’s smaller than its 27-inch sibling, it still fits comfortably on most desks.

With its 2018 update, the 21.5-inch iMac’s specs were already impressive, especially with its 4K display, bright colors, and sharp picture quality – not to mention, those photos and videos with plenty of detail.

Desktop computers like this can be used to do everything from web browsing, email, and productivity apps to help you manage your life more efficiently. They can also handle apps that require more processing power. With all that power packed into a relatively compact and neat chassis, it’s a great choice for many, especially if you’re not a big computer user.

Just because you often have lots of windows on your desktop does not mean you should buy an iMac. Mission Control is a feature of Apple’s operating system that facilitates navigating through the on-screen workspace without causing friction. The 12-inch MacBook offers things like these – and that important feature, in particular, is triggered by a memorable gesture with Apple’s mouse.


CPU: 3.0GHz Intel Core i5-8500 (six-core, 9MB cache, up to 4.1GHz with Turbo Boost)

Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 560X (4GB VRAM)

RAM: 8GB DDR4 (2,666MHz)

Screen: 21.5-inch 4K (4,096 x 2,304) Retina display (P3 wide color)

Storage: 1TB Fusion Drive (32GB SSD plus 1TB hard disk)

Ports: 4x USB 3 (Type-A), 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), SDXC card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, Gigabit Ethernet, Kensington lock slot

Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2

Operating system: macOS 10.14.4 Mojave

Camera: FaceTime HD

Weight: 12.5 pounds (5.66kg)

Size: 20.8 x 6.9 x 17.7 inches (52.8 x 17.5 x 45cm; W x D x H)


Apple iMac 21.5 inches

Because the 21.5-inch iMac’s design is the same as the bigger 27-inch model, our criticism – as well as our praise – holds true about its aesthetics. So much so that even more stand out without the massive screen dominating the view, since that thick bezel and tall chin really make the phone stand out.

Like we mentioned for the 27-inch iMac, has a decent design. However, it looks a bit outdated. The curved back of the 21.5-inch iMac, even though it is an overall smaller device, makes it blend well with the environment in comparison with older, thicker iMacs.

Despite its small size, the fan on the smaller iMac does stand out. As expected, the fan is more apparent and noticeable during heavier tests, such as the HEVC conversion in HandBrake. We do not need time away from the noise because it isn’t too loud. It must be considered, however, for creative work, such as anything involving audio, that benefits from noiselessness.


iMac 21.5

The most noticeable difference between a real 2019 21.5-inch iMac and a fake one is the Retina 4K display.

With this display, you get true 4K resolution, not ‘UHD’ – 4,096 x 2,304 pixels, double the resolution of your base model. This display is also capable of displaying millions of colors, similar to the 27-inch iMac’s Retina 5K display.

I guess. The dithering technique is used to alternate the color of pixels or arrange them so that human eyes perceive the effect as blending.

Some all-in-ones with similar screen sizes boast 1,920 x 1,080 or 2,560 x 1,440 resolutions, similar to the 21.5-inch iMac. In other words, the iMac’s panel is a tad better, perfect for photo editing, especially if you own a camera with a wide color gamut, such as the Retina 4K display’s P3 gamut.

Unlike HP, some of its rivals do not offer full-size all-in-ones with a 4K display. HP sold the ProOne 600 for less than the 21.5-inch iMac and features an 8th-generation processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Nevertheless, as we pointed out in our 27-inch iMac review, look out for compromises that have been made.

It is true that this computer is more affordable than Apple’s new 21.5-inch iMac – it is priced closer to the older model Apple keeps at the bottom of its range – but its IPS screen has a resolution only of 1,920 x 1,080. After all, it is marketed as a business PC.

Its Retina 5K display and large display area make the 27-inch iMac more appealing to creative professionals. Its Retina 4K display, however, compensates for its lack of workspace with superior image quality when compared with its competitors.


In the 21.5-inch iMac, Apple includes its Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Keyboard, which have divided opinions. Consider swapping the mouse for a Magic Trackpad 2 for $50 (£50/AU$60) if you do not like its sensitivity and shape. A numeric keypad might be more appealing to you. If you want that full-length keyboard, you will need to spend $30 more (£30/AU$30) on checkout.

The mouse and keyboard are not removable when ordering a custom build through Apple’s online store. Thus, using your existing set will not save you any money.

You get benefits from macOS features like the Mission Control workspace manager, super-smooth scrolling, and zooming in on content in part because Apple wants you to embrace its multi-touch gestures.

Graphics and Storage Testing

Despite not being an exceptional gaming machine, we’re happy with the improved Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics in our review model. A short scene from a racing video game demonstrated its performance with an average frame rate of 118 frames per second (FPS). In contrast, a 27-inch iMac gave 151fps on this test despite having a graphics chip with more than twice as many processor cores as the Radeon Pro Vega.

The 21.5-inch iMac achieved an average of 60 frames per second on the similar and longer Heaven benchmark run by Unigine, which also measures OpenGL performance. The 27-inch iMac achieved 106 frames per second on the same benchmark run. If you dial down graphics quality and resolution, however, the Radeon Pro Vega 20 can deliver 60fps at 1080p resolution.

However, the Fusion Drive is a significant performance bottleneck for some configurations of iMacs, including the one reviewed here. Throughout my testing, I found that the 27-inch iMac, equipped with a 512GB SSD boot drive, felt snappier when installing our benchmark tests and opening a variety of apps.

Although I perceived the difference as small, benchmarks support it. According to the BlackMagic Disk Speed Test benchmark, the 27-inch iMac is capable of writing data at an average speed of 1,915MBps and reading it at an average speed of 2,548MBps. In comparison, the 21.5-inch iMac with its Fusion Drive offers read speeds of 1,110MBps and write speeds of 700MBps.

Good for Downsizers

In particular, the Apple iMac 21.5-inch could fit your needs if you’re looking for a small-screen, small-footprint AIO desktop. However, it certainly could be improved.

As of its 2017 replacement, its styling and storage options – hard drives and Fusion Drive – flirt dangerously with the anachronistic two years later. In contrast, the 2019 27-inch iMac we reviewed avoids both of these problems; the screen-to-bezel ratio is better balanced, and you have the option of using some of today’s most powerful consumer CPUs. This 27-inch model is therefore the best iMac to buy right now as it offers better value than other options — indeed, it is the best high-performance all-in-one you can buy.

Despite its niche-filling size, the 21.5-inch model still comes with plenty of advantages. There are many reasons behind its popularity. One quibble with this design is the large bezels, but many people won’t care how thick they are since they are mostly a matter of personal taste. If you fall into this category, and if you are able to afford the 4K version with SSD, then you won’t be disappointed with this latest rendition of a compact, modern classic.

Pros Cons
Reasonable selection of high-spec ports Underwhelming storage options
Superb 4K display with a wide color gamut Weak graphics processor for 3D


In the case of anyone looking for a small-screen all-in-one, Apple’s iMac 21.5-inch refresh is worth considering. The 27-inch model, on the other hand, offers more performance value and is more versatile.