What Apple’s new iMac lost by getting so thin – The Washington Post

In this Washington Post article, Geoffrey A. Fowler has a lot of complaints about the new iMac, but are they all founded?

Apple’s newly redesigned iMac measures just 0.45 inches thick. That’s a hair thinner than the original iPhone. It’s thin enough to wedge under a wobbly table.

But to make a desktop computer that incredibly slender, something had to go. Unfortunately, left on the chopping block were some capabilities you might actually want in a $1,300 desktop computer.

Okay, so let’s look at them.

Gone are the large USB ports many of us still use to plug in gear.

He’s talking about USB-A ports, which are being replaced on all Macs by USB-C, which is better in many ways. This is the first iMac to have only USB-C ports, but this is a trend that is going to continue. We have moved on from serial ports, FireWire ports, and it’s time to move on from USB-A. USB-C can also be Thunderbolt ports, for much faster data and to connect displays and other peripherals.

Gone, too, is the ability to later upgrade your memory.

This has been the case on the 21.5″ iMac for several years. The 27″ lets you upgrade RAM, and perhaps the replacement for the 27″ will not allow this, because of Apple’s new system on a chip.

This iMac is no longer even an all-in-one computer: Apple had to move the power supply to an external brick like on a laptop.

Seriously? He’s complaining about this? I recall Apple displays that had separate power bricks, but whatevs.

I had been eagerly awaiting this iMac to replace my 5-year-old model.

If he had a five-year old iMac, and it had memory slots, then it was the 27″ model. The last 21.5″ iMac to have memory slots dates back to late 2013. Apples and oranges, as it were.

The arguments for a thin desktop computer are more of a stretch. There may be people who only care that this iMac is cuter. Apple believes it’s redefining the desktop computer into a device that can be at home in a kitchen or living room, or even picked up.

They didn’t make it thin because of any desire to call it thin, they made it thin because it made sense. The iMac is essentially a display with the guts of a laptop. There is really nothing behind the display, all the guts are in the “chin” at the bottom of the computer. Why make it thicker if there is no need to make it thicker?

Now the iMac has an external power brick. Maybe you’ll just throw yours on the floor, or maybe it’s one more thing for your cat to chew on.


Next, Apple cut the ports on the back of the computer. The new iMac only works with smaller USB-C plugs, which can do lots of things but don’t fit many of the cables and devices we already own in a larger shape known as USB-A.

As I said above, we’re moving to all USB-C. It’s not just Apple, this is an industry-wide change. You can get a hub for $20 to connect your USB-A peripherals.

Apple also cut the flash-card reader included in past iMacs, making one more thing photographers need to buy.

This is true. But as more and more cameras have USB-C ports, it’s become easier to connect a camera via a cable rather than take the SD card out; that’s what I do with mine. If not, $20 gets you a good SD card reader. Or you can get a USB hub which has an SD card reader.

Even the basic Ethernet port, used in many schools and offices to hardwire Internet connections, was too big. Instead, Apple stuck Ethernet into the power brick, and charges $30 extra for it.

First he complains about having too many cables on the back of the iMac, now he wants Ethernet there. I think it’s better in the power brick; one less cable to get tangled behind the computer. And a better way to consider the price is that you save $27 (not $30) if you don’t want Ethernet. And this is only on the cheapest model; the other models have Ethernet standard. And, there are lots of USB hubs that also have Ethernet jacks.

What this means is that anybody who plugs things into a computer either has to abandon old devices — for me, including backup drives, a DVD player and a lifetime’s worth of thumb drives — or buy a bunch of unsightly adapters known as dongles. By the time I plugged in mine, the back of the sleek iMac looked like a rat’s nest.

Two words: USB hub.

Also fixed in place: the iMac’s hard drive.

There’s no hard drive in the iMac.

And what about when your iMac inevitably just can’t keep up in six years? As recently as 2014, iMacs could transform into a monitor for another computer. But Apple no longer supports what it calls “target display mode.”

His 2014 iMac was the last model to support target dispaly mode.

Apple’s appliance mind-set is also self-serving, because it means we have to keep buying new stuff. You may already have a box of old iPads and iPhones you aren’t using after upgrading. Now you can add an iMac to the pile.


Source: What Apple’s new iMac lost by getting so thin – The Washington Post

7 thoughts on “What Apple’s new iMac lost by getting so thin – The Washington Post

  1. I agree with your analysis and examples, Kirk. In a couple of places, we could go even further. For example, you say ‘$20 gets you an SD card reader’. That will get you a quality product, but you can also get one for $6.50 on Amazon, or $2.50 on eBay. Or better still, for $0 as part of many $20 USB hubs, which you mention in another paragraph.

    A typo: ‘They didn’t make it think because…’. ‘Think’ should probably be ‘thin’, unless AI has advanced more than Apple is saying.

    • Thanks, I’ve corrected the typo, and mentioned the USB card reader in hubs. This said, I wouldn’t buy an SD card reader that cheap; it wouldn’t be very fast.

  2. Moving the power supply outside the iMac makes sense to me. It has been a common source of repairs in some iMac models and it’s not a cheap fix, especially these days. But the cord should be long enough to place the brick on the floor; it’s not clear to me that this is an option with the new iMac.

    Generally speaking, I am not a fan of Apple’s design ethos that “Thin Is Better.” It has been the source of various usability, reliability and repairability issues for Macs and portable Mac keyboards.

    For example, SSDs do fail and now it is a very expensive repair because the SSD is soldered to the mother board. I think that in more than a few cases it will make more financial sense to buy a new Mac. Because of this and other design changes, the new iMacs are not nearly as environmentally-friendly as Apple advertising makes them out to be.

    • Yes, the power cord is long enough. And with the power supply outside the body, there is less heat, and components will last longer.

      I haven’t had any SSDs fail ever, and they are more reliable that HDs because they have no moving parts.

  3. I think Apple’s aim to be thin all these years centers more on keeping up with the competition than most anything else—with regard to mobile devices. Weight and size are premium considerations for mobile devices, especially mobile phones. But desktop computers? That I don’t get. I do understand the power brick being a separate unit, which makes a lot of sense.

  4. I don’t think USB-C is necessarily better than USB-A. e.g. USB-C is inferior to USB-A when it comes to the physical connection. I stopped counting the times I lost Internet connections or display videos because of the loose USB-C connectors.

    USB-C is also a nightmare when it comes to finding out which features your USB-C cable, device or hub support or require.

    When looking for a wired USB mouse (because the Apple Mouse is a terrible product),I usually find more USB-A mouses than USB-C ones in the stores.

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