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How does Apple’s new M1 iMac compare to Windows All-in-One PCs?

Can any Windows PCs measure up to the new iMac? Apple Today’s Best Tech Deals Picked by PCWorld’s Editors Top Deals On Great Products Picked by Techconnect’s Editors The new M1-based iMac represents a significant upgrade for Apple’s popular All-in-One computer. But PC makers sell All-in-Ones too, though, and some of them are good machines. Can…

Can any Windows PCs step until the new iMac?

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The newest M1-based iMac represents a substantial upgrade for Apple’s favorite All-in-One computer. But PC makers sell All-in-Ones too, though, and some of them are machines. Can any of them step until the new iMac?

We looked closely at the specs we all know about Apple’s new pc, and compared it to the All-in-Ones from major PC manufacturers. Of course specs alone do not tell the entire story, but on the face of it, the iMac must create its Windows counterparts nervous.

Value: The iMac loses

It’s a little hard to get a bead on exactly how much the new iMac 24-inch costs, as it will not be available to order for a couple more days and won’t ship until May. As expected, however, it is premium Apple pricing. 

The bottom iMac nets you a marginally slower M1 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD for $1,300. Maybe in a move only Apple can pull, the foundation iMac doesn’t even appear to include Gigabit ethernet or even USB-A ports. That is a chilly move, since USB-A ports and ethernet are pretty much a standard feature on every single desktop made.

For $1,700, you get a slightly faster M1, but the exact same paltry 8GB of RAM, and a barely decent 512GB SSD.

Comparable Windows-based All-in-One computers offer far more worth, but we must acknowledge that the lower end of the Windows world can get pretty ugly. Many $500 All-in-One PCs still come with poky hard drives inside them. Our advice for you isn’t to purchase a PC with only a hard drive.  Hold out to the SSD.

Still, one look at Dell’s Inspiron 27 7000 with 27-inch screen, 11th-gen Core i7 1165G7, 32GB of RAM, 1TB NVMe SSD, along with 1TB HDD for $1,440 informs you there is no worth in anything with an Apple logo on it.

Not that the area of PC All-in-Ones is all bargains. Microsoft’s top-tier (but long in the tooth) Surface Studio 2 begins at $3,500 using a 1TB SSD, 16GB of RAM, and 7th-gen (yes, 7th-gen) Core i7-7820HQ and GeForce GTX 1060 graphics. 

We’ll have to wait for Apple to demonstrate the cards on how many updates it offers on its new iMac, but don’t expect much value.

Screen: The iMac wins

The new 24-inch iMac features a 4.5K”Retina” (4,480×2,520) resolution screen that is a very bright 500 nits. 1 area Apple seldom skimps on is screen, which means you can bet only the very best Windows All-in-Ones will come near here.

The ringer is once again Microsoft’s exorbitantly priced Surface Studio 2 and its own 28-inch”PixelSense” screen with a resolution of 4,500×3,000. The Surface Studio 2 also includes touch and pencil support, which Apple refuses to grow its Mac line for unknown reasons. Most PC All-in-Ones run from budget 1,920×1,080 FHD panels, which can be decent, to 4K panels. HP’s Envy All-in-One includes a 31.5-inch, 600-nit 4K UHD panel.

Frankly, if you would like an All-in-one with more pixels, you’ll have to look at Apple’s older 27-inch iMac, which includes a 5K”Retina” screen with 5,120×2,880 pixels. Such as the Surface Studio 2 though, the elderly iMac is likely to be discontinued any day today.

Overall, given Apple’s reputation for great panels, we’re going to put the new iMac 24-inch good company, with only the very best PC All-in-Ones competing with it on screen quality.

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Aesthetics: It’s subjective

People who buy All-in-One PCs typically need a big screen in a space-saving bundle, and something that pleases their attention. Say what you may about the iMac 24, however it is eye-catching, using its super-thin screen that appears as though it was lifted straight from Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2. The rainbow of color choices brings us back to the first iMac.

PC All-in-Ones run the gamut from the tasteful Surface Studio two or HP’s Envy All-In-One to lower-cost models that often seem like they descended out of a cash register. This really comes down to the eye of the beholder.

Performance: Too close to call

Apple’s claim to fame with the newest iMac 24 is the use of its well-received M1 processor, which may hang with the best CPUs from AMD and Intel. The M1 does need native software to carry out the very best, but it’s very likely to hold up fairly well compared to many PC all-on-ones. We would expect it to outperform most budget PC All-in-Ones, which comprise lower-cost and slower-performing Pentium and Core i3 CPUs. We’d also expect it to compete fairly well with mid sized Windows All-in-Ones, which frequently run mobile CPUs rather than desktop CPUs.

The reason Apple did not tout the new iMac 24 as a Windows All-in-One killer is because you can become fairly beefy performance in certain versions. This HP Envy All-in-One 32 we said previously, by way of example, is developed on an 8-core desktop Core i7-10700 and runs a GeForce RTX 2070 or GeForce RTX 2080 for graphics. Yes, that bothersome Apple enthusiast in next cubicle might want to yammer about just how quickly that the M1 is (and it’s decent), but we guarantee the HP Envy 32 will crush this iMac 24 on functionality.

Of course, if you really care about performance on a desktop computer, do not buy an All-in-One computer. Buy a conventional tower background instead.

Upgrades

If you would like to talk about updates, you probably should not have bought an All-in-One. The only options you may replace on some All-in-Ones are RAM and storage.

With the iMac 24, even those two choices are away from the desk, as it comprises soldered-in RAM and storage. But let us return to square one: Don’t purchase an all-in-one should you care about updates.

Acoustics 

We’ll end on something that should be mentioned as a standout feature of the new iMac 24: acoustics. And no, we don’t mean how great the speakers seem (though Apple tends to have generally good sound ). We mean by how loud the computer receives. By using what is basically an iPhone SoC on steroids, the M1 produces an amazing amount of functionality while generating very little heat.

Very little heating means hardly any fan noise. Apple claims the new iMac 24 whispers a mere 10dB of audio. Basically you are never going to hear that, even on heavy workloads. We can not say that any currently produced Windows All-in-Ones, that will either be slower than the iMac 24 while being louder, or quicker than the iMac 24 while nevertheless being louder. 

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One of founding fathers of hardcore tech reporting, Gordon has been covering PCs and components since 1998.

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