I need to replace my iMac but Apple's options aren't suitable

I have a late 2014 27" iMac, 3.5 GHz Quad Core i5 with 32 GB RAM. It’s showing its age and my video card (AMD Radeon R9 M290X 2GB) is not powerful enough for Adobe’s latest version (with advanced features) of Photoshop, which I teach and use constantly. I am dismayed that the new m1 chip is only in the 24" iMac (which maxes out at 16GB and is not user upgradable; a deal killer for me!) The other option is a jump to the tower ($6000 +) with separate monitor, also a deal killer. Or a Mac Mini, which requires a separate monitor (Apple only makes a 32"? Also $$$) So, either I wait for a new 27" iMac with the m1, or buy another Intel model. ??? Any thoughts appreciated, thank you!

I’m in a very similar situation; my 2010 27" iMac is limping along. And 24" will just not cut it as a replacement. If waiting is at all possible, I’d suggest just hanging in there. 27" iMacs and a more “pro” version of Apple Silicon as a successor to (or upgrade from) the M1 are definitely in the works–I assume they’ll announce the new chip and an initial set of machines using it, and that a larger iMac will be part of that annnouncement. The optimist in me hopes that it might come at the WWDC event on June 7, but I feel pretty confident it will happen in 2021, and I’d expect it before the fall and the new iPhone cycle.


The 2021 WWDC is scheduled for June 7, and it’s anticipated that a new, larger iMac and an upgraded Mini will be announced. Rumor also has it that they will run on a next generation M2 chip. It might be worth your while to wait. If you are not pleased with any of the new models, the current ones could have price drops.

I’m waiting with bated breath to see if the rumors of a Touchbar free, M2 chip MacBook Pro will come true.

I don’t think you presently have a whole lot of options other than waiting. Larger screen iMacs with beefier M1x (or whatever they’ll call it), more RAM and better graphics are likely around the corner. I’m not a huge fan of the iMac myself because I think it’s a shame to tie such a great monitor to a single computer, so I usually gravitate towards the Mac mini. But it’s the same deal there. The current model is the low-end as we anxiously await the release of the higher-end models to replace the current Intel-based offering.

If you are absolutely forced to get a new iMac now, I think you can either try a used current-gen 27" to tide you over until the M1x iMac, or else you can buy a brand new 27" Intel iMac under the assumption that you’ll sell it off when the M1x model is released. Obviously, 27" Intel iMacs will likely lose some of their value once the M1x-based models come out, but that’s always the case. It’s just the cost of doing business (or rather: progress).

In the interest of being realistic, I also think it’s safe to assume that the release will take time and even once they start shipping, it will likely be weeks to months until supply catches up with demand to the point where you can just spec out a box and have it shipped to you within 2-3 days.

Thanks to all for the helpful replys. Yes, I’ll wait, and hope my luck holds out.

Wait for the M2 or M1X or whatever they call it…will most likely be this year and a higher end model…but if not 27 inch then the higher end Mini should be the same specs and get the larger monitor. Seems like a no brainer to me.

I am with Simon. I am tired of sending perfectly workable iMac screens to be recycled because the cpu chip is not up to snuff. I would like a beefy Mac mini Pro that is user upgradeable with a 2nd hard drive and more RAM. Screens last for years and can go from Mac to Mac.

I am wondering how well a M1 Mac mini with 16 GB of RAM and a 2TB hard drive would do with Photoshop compared to the 2014 iMac.


The M1 Mac mini will of course destroy that dinosaur of an iMac. But what will really get the juices flowing is the arrival of the high-end Mac mini (based on M1x or similar) that is designed to be a serious workhorse. It’s likely just a couple months away.

Me three. Currently on a 2019 iMac and it will be replaced eventually…and if mini performance is as good as the iMac I will go that route and get a separate monitor.



Yes, I agree, to wait and see is best. That is unless my iMac decides to crap out on me (I’m just getting lots of beach balls lately and getting nervous about its age). The Mac Mini would be a viable option but the M1 has “unified memory” and maxes out at 16 GB according to current specs. And its not user upgradable. I have upgraded my own RAM on every Mac I’ve owned since the 90’s as I don’t care to be fleeced by Apple’s RAM prices.

I haven’t heard any complaints about the RAM in the M1 Macs. Because the RAM is tied in with the processor, it works far more efficiently.

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A lot of us are comparing the x86 to the ARM and that doesn’t work. Getting an Intel Mac with less than 16Gb of memory is a guaranteed pain. Even people who do nothing but web surfing and emails find their Macs grinding to a halt.

However, people have been amazed with the new M1 Macs even with just seven cores and 8Gb of memory. The Useful Tech Blog reported:

I have the 8GB M1 Mac mini. I have been using it for the past couple of days, and not once did I experience any performance issues or slow down, even when I had more than 20 browser tabs open with 4K videos running in the background, was typing a 5000+ word blog post with over 60 high-resolution images, and was running several systems and third-party apps in the background and a 1080P 144Hz external monitor and speakers connected.

That type of workload would slow down most Intel based Macs with only 16Gb of memory. Yet, this blog reports that they had no problems with the hobbled M1 with 1/2 the memory.

Reports like this are all over the Internet. The minimally configured M1 Mac is still an extraordinarily capable system.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need more power. There’s a reason Apple kept around the i7 and i9 Macs with up to 64Gb of memory and Radeon Pro graphic cards. There are people who need that type of raw power. But unless you’re rendering video or complicated images all day, the low end M1s are pretty capable systems.

And it will be interesting to see the new Macs that will be announced in a few days.

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While waiting seems like your best bet at the moment, I would just like to say I am loving my Mac Mini with a Samsung monitor.

5 posts were split to a new topic: Waiting with bated breath

Look for used/refurb models. Apple presently (1 June 21) has a refurbed 27" iMac Pro (32GB/1TBSSD/5K display) on sale for $3820.00. That should suffice for a couple years (IMHO) until the new iMac M1(2?) situation settles.

Lots of good advice here. An alternative is to get a MacBook Air and external monitor, but budget your purchase with the intention of buying an iMac with an improved Apple Silicon chip later. Then keep the MacBook for mobility or sell it. That is if you need to buy something right now.

At least wait for WWDC to see if Apple is announcing any new hardware. It is the right venue but the hardware might not be ready enough to announce.

Re external monitors. I still have a few 30" monitors (> 15 years old) that used to be connected to a Mac Pro (to a Power Mac before that). I then connected those monitors to a 2011 iMac and a 2012 Mac Mini. In 2017 I had to get a new iMac 27", and it was not possible to connect those wonderful and still working 30" monitors to the iMac, because they had only Thunderbolt connectors, which were not compatible with the 30" monitor DVI connector. The same happened to me with the even older Cinema Displays that had power and signal all in one cable. They were not supported any more by new Macs. I’m not amused with these Apple policies.

SuOakes wrote: “I’m just getting lots of beach balls lately and getting nervous about its age”

This is a common symptom of a failing hard drive, and if your internal drive is a spinny disk, it’s past it’s expected lifetime. The slow down is because the disk has to retry reads and writes, sometimes several times, before it succeeds and it doesn’t report that to the OS–it only reports failures.

Download something like SMART Utility (free full featured demo) that can read the full smart data from the drive. It will show you how many hours the disk has been in use, how many sectors are getting errors, and much more. (The S.M.A.R.T Verified thing that Disk Utility shows is completely useless.)

SMART Utility | Volitans Software

If the drive is failing, get an external SSD with a USB 3.0 enclosure. Use Carbon Copy Cloner to copy the internal system drive to the external then reboot from the SSD. That should give you a fair bit of leeway to wait for a suitable replacement. It will also keep the older Mac running as a spare, to run older software if you need to, or a platform so you can recover a new Mn mac with Configurator if it ever needs that.

Rarely you need to eject the bad internal drive to completely stop the mac from trying to access it, so if things are still slow even from the SSD, try that to see if helps.

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SMART, if used as documented - which is (I believe) what Apple does, only reports when a drive has already failed. It does not attempt to predict a future failure.

Basically, SMART reports a large set of numeric properties and a set of threshold values. The threshold values are device-specific. A device should be treated as failed if any of the reported properties cross the threshold (either higher or lower - each one reports whether “normal” is high or low).

Software like SMART Utility uses the reported values and attempts to predict future failures based on various values that have not crossed the failure threshold. In order to do this, the publisher collects data from large numbers of working and failed drives in order to determine which are good predictors and what values/trends are more serious than others.

It’s not perfect, but it can be useful if you can replace an likely-failing drive before it actually fails, when you still have a good chance of being able to clone it to a new drive or make new backups.

If the drive is already acting flaky, then I wouldn’t even bother checking SMART status. The flakiness itself is enough of a hint that it’s time to replace it.

That having been said, replacing an internal drive in an iMac is a difficult process. There are a lot of things to look out for. If you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself and you don’t want to pay a repair shop to replace it, then your best bet may be to get an external SSD (or possibly two devices - an SSD and a hard drive, if you can’t afford an SSD of sufficient size) and clone your system to it. Then just start working from the external drive(s) instead of the failing internal hard drive.

The only problem with this approach is that the failing internal hard drive might still cause the Finder to hang from time to time, even if you’re not doing anything with it, so you might want to remove (or at least disconnect) it even with external drives. But give the external drives a try first - if the internal drive doesn’t cause problems, then you can ignore it until it does.

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I have successfully extended the life of an iMac (circa 2011) by booting it from an external drive. It was not straightforward and the steps are no longer applicable to newer iMacs but it is worth trying. If it doesn’t work it is easy to revert to booting from the internal drive.