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Not all M1 iMacs are built the same: Potential buyers of the 2021 Apple iMac 24 should be aware of the cooling system differences that could affect performance

The M1 Apple iMac 24 offers different cooling systems depending on the price point. (Image source: Apple/@fiyin - edited)
The M1 Apple iMac 24 offers different cooling systems depending on the price point. (Image source: Apple/@fiyin - edited)
The recently released 2021 24-inch Apple iMac all-in-one desktop computer with M1 SoC comes in three variants, with the differences mostly listed on Apple’s website. However, cooling system differences between the base iMac 24 and mid-tier iMac 24 have seemingly been omitted, even though they could affect the performance of the M1 Apple Silicon.

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Only US$200 separates the base M1 iMac with the mid-tier M1 iMac at the moment, with the former costing US$1,299 and the latter US$1,499 (with 256 GB SSD). There is also a high-end iMac 24 with a 512 GB SSD for US$1,699, but this has the same build as the mid-tier model. The well-publicized differences between the base model and mid-tier device include the presence of two USB 3 ports, an extra three colors to choose from, and preconfigured Touch ID sensor and Gigabit Ethernet for the more-expensive iMac. On top of that, buyers of the US$1,499 device get an M1 processor with an 8-core GPU while the cheaper model sports a 7-core GPU.

If that’s not enough to sway a fan to pay an extra US$200 for the mid-tier model, somewhat undisclosed details about the M1 iMac’s cooling system might be enough to push some over. Many people will be making a purchase decision for the 2021 24-inch Apple iMac based on the fact that it features the ARM-based M1 chip, and while Apple has been clear about the GPU core count differences, less has been mentioned about the cooling fan count: The base iMac 24 has one cooling fan whereas the mid-tier model comes with two cooling fans. Obviously, this indicates that the M1 in the more-expensive iMac could manage load for longer periods of time thanks to the superior cooling solution.

The differences don't just end with cooling fan count though; apparently, the mid-tier 2021 iMac also has a heat pipe to help with the thermal emissions while the base model has to make do with its one fan and a heat sink. These cooling system differences and Apple's “oversight” in not mentioning them on the official iMac 24 product pages (no details at the time of writing) have been pointed out by TechTubers like Luke Miani, Brian Tong, and Max Tech.

An image recently shared by an alleged Apple engineer showed the new iMac with two cooling fans and an iFixit iMac teardown also revealed a device with two fans. However, an X-ray image provided to iFixit by Creative Electron clearly shows an iMac 24 with a single fan (see below). With this in mind, and including all the publicized differences, M1 iMac buyers would be wise to pay up the extra US$200 for the mid-tier model, especially if the better cooling system gives the M1 more thermal headroom for its much-vaunted processing performance.

Buy the 2021 Apple iMac 24 on Amazon

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Apple iMac 24 with single fan. (Image source: Creative Electron)
Apple iMac 24 with single fan. (Image source: Creative Electron)
Apple iMac 24 with two fans. (Image source: @fiyin/Apple)
Apple iMac 24 with two fans. (Image source: @fiyin/Apple)
Apple iMac 24 with two fans. (Image source: @fiyin/Apple)
Apple iMac 24 with two fans. (Image source: @fiyin/Apple)
 

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Daniel R Deakin
Daniel R Deakin - Managing Editor News - 2415 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2012
My interest in technology began after I was presented with an Atari 800XL home computer in the mid-1980s. I especially enjoy writing about technological advances, compelling rumors, and intriguing tech-related leaks. I have a degree in International Relations and Strategic Studies and count my family, reading, writing, and travel as the main passions of my life. I have been with Notebookcheck since 2012.
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2021 05 > Not all M1 iMacs are built the same: Potential buyers of the 2021 Apple iMac 24 should be aware of the cooling system differences that could affect performance
Daniel R Deakin, 2021-05-27 (Update: 2021-05-27)