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The 21.5-inch iMac unofficially supports up to Intel Core i9 processors; surpasses the 24-inch iMac with an Apple M1 SoC

The 21.5-inch iMac can be upgraded, but not easily. (Image source: Luke Miani)
The 21.5-inch iMac can be upgraded, but not easily. (Image source: Luke Miani)
A YouTuber has demonstrated that it is possible to upgrade the older 21.5-inch iMac way beyond Apple's official supported hardware. Unsurprisingly, the upgraded model outperforms the Apple M1-powered 24-inch iMac.
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Luke Miani has documented that it is possible to get an old 21.5-inch iMac running using a processor that Apple never offered for it. Officially, Apple offered up to the Core i7-8700, although Miani bought the base model with a Core i3-8100. Both processors rely on the LGA-1151 socket, meaning that the iMac is upgradable beyond the Core i7-8700.

The LGA-1151 in the 21.5-inch iMac is bound by a 65 W TDP limit, mind you, ruling out any K or KF processors, along with the Core i9-9900KS. However, the Core i9-9900 (Amazon affiliate link) is eligible, which Miani chose for his build.

Miani sells his upgraded 21.5-inch iMac as being more powerful than the new M1 model, as the video below shows. The upgrade process is a long one though, and is fraught with risks not only to components but to your health.

Ultimately, we would only recommend upgrading a 21.5-inch iMac to the Core i9-9900 if you know what you are doing beforehand. Nonetheless, Miani has shown what performance the 21.5-inch iMac could have offered, even if it can only maintain the Core i9-9900 at its 3.1 GHz base clock.

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Alex Alderson
Alex Alderson - Senior Tech Writer - 3640 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2018
Prior to writing and translating for Notebookcheck, I worked for various companies including Apple and Neowin. I have a BA in International History and Politics from the University of Leeds, which I have since converted to a Law Degree. Happy to chat on Twitter or Notebookchat.
contact me via: @aldersonaj
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2021 06 > The 21.5-inch iMac unofficially supports up to Intel Core i9 processors; surpasses the 24-inch iMac with an Apple M1 SoC
Alex Alderson, 2021-06- 8 (Update: 2021-06- 8)