Where does the iMac go from here?

With Tuesday’s announcement of the new 27-inch iMac, Apple seems to be clearing out some of the final major Intel Mac releases in its product pipeline.

The big question is, what’s next for the iMac? While this new revision makes the current iMac a bit faster and a bit nicer, it’s a fairly modest upgrade. With the move to Apple silicon on the horizon, it’s worth pondering where the iMac goes from here—and how soon we might see truly big changes when it comes to Apple’s most popular desktop computer.

Big iMac: Resetting the clock

The 27-inch iMac’s update this week has bought Apple some time. With this update, it feels like Apple could wait somewhere between 12 and 18 months before needing to update the larger of the two iMac models.

27 inch imac factime Apple

The new 27-inch iMac buys Apple a considerable amount of time before the company unveils a model with its own CPU.

Yes, that means that Apple would be sitting with an Intel iMac at the top of the line until late 2021 or early 2022. But consider that most iMac buyers aren’t hardcore pro users who want to be on the cutting edge. Even if this 27-inch iMac is the last major update to an Intel Mac ever, it’s going to be a powerful computer that will serve its users for years to come.

And of course, some savvy computer users will even consider buying a new iMac a savvy move—it’s tried and true technology that will last for years during a time of great change. By the time they’ll need to replace this iMac, all the furor involving Apple’s transition to Apple silicon will have settled.

In any event, I have a hard time seeing Apple updating the 27-inch iMac with Apple silicon in the near future, now that it’s made this update.

Little iMac: On the clock

The 21.5-inch iMac, on the other hand, seems like a prime candidate to be converted to Apple silicon. It wasn’t actually updated this week, though Apple did change its base configuration to include SSD storage rather than a Fusion Drive. (Let’s pause for a moment of applause, because spinning hard drives are slow and bad.)

imac Apple

Even though the 21.5-inch iMac was updated with SSDs, its specs are looking old.

But it’s worse. Last year, the 21.5-inch iMac got updated—sort of. But it only got 8th-generation Intel processors, while the 27-inch model got the 9th-generation processors. So it started a generation behind and is now another generation behind. It is an outdated computer in desperate need of a refresh.