iMac and M1: The Power to Do Everything Better

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At this year’s “Spring Loaded” event, one thing was made abundantly clear: Apple is all in on its M-series chips. Along with the newly enhanced iPad Pro, Apple introduced a totally redesigned iMac featuring Apple’s vaunted new M1 processor. The message behind the new processor is clear: The iMac now has the power to do everything better.

iMac for Photography

Prior to Apple’s big silicon transition, the Mac Pro and MacBook Pro were its go-to devices for working photographers. Post-transition, however, Apple now has multiple devices capable of serving photographers and other creative professionals. One such device is the latest 24-inch iMac, which is the newest entry point for photographers looking for a desktop workstation powerful enough to handle their workflow. How did the iMac make the transition from an everyday desktop to a pro caliber powerhouse? Two words, three syllables: M1 chip.

With inclusion of the M1 chip, the new iMac is now more capable in every single regard, including those processes that benefit photographers most. Users can expect up to 2x faster GPU performance apps like Affinity Photo or Adobe’s now-native Lightroom and Photoshop. Power users should have no issue handling their workflow, because the new processor can easily fly through edits on 100+ megapixel images. It’s an absolute understatement to say that the M1 can make quick work of any photography projects you throw at it. In fact, we would be more shocked if there were a photography project it couldn’t handle.

Putting the M1 aside for a moment, one of the fundamental features photographers need to consider when buying a desktop is color accuracy and display brightness. While not quite on the level of Apple’s Pro Display XDR, the refreshed iMac’s 4K Retina Display is definitely no slouch. It features a P3 wide color gamut and more than a billion colors, plus 500 nits of brightness, so all your images should be vivid and, most importantly, color accurate. The 24-inch 4480 x 2520 resolution display also offers plenty of real estate on which to view those color-accurate images, giving photographers the space they need to edit their images as necessary. Personally, I also love the now narrower all-white bezels, which, in my opinion, frame full-screen images incredibly well.

Another photo-friendly feature to consider is the iMac’s updated design. Many seasoned photographers will tell you that desktop clutter can easily creep up on you. Multiple projects lead to multiple hard drives scattered about, different cameras slung here and there, cables galore, and even a second screen. Thanks to a slimmer overall design and enhanced connectivity options, the redesigned iMacs helps cut down on clutter. It features two Thunderbolt™ ports for data transfers up to 40 Gb/s, giving users high-performance options to connect to more devices, including support for up to a 6K display. The 8-core iMac configuration also offers two additional USB-C ports and features a 1 Gb/s Ethernet port in the power adapter, allowing streamlining of cables for a more organized desktop.

iMac for Video

For many creatives, the ability to create professional-quality video content is fast becoming a necessity. However, as those same creatives will tell you, working with video (i.e., video editing) is generally a much more demanding process than editing photos. That’s why, in the past, if you wanted an Apple computer capable of handling a demanding video workflow, you would likely focus on Apple’s most powerful units, namely the Mac Pro. But, thanks again to the unbridled power and potential of the new M1 chip, many videographers will find that the new 24-inch iMac is a reasonable and much more cost-friendly alternative to the Mac Pro.

Many of the M1-related improvements we discussed in the photography section are also applicable here. Video-critical programs, overall, will perform markedly better. Also, expect key video applications like DaVinci Resolve and Final Cut Pro, which both run natively, to perform at a much higher level. One thing we do want to mention is that, as of this writing, Adobe has still not optimized Premiere Pro to run natively with the M1 chip, so it’s hard to gauge performance.

This likely goes without saying, but if you’re working with video files, you are going to need a significant amount of space to store your video files, as well as a way to access those files quickly. You cannot open up and replace the hard drive of the all-new iMac, so upgrading it yourself isn’t a viable option. The internal PCIe-based SSDs the Mac Pro features might well be fast enough, but even configuring the storage up to 1TB will only get you limited mileage when it comes to 4K video content. Likely, what you’ll need is a fast external RAID for any meaningful amount of video storage, which, thankfully, will benefit from two Thunderbolt™ ports for data transfers up to 40 Gb/s.

Despite being overshadowed by Apple’s Liquid Retina XDR display, videographers will appreciate the built-in 24-inch Liquid Retina display. One of the best value propositions when it comes to buying an iMac is that you’re pretty much getting everything you need to get going without having to buy different components piecemeal. While its all-in design certainly has its disadvantages in terms of a lack of customization options, its greatest strength is that everything you need to start editing is already included. A separate color-accurate display can often start getting very expensive very quickly, so this is easily one of the best displays you can get, out of the box.

If you’re a videographer, the all-new iMac is a fantastic addition to your setup that is capable of chewing through 4k footage with ease. It’s important to remember the resolution, length, and complexity of your video will greatly influence your computing needs. The iMac offers a solution for rendering up to 4K at a cost of entry that is enticing for all levels of video enthusiasts.

Ultimately, your time is what is most affected when it comes to comparing different configurations. An underpowered machine will still do the job, but you can possibly hit bottlenecks that can eat into your time. It’s important to understand what kind of a user you are. How tight are your deadlines? You may get away with a less powerful machine but, ideally, you want a configuration that keeps your workflow efficient.

iMac for Audio

In addition to meeting the needs of professional photographers and videographers, the new 24-inch iMac offers several enticing features for pro audio. However, if you are planning on buying the all-new iMac for use in a studio or for music production, there are definitely some pros and cons we should discuss before you make the leap.

For starters: It has to be noted that, as of this writing, a good deal of available music software is not yet running natively on M1. That’s something audio users who don’t use Logic should be aware of and keep their eye on. Of course, if you are a Logic user, great news: Logic runs better than ever with Apple’s new M1 architecture. Project load times are faster than ever before and more responsive.

Pro audio users will be happy to know you can just keep stacking instruments and effects without any fear of stressing the CPU. If you’re using the built-in instruments and effects, projects and stock plug-ins open downright instantly and audio-editing functions execute without a hitch. M1 also helps it run cool and quiet even while tackling intense workloads.

The redesigned iMac also features a pretty impressive sound system that audiophiles will appreciate. According to Apple, two pairs of force-canceling woofers placed side by side provide impressive bass response, while reducing unintended vibrations. Each pair is balanced with a tweeter that results in a six-speaker sound system that produces a massive sound stage with strong, articulate bass and clear mids and highs.

So ultimately, where does the new iMac fit in for pro audio users? If you’re buying your first music computer and plan to start by using Apple’s native software with stock instruments and effects, then you could absolutely do no harm going with the 2021 iMac. You’ll have a powerful, good-looking home studio workstation that offers pretty stunning performance for a great entry cost, to boot.

While the language might initially sound a touch hyperbolic, it’s no stretch of the meaning to say that the new 24-inch iMac is a revolutionary computer. Thanks to the power of the M1 chip, the iMac must now be considered as a viable desktop solution for working creatives such as professional photographers, videographers, and pro audio users.

Questions about the new M1-powered iMac? Drop us a line down below.

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