Blue iMac (2021) heroSource: Luke Filipowicz / iMore

Best Mac desktop for students iMore 2022

The best Mac desktop for students is the 24-inch iMac (2021). It features a fresh, modern design, Apple silicon on the inside, and comes in seven colors. Other options are worth considering depending on your needs — and your budget. Here are our recommendations.

Best overall: 24-inch iMac (2021)

24-inch iMac in blueSource: Luke Filipowicz / iMore

The colorful 24-inch iMac (2021) has been almost completely redesigned from the 21.5-inch model it replaced, and it was given a ton of new color options. Of course, it's all powered by Apple's M1 chip, which has been praised for delivering a fantastic performance.

There are two main models of the iMac (2021). The base model has a 7-Core GPU and only two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports, while the high-end model has an 8-Core GPU, two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports, two USB-C ports, an Ethernet port in the power brick, and comes with a Magic Keyboard with Touch ID. Both models have SSD storage starting at 256GB, but you can pay for up to 1TB on the base model and up to 2TB on the high-end model. In addition, both models start with 8GB of RAM, but you can purchase 16GB of RAM for either machine. The base model starts at $1,299, while the high-end model starts at $1,499.

The iMac is available to purchase from Apple and other retailers like Best Buy. Ordering direct from Apple is usually the way to go for Apple products, but there remains a bit of a shipping delay for specific colors.

Pros:

  • Super-thin design
  • M1 delivers tons of performance
  • Amazing display
  • Great camera
  • Multiple color options

Cons:

  • Noticeable bezels and a prominent chin
  • Base model is slightly less impressive

Best overall

Imac 2021

24-inch iMac (2021) - with Apple M1 Chip

Best for most students

Your dorm or apartment will love this computer, which can remain a prominent fixture for your entire college career.

Best budget choice: Mac mini (2020)

Mac miniSource: iMore

The Mac mini offers M1 or Intel processors inside. You can choose from 8GB or 16GB of RAM and up to 2GB of storage for the former. The latter starts with an Intel Core i5 6-Core Processor with Intel UHD Graphics 630. You can select up to 64GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage.

If you're looking at a Mac mini, you are already aware that you need to add a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. We recommend upgrading the memory from the minimum. Ideally, you should start with the more expensive version, if only because you'll get more storage.

On the downside: Apple's likely to update the Mac mini before the end of the year.

Pros:

  • Least expensive solution
  • M1 or Intel; it's your choice

Cons:

  • Remember, no monitor or accessories
  • Can get expensive quickly
  • 2022 models should arrive soon

Best budget choice

Mac mini

Mac mini (2020) - with Apple M1 Chip

Look, no monitor!

Mac minis are a great solution if you already have a terrific monitor and other accessories. Otherwise, stick with iMac.

Best for creatives: Mac Studio (2022)

Mac Studio LifestyleSource: Apple

The Mac Studio (2022) is a professional-grade computer that offers an M1 Max or M1 Ultra system-on-a-chip. Looking like two stacked Mac mini units, the Mac Studio is currently the best Mac you can buy in terms of computer power. You can choose up to 128GB of unified memory, up to 20-core CPU, and 64-core GPU.

We highly recommend buying the all-new Apple Studio Display for the complete package. Available with standard or nano-texture glass, this 27-inch 5K Retina display features a 12MP Ultra-Wide camera with Center Stage, studio-quality mics, and a six-speaker sound system with Spatial Audio.

Pros:

  • Only Mac with M1 Ultra SoC
  • Lots of customization options

Cons:

  • Price
  • Still requires a monitor, keyboard, and mouse

Best for creatives

Mac Studio

Mac Studio (2022)

The newest Mac

When you want to best, this is the Mac to buy. Just plan on spending a lot of cash.

Bottom line

Our favorite desktop Mac for students is the 24-inch iMac (2021), which includes excellent features for high schoolers and college students alike. The most important question you might be asking yourself is which color to buy. The iMac is available in seven color combinations: blue, green, pink, yellow, orange, purple, and traditional silver.

Like most Macs today, the 24-in iMac (2021) includes Apple silicon inside. If you can, max out both memory and storage and enjoy the ride!

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author:

Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. Penn State (go Nittany Lions) graduate here; also a huge fan of the New England Patriots. Thanks for reading. @bryanmwolfe

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