Best Mac desktop for students iMore 2021
The best Mac desktop for students is the 24-inch iMac (2021), which is also one of the best Macs on the market overall. It features a fresh, modern design, Apple silicon on the inside, and comes in a choice of seven colors. There are other options worth considering depending on your needs and budget.
- Best overall: 24-inch iMac (2021)
- Best without a monitor: Mac mini (2020)
- Best large display and creative majors: iMac 5K (2020)
- When there's no budget: Mac Pro (2019)
Best overall: 24-inch iMac (2021)
The colorful 24-inch iMac (2021) has been almost completely redesigned from the 21.5-inch model it replaces, 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 repeatedly since it came out for delivering amazing 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. Plus, 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 is a bit of a shipping delay for certain colors as of this writing.
- Super-thin design
- M1 delivers tons of performance
- Amazing display
- Great camera
- Multiple color options
- Noticeable bezels and big chin
- Base model is slightly less impressive
- A tad expensive
Best without a monitor: Mac mini (2020)
The entry-level Mac mini comes with a 3.6GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i3 processor with 8GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory. Inside, you'll find an Intel UHD Graphics 630 card and 256GB PCIe-based 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.
- Least expensive solution
- Recently updated
- Remember, no monitor or accessories
- Can get expensive quickly
Best large display and creative majors: iMac 5K (2020)
The 27-inch iMac 5K offers fantastic features, and it has been updated for 2020. The entry-level model comes with a Retina 5K 5120-by-2880 P3 display with True Tone and optional nano-texture glass, 3.1GHz 6-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor (with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz), 8GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory, 256GB SSD storage, and Radeon Pro 5300 with 4GB of GDDR6 memory. Like our overall pick, if you can only upgrade one component, consider increasing the memory size.
- Beautiful Retina 5K 5120-by-2880 P3 display
- Just $500 more than our overall pick for the entry model
- Price can rise quickly with add-ons
- 8GB of memory might not be enough
- Could be replaced later in 2021
When there's no budget: Mac Pro (2019)
No doubt, the Mac Pro is the best professional-graded computer Apple has ever created. Made in the United States, the Mac Pro has been designed for maximum performance, expansion, and configurability. It features Xeon processors, an Earth-shattering high-performance memory system, eight PCIe expansion slots, and graphics architecture supporting what Apple calls the world's most powerful graphics card. There's also the all-new Apple Afterburner accelerator card that lets you playback as many as three streams of 8K ProRes RAW video simultaneously.
On the downside are the price and the unproven aspect of the machine. The 2nd generation cylindrical Mac Pro (2013) was primarily forgotten by Apple soon after its arrival. Will the new model go down the same path? Only time will tell.
- Workstation-class Xeon processors up to 28 cores
- High-performance memory system with a massive 1.5TB capacity
- Apple Afterburner accelerator card
- Recommended Pro Display XDR monitor adds to the price
- Overkill for most students
- Unproven since it's so new
Our favorite desktop Mac for students is the 24-inch iMac (2021), which includes lots of great features for high-schoolers and college students alike. It's brand new and is the latest Mac to feature the Apple silicon on the inside. The most important question you might be asking yourself is which color to buy. The new iMac is available in seven color combinations: blue, green, pink, yellow, orange, purple, and traditional silver.
If you can, max out both memory and storage and enjoy the right!
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
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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