The 27-inch iMac May Never Come Back, and That’s a Good Thing

It was always a weird option anyway

  • Apple may never make another 27-inch iMac. 
  • But you’re better off with a 27-inch Studio Display and a Mac mini. 
  • Apple’s lineup has never been more flexible.
Someone having a video conference on an orange 27-inch iMac.


It looks like the discontinued iMac may never return, but is that really so bad?

The iMac is an incredible computer and has been since its first incarnation as a Bondi Blue plastic bubble in 1998. You plug it in, and you're ready to go. What's more, it looks better than pretty much any other desktop computer, making the slimline 24-inch M1 version the ideal all-in-one for dentists' reception desks and fancy spas. The 27-inch iMac was also awesome. I used one (the same one) for a decade and loved it. But, even if it doesn't come back, almost everyone who might use the big iMac would be better off with a Mac mini or Mac Studio paired with a separate display. 

"Many rumors have suggested that Apple may discontinue the 27-inch iMac in favor of a Mac mini and Studio Display combination. This approach would allow users to upgrade their computers without replacing the entire system, including the display. Using a Mac Studio for more power-intensive tasks is also an option," Christopher Smith, an academic guide on the website Help In Homework, told Lifewire via email. 

All-in-One vs Separate Boxes

Technology has a long history of all-in-one devices vs. separate boxes, and the difference usually comes down to convenience. You can buy a Mac Pro with a huge 32-inch Pro Display XDR display, or you can go for an iMac or a MacBook Air.

A parent and two children looking at a 27-inch iMac.


And it's not just computers, either. Back before we streamed all our music from our phones to Bluetooth smart speakers, we would buy Hi-Fi systems. These could be made up of carefully-chosen turntables, CD players, amplifiers, and speakers, or you could go for an all-in-one "midi system," which wouldn't sound as good but came with a single remote control and usually a bunch of other neat gimmicks. 

"You get an M2 Pro [Mac mini] and hook it up to an Apple Studio Display, and you have a deconstructed iMac," Apple pundit and OG Mac user John Siracusa said on episode 518 of his Accidental Tech Podcast

This pick-and-mix approach allows for maximum flexibility at the cost of convenience and also at the cost of… expense. Separates are usually more expensive. However, as we shall see, they may actually be cheaper in the long run. 

Environmentally Economic

Part of the reason I kept that old iMac around for a decade was that it was just too expensive to get a new one. The computer part was showing its age, but the screen was every bit as good as it was when new. 

This approach would allow users to upgrade their computers without replacing the entire system, including the display.

If you replace an iMac, you have to replace the computer and its display, which is not only more expensive, but environmentally wasteful. But if you buy a good display, you can swap out the computer more often, staying up to date with a smaller financial and environmental impact. 

The problem was that for years, Apple didn’t make its own standalone displays. Its 27-inch Thunderbolt Display was available until 2016, but that was a low-resolution, pre-Retina screen. For reference, the iMac went retina in 2014.

If you wanted to run separates, then, you had to buy a third-party display. And those displays did not give the seamless experience Apple users expect. Screens would take long seconds to wake. Brightness and speaker volume couldn’t be controlled from the Mac’s keyboard (not without installing extra software). And they were ugly. 

Also, you could choose between the then-underpowered Mac mini, and the expensive Mac Pro, which was unaffordable to many. But in the last year or so, everything has changed. 

M2 Pro-powered Mac mini


Apple Studio

Now, desktop Mac users have an embarrassment of choice. Screen-wise, there's still the Pro Display XDR, which costs $5K without a stand (it's another $1,000 on top), but we can also choose the Studio Display, which is essentially a beautiful standalone version of the old 27-inch iMac's screen. 

Computer-wise, we can opt for the powerful-but-cheap M2 Mac mini or the Mac Pro, but there is now an in-between option in the Mac Studio, which is powerful enough for almost anything. 

And thanks to the absurd power and efficiency of Apple's M-series chips, you can even opt to use a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro with a Studio Display, enjoying the desktop/laptop lifestyle with almost no penalties. And now even Samsung and Dell are making Mac-friendly monitors if you want to spend a bit less. 

In short, there has never been a better time not to buy a 27-inch iMac. Even if a powerful 27-inch M2 Pro iMac were available, it would be the worst choice among many. Maybe Apple will bring it back one day, but I wouldn't hold your breath.

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