iMac (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, 2020) Review: Best Budget iMac You Can Buy Right Now

Are you looking to find the best iMac for your money? In this guide, we’ll be taking a look under the hood of what is going to be one of Apple’s last Intel-based iMacs before we expect to see future releases have the new M1 chip built-in. So, are the Intel-based iMacs still worth buying and how does the iMac 4K 21.5-inch 2020 hold up against the 2019 model and the 5K 27-inch model? Read on to find out.

Let’s take a look at the specs of the 2020 iMac 21.5 inch 4K release first. For the purpose of this guide, we’ll be discussing the highest spec iMac 21.5 inch 4K 2020 model that comes in at $1499.


  • 3.0GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz
  • 8GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory
  • Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
  • 256GB SSD storage (configurable up to 1TB)
  • Magic Mouse 2
  • Magic Keyboard – US English
  • Resolution: 4096×2304 (4K)
  • $1499
iMac 2020 review
iMac 2020 review


There’s nothing new to talk about when it comes to the design of the iMac 4K 21.5-inch (or the 5K 27-inch version for that matter) the design is still the same as previous generations of iMac which arguably isn’t a bad thing. The slick iMac design is something Apple users have come to love so there’s no real need to change it (much) in my opinion, except for one thing.

My one big gripe with the iMac is that the bezels are still huge and look even chunkier on the 21.5-inch and don’t look much smaller on the 27-inch. I’m not sure if Apple is just being lazy but when you have thick black lines surrounding an already small screen, it just makes the screen size look even smaller than it needs to be. It’s understood that the iMac 2021 models will have significant changes though. What Apple has done is pack a few extra features into the 2020 21.5-inch model, most notably the base storage.

The design of the machine is familiar however on the bottom of the back, you’ll find a variety of ports. Included are four USB Type-A ports, two thunderbolt ports, a headphone jack, an SXDC card port, and an ethernet port.

iMac 2020 review
iMac 2020 review

iMac Retina 4K 21.5 inch: Performance

In August 2020, Apple updated the base configuration 21.5-inch iMacs to come standard with SSDs across the line for the first time. However, customers can still choose to configure their 21.5-inch ‌iMac‌ with a Fusion Drive. Aside from this, there are no real improvements in the performance of the 21.5-inch models. However, the iMac is more customizable compared to the 2019 version of the 21.5-inch model.

The 6-core Intel processor allows for basic video-editing and web browsing. The cheapest iMac only has 4 cores which would be best suited for those who just want to do tasks that aren’t too demanding like web browsing and streaming music. The mid-range 21.5-inch ‌iMac‌ features either a Radeon Pro 555X GPU or a Radeon Pro 560X by default

NameAMD Radeon Pro 555XNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3 GB
Geekbench – OpenCL1424933483
CompuBench 1.5 Desktop – Face Detection (mPixels/s)35.283115.073
CompuBench 1.5 Desktop – Ocean Surface Simulation (Frames/s)668.3081325.07
CompuBench 1.5 Desktop – T-Rex (Frames/s)3.1588.057
CompuBench 1.5 Desktop – Video Composition (Frames/s)49.59331.946

The 555X really lagged behind the GTX 1060 (3GB) during some basic tests. So, if you want to play some heavy games, then we recommend you go for the Vega 20 GPU version, which costs an extra $350.

The RAM on the 21.5-inch model is rather basic. This model comes with 8GB of RAM which is very standard and expected these days. It is a shame that Apple didn’t up this to at least 16GB as standard considering that software and games are becoming more and more demanding. You can upgrade your iMac to 32GB but it’s going to cost you an extra $600. 

Storage on the iMac 21.5 inch 2020 is very good, as you’d expect. At 256GB you’ll have plenty of space to store thousands of files. If you need more space, you can configure your iMac up to 1TB with Fusion Drive.

The Retina display at 4096×2304 means you’ll have a crisp screen that boasts up to one million colors. The brightness goes up to 500 nits so you’ll always see colors at their best. This Retina screen is great for animation work, for example, but you may have to upgrade your RAM to get the right software to run smoothly.

Inside the box you’ll get a Magic Keyboard and Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 so no difference here from the 2019 model.

iMac 2020 review
iMac 2020 review

iMac 21.5 inch 4K vs iMac 27 inch 5K 2020

The biggest difference between the 21.5-inch 4K and the 27-inch 5K model in 2020 is the processor. The 27-inch model comes with Intel’s 10th-gen 10-core processor. Disappointingly, the 27-inch model also comes with 8GB memory as standard however you can upgrade it to a maximum of 8TB with SSD. The issue is, if you’re going for the high-end version then you’re already paying $2299 as well as any memory cards you might need. However, it’s safe to say that most people aren’t going to need 8TB of memory. The storage space on the 27-inch 5K 2020 model is huge, coming in at 512GB and configurable up to 8TB.

The graphics are better than the 21.5-inch model too – Radeon Pro 5500 XT with 8GB of GDDR6 memory, configurable up to 16GB. This makes the 27-inch the best iMac for gaming right now. You might also want to buy the 27-inch model because it has certain apps pre-installed. For example, you’ll get Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro on purchase. If you opt for the 21.5-inch model, you’re going to have to pay for these apps on top of the iMac’s cost and this is when it begins to get quite expensive. Final Cut Pro will cost you an additional $299 and Logic Pro will set you back another $199 so it’s important to know what you want your iMac for.

iMac 2020 review
Pros Cons
  • Fast speed processor
  • 4K Retina display
  • Magic Mouse & keyboard included
  • Customizable
  • Small screen
  • Thick bezels
  • No pro apps included
  • Very similar to the 2019 model

Bottom line

The iMac 21.5-inch 4K 2020 model is a great (almost) all-around computer. If you want a fast and pretty computer to do your homework or to browse the internet on, this model is for you. This mid-range model is ideal for casual iMac users and people who would like a piece of the beauty that Apple offers. If you want to play high-spec games and edit professional-quality video then you might want to go straight to the 27-inches 5K iMac. Otherwise, you might find yourself buying more memory, storage, and apps. 

Let’s us know if you have any questions about our (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch) iMac 2020 review in the comments!

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