Pigs have flown. Hell hath—indeed—frozen over. It’s Christmas in June! Our teardown confirms that the new 21.5″ iMac with 4K Display has both removable RAM and a modular CPU. Of course, Apple would say neither is user-replaceable. Accessing and replacing these components isn’t exactly easy, but we’re saying it’s possible. Maybe even probable. A tinker-happy user (armed with the right tools and guide) could at least double the base 8 GB of memory, turning their new iMac with Retina Display into an iMac Semi-Pro.
An upgradable iMac is a massive shift in direction from Apple. It’s the first time we’ve seen a 21.5″ iMac with expandable memory since 2013. And the first time we’ve seen one with a modular CPU since 2012. Kudos to Apple! At $1299, the 2017 iMac is decent chunk of change for many consumers—and upgradability means they’ll be able to get more use and more years out of their computer.
21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K Display Teardown Highlights:
- It looks like Apple has anticipated us and stuck a “warranty void” sticker on the heat sink. (We ripped it off like a bandaid and it hurt so good.) Clearly, someone doesn’t want us to remove that modular CPU underneath.
- Why the sudden return to CPU modularity? Maybe Apple reverted to a socketed CPU because that’s all Intel has at the moment (we haven’t seen any desktop-class Kaby Lake CPUs in a BGA package). But you’d think with Apple’s famously fierce negotiating skills, they could have gotten a soldered CPU from Intel if they really wanted it. Have you been hearing our pleas, Apple?
- Despite the upgradable RAM and CPU, we’re still giving this iMac a 3/10 for repairability. Here’s why: the iMac remains distinctly un-fun to open. Everything is buried under a finicky glass panel. It requires a speciality pizza-cutter-like tool to breach the adhesive before any repair. Plus the glass and Retina Display are fused together, fabulously increasing the cost of replacement. But hey, a 3/10 is triple the score of the iMac’s 2015 predecessor.
Check out our complete 2017 iMac teardown for more analysis and disassembly photos.