New iMac 21.5-inch 4K model easier to upgrade than past machines

2017 imac 4k model more upgradeable 21 5 inch header
Sam Lionheart/iFixit

Apple introduced new iMac all-in-ones (AIOs) at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2017 event, marking the first time the line has received a refresh in quite a while. The new iMacs look the same on the outside, but they received some more powerful parts on the inside.

One knock against the 21.5-inch iMac in particular, at least compared to some Windows AIO machines, has been the inability to break it open and upgrade many of its components. However, iFixit, which in addition to offering tools for fixing PCs routinely tears new machines down to see how repairable they are, found the new iMac to be more upgradeable than in the past.

iFixit started with the midrange 2017 iMac 21.5-inch 4K model. In terms of how easy it is overall to repair that machine, iFixit awarded it three out of 10 on its Repairability scale. That means that it’s perhaps easier to repair than machines like Apple’s MacBook Pro, which scored one out of 10, but harder to repair than Microsoft’s Surface Studio AIO, which scored a five out of 10.

The good news is that the CPU and the RAM are both modular, with the RAM being standard DDR4 DIMMs and the CPU using a standard LGA 1151 socket. The iMac 21.5-inch also uses a standard 2.5-inch SATA SSD that can be replaced. The bad news is that it’s hard to get to the replaceable parts — they’re hidden behind the logic board and require almost the entire iMac to be torn apart to get to them.

Otherwise, the teardown didn’t produce any serious surprises. It’s a highly modular design with a dense logic board, and taking it apart is likely best for those really comfortable with such things. Some notable items include a single microphone versus the dual-microphone setup Apple has used on past iMacs, and the Retina Display panel and glass are fused together and thus more costly to repair. Buyers should definitely consider investing in the new AppleCare+ for Mac that includes damage protection.

In short, the new iMac 21.5-inch 4K AIO is a more repairable and theoretically upgradable machine than past models. If you’re looking to make the investment and are also looking at Windows AIOs, then at least you know that it’s possible to upgrade them somewhat, even if it might take some work.