Apple has just refreshed the iMac, bringing a huge number of welcome changes to its svelte all-in-one desktop, most of which are focused on the 27-inch model. But amid all the good news about faster processors, extra RAM, and improved speakers, there was one thing I could not help but notice: Apple still has a storage problem.
The base model of the 27-inch iMac is stuck on a 256GB SSD. You can kit it out with 128GB of RAM, nano-texture glass, and 10 Gigabit Ethernet, but you absolutely cannot get any more than 256GB of storage on this model. With pricing starting at $1,799, that feels downright ludicrous.
That is not the only thing that concerned me with Apple’s latest update. The 21.5-inch iMac got a small boost as well, and every version of the smaller iMac now comes with an SSD as standard. While that is great news — particularly as the previous version still offered a crummy HDD in every model by default — Apple still cannot bring itself to ditch the Fusion Drive from the 21.5-inch iMac. This drive combines a large HDD with a small SSD, but it is woefully out of date in 2020. Instead of being a bit more generous with its SSDs, Apple has chosen to keep it hanging around. It claims this is a great option for anyone who needs more storage without the price hike. Do not be fooled — it’s not.
A perennial problem
Apple has long struggled when it comes to storage. Remember when the Mac Pro launched with a 256GB SSD by default? Here you were, spending at least $5,999 on a megapowerful computer, yet Apple could not find any room in the budget to give you more than a 256GB storage drive for your money? That seemed to redefine the word “miserly.”
And what about Apple’s various MacBooks? The storage drives here are some of the fastest in the industry, leaving rivals trailing in their wake. The problem is they use proprietary connectors. That means if you want to upgrade your storage after you have bought your nice new MacBook Pro, you have to get a new drive from one of the few places that offer these exclusive drives built with Apple’s connectors. You cannot simply buy an SSD off the shelf and get going.
So, why does Apple take this approach? Why does it offer excellent features that none of its rivals can, from the T2 Security Chip to the best laptop speakers in the world, and yet get all tightfisted when it comes to storage?
One reason may be that Apple simply deems storage to be the most expendable part of the machine. Apple-exclusive features cost money to research, develop and implement, after all, and the company must save money somewhere. Unfortunately for us, storage always seems to be the area that makes way.
The other, more conspiratorial take is that it means Apple can happily upsell you on its iCloud storage plans. When it costs so much to upgrade your SSD — $600 for a 2TB SSD in the 27-inch iMac, for example — the much cheaper option is to buy a bunch of iCloud storage and keep your files there. At $9.99 a month for 2TB, it would take you five years to pay as much for iCloud as you would for a 2TB SSD in Apple’s world. With Apple seeking to expand its services division as much as possible, that is a clever way to help it toward its goal.
Whatever the reasoning, we all lose out when Apple gets stingy with storage. I love the new updates to the iMac, but come on, Apple, you could have been a little more generous with the SSDs. Let’s hope it has a change of heart when the redesigned iMac launches.
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