Sweet Jesus, the new 21.5-inch iMac has a removable processor and memory
We knew that Apple’s new iMacs would be disassembled and examined in every possible way shortly after launch. What we didn’t expect, however, was for the smaller model to be modular — to a degree, at least.
After iFixit’s experts tore down the new 21.5-inch, 4K Retina model to bits, they discovered that both the device’s processor and memory aren’t soldered to the logic board, and can be replaced, though doing so won’t be easy.
This is notable as the 21.5-inch iMac had RAM modules and the CPU soldered to the logic board in the last couple of years, making it next-to-impossible for a non-professional to replace them.
“[The CPU] isn’t the most accessible thing in the world—it’s flipped onto the backside of the logic board, trapped behind a lot of other components, and buried under a glued-down pane of glass—but for the first time in years it’s possible to replace or upgrade the CPU without a reflow station, and that’s a big win,” iFixit said.
This means that a capable enthusiast can, in theory, buy the cheapest new 21.5-inch iMac and upgrade it to be a far more powerful machine. This could save hundreds of dollars compared to buying a model with a more powerful CPU and more memory from Apple.
Prying the iMac open will void your warranty, though. As we said, this is only for enthusiasts who know what they’re doing.
This is also interesting in light of Apple’s upcoming iMac Pro. Apple said that that device’s CPU and RAM would not be user replaceable, but there’s a big difference between hard to replace — as is the case with this 21.5-inch iMac — and impossible to replace. Truth be told, though, the 27-inch iMac has had a removable RAM and CPU for quite some time now, so we’d expect the Pro variant to follow suit.
In any case, the 21.5-inch iMac with a removable RAM and CPU is far more upgradeable than the 2015 model, which scored the lowest possible repairability score on iFixit: 1/10. The new model is not easy to repair or upgrade by any means, but it’s doable, and thus it earned a score of 3/10.
Check out iFixit full teardown here.