Apple entry-level iMac is cheap for a reason, actually two big reasons


A $1,099 iMac sounds like a no-brainer for desktop users. Apple's reputation for high-quality standards makes the new 21.5-inch, discounted iMac a lust-worthy entry-level computer. Turns out there's an unfortunate reason it's priced so low.

The problem starts with the specs. The cheaper iMac offers a 1.4 GHz dual-core Intel i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 500-GB hard drive, and an Intel HD Graphics 5000 chip. That setup is just enough for most basic computing needs, though 8 GB is tiny for RAM on a brand-new desktop. These specs are virtually identical to the cheaper MacBook Air that was introduced in April 2014 and sells for $899.

Therein lies the issue. You might walk out of your local Apple Store with one of these $1,099 machines thinking you've gotten a great deal and you can always add more RAM later on. You'd be right only about that first part. It's a good deal for the price, but Apple solders the RAM to the motherboard. This means that upgrading or adding more RAM on your own is impossible. What's more, Apple itself offers no factory upgrade option, which stands in stark contrast to every other Mac model available.

Bottom line: for $1,099, you're stuck with 8 GB of RAM. Forever. It's worth noting that those downgraded specs come at a price of 40 percent slower performance than the prior slowest iMac. That number will only grow with future iterations of OS X, which are certain to require ever more processing power.

If you don't want to get locked-in to that 8 GB, you can spend $200 more for the next model up. This one offers a big jump up to a 2.7-GHz processor and a 1 TB hard drive. It also comes with 8 GB of RAM out of the box, but unlike the cheaper model, you can upgrade or add to this one. At the end of the day, you're much better off spending the extra $200. You'd spend a lot more than that paying an expert to repair the damage caused by trying to pry the 8 GB chips off the motherboard.

Ironically, as Forbes points out, you can actually buy a refurbished model of the $1,299 iMac for the same price as this new model -- $1,099 -- and get the full benefits of more processing power and upgradable specs.

The soldered RAM in the $1,099 model was first discovered by OWC. They dismantled one of these all-in-one desktop units and posted a complete photo gallery of the iMac's innards on their blog.

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