Opinion: The iMac And The Problems With Good Design

The new iMac was released for sale in Apple retail stores and the Apple online store yesterday and many people have rushed to pick up the latest model. So much so, in fact, that shipping estimates for the new Mac have started to lengthen significantly. However, the awesome tear-down folk at iFixit have managed to get their hands on one and have taken it apart to reveal the interior of the iMac.

While the iMac certainly looks beautiful, both inside and out, the repairability score has dropped from 7 out of 10 for the previous model of iMac, down to a rather poor 3 out of 10, meaning that it’s almost nigh on impossible for your average user to repair any of the components. ‘Aha!’ I hear you cry, ‘But that’s what the Genius bar is for’. To some extent, that’s true, we don’t tend to twiddle with Mac repair in the same way we do PCs. But, there is another big issue.

In order to perform a RAM upgrade in the new 21.5 inch iMac, which is perhaps the most common piece of maintenance that an Apple user will perform on their device, you have to “unglue your screen and remove the logic board”. Now, given how thin and fragile that screen looks, you can kiss my ass if you think I’m attempting that. So, it’ll be back to the Genius bar.

I guess that’s the problem with good design?


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  • estern53

    So the new imac is basically just a big Air. Its going to big a big profit margin for Apple since the user can not upgrade the RAM and Apple sells memory and hard drives at higher prices than the user can purchase themselves. its the end of the road for home fixit types.

  • Mr. Bee

    One can pretty much sum up the argument here simply by saying that “sealed unit” design is only a negative if it needs to be upgraded frequently or if there is no system in place to re-cycle the old units.

    Both of these are false when it comes to the average iMac. They don’t need upgrading for their entire reasonably long life, and when they are done, Apple has an excellent recycling program. In other words … no problem.

    Also, those that can’t see that the ports will eventually migrate to the edges a few models down the road aren’t thinking straight.

    The iPad is already close to being a first gen iPad “on a stick.” As it gets thinner still, the ports will migrate to the edges just like on an iPad as they won’t have anywhere else to go.

    • Mr. Bee

      Edit: I meant “the iMac is already close to being a first gen iPad on a stick”

  • jimbotomy

    Listening to iFixit’s opinion on Apple’s design is like listening to Exxon’s opinion of the design of the Tesla Model S. iFixit makes its money selling kits to people who think of their computers as hobbyist tinker boxes. If you want such a box there are plenty of computers around to suit your needs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Forsberg/100001387343371 Bob Forsberg

    Ives has been let loose without Steve Jobs being able to temper his runaway “thinness” engineering. Skinny edges on the new iMacs might be appealing for design awards but it fails in functionality with no USB3 or SD card ports on the sides where users want them. Hey Ives, iMacs are not hand held devices requiring thinness but desktop computers requiring functionality….use one occasionally to understand what users really want.

  • Daren Wang

    Your premise is wrong. From a user standpoint, this is bad design. Great design, which Apple has excelled at for years, is a melding of usability and aesthetics. The balance is lost here, valuing aesthetics over user experience. Of course, it might be great design for the company, which will get more revenue from upgrade costs.

  • dtp

    It’s purposeful. Apple are the experts when it comes to planned obsolescence; they want you to replace all your equipment every few years, so they have made the simplest and cheapest upgrade in the world impossible. It’s about their bottom line, nothing more.

  • lucascott

    The target audience for the 21.5 is not the type to know they can upgrade RAM or even what it is.

    IFixIt is in the business of sell bits for folks to screw with their stuff. They are pissing on the design cause they can’t make money off it. Nothing more

  • Jurassic

    AppleBitch: “In order to perform a RAM upgrade in the new 21.5 inch iMac, which is perhaps the most common piece of maintenance that an Apple user will perform on their device, you have to “unglue your screen and remove the logic board”.”

    I don’t know where you got this information from, but it is untrue.

    There is an easy to access, pop-out cover on the back (just above where you plug in the power cord). Pop open the cover, and the two RAM slots are right there.

    • Monkey mac

      Ummmm ifixit say that. You’re thinking of the previous model

      • jamesdbailey

        Actually, I think he is thinking of the new 27″ model. The 21″ model is not upgradeable. Any attempt to do so will void your warranty.

        • Mackme

          Correct Jamesbailey

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jack-N-Fran-Farrell/100002337622505 Jack N Fran Farrell

    A problem with good design of iMacs is that immobile customers can’t make their device act like it cares. What am I chopped liver. Read my lips Apple. Put two user facing cameras, two microphones, two user facing speakers with beam steering and Bose quality sound. Act like Apple respects my money 5x I mini enough to obey my voice and gesture commands like a handheld device.

  • daPrinz

    Buy the Mac with Apple care ($169) which gives you 3 years of warranty. After 3 years sell the Mac for a good price and get a new one.
    People do it with TVs, audio equipments, cellphones, video systems, media players, even cars.
    Things change over the years, why get stuck in the “upgrading model” from the past? I’m sure people are able to choose the right specs that will fit their needs for 3 years!