New iMac Teardowns Reveal Good News And Bad News For Upgraders

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Apple silently snuck up on us all yesterday with new 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs, but short of upgrading them with Haswell processors, what has really changed? As is their custom, everyone’s favorite gadget dissectors over at iFixIt have torn apart their new iMacs to find out.

There’s good news and bad news. The good news has to do with the Fusion Drive. The bad news? The CPU.

Good news first. When Apple released the new ultra-thin iMacs last year, they came with standard spinning hard drives with an option to upgrade to an SSD or Fusion Drive. However, if you bought an iMac with a hard drive, there was no extra port inside the iMac for you to add an SSD and spin your own Fusion Drive. On both the 21.-5 and 27-inch iMac models, this has now changed. “Contrary to last year’s model, users can now put in a second hard drive via the Fusion Drive SSD port, even if they don’t pick the iMac with the Fusion Drive right out of the factory,” writes iFixIt. “That port is now PCIe, which should help get drives/adapters onto the market that will enable a second hard drive installation.”

So that’s the good news. The bad news, however, is that an iMac CPU is no longer upgradeable. Says iFixIt: “The CPU is now soldered to the logic board, and no longer replaceable by the user. As far as we can tell, this is the first aluminum iMac to have a soldered CPU; it’s a silent, but clear, shift to even poorer iMac upgradeability. That’s sad news for Apple’s power user community, who appreciated the ability to upgrade their Macs on their own schedule.”

Personally, I had absolutely no idea this was even an option (and I now have visions of risking ruin and replacing the CPU on my aging 2009 iMac), but that does seem to be another step by Apple away from repairability and upgradeability.

You can find iFixIt’s 21.5-inch teardown and 27-inch teardown here.

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  • Adrayven

    CPU upgradability is WAY over rated. Only reason I say it’s bad is repair. Upgrade? pfff. By the time you would want to, the CPU tech/die has changed and you need a new motherboard ANYWAY.. this is from an experienced tech who builds systems..

    9 times out of 10, people just upgrade memory, push it to 5 year mark and buy new at that point because the current CPU tech doesn’t work in the old system!

    I call BS on the CPU upgrade complaint!

  • sirobin171

    I think we (the tech community) need to get away from worrying so much about tiny speed increases you get out of small incremental CPU upgrades. You rarely see enough benefit to justify the cost and time. I personally dont care, as long as what I have works for what I want to do. If it no longer works, than it likely just time to buy a new computer. My Apple computers last so much longer than any windows computers, cause much less frustration, so the increased cost is well worth it every few years. Trust me you add up all the problems, glitches, hardware upgrades in windows, and the fact that most people buy one cheap laptop and another, almost yearly, buying Apple makes allot more sense in the long run.

  • Mystakill

    I’m more concerned with RAM & storage upgrades, only one of which is relatively easy to accomplish, and only on the 27″ model. I still cringe at the thought of having to remove the display to access the internal drive(s).

  • calmasacow

    This is completely inaccurate saying that 2012 model was not able to upgrade to a fusion drive. At least on the 27″ that is all you need is this bit right here: http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20World%20Computing/SSDAP12R240/

    plenty of people put in the retina SSD and a 3TB HDD and made their own fusion drive.

  • Paul Burt

    Seriously, how many people have actually upgraded the CPU on their iMac?

    Non-valid complaint.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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