iMac: 21.5" vs. 27"

Discussion in 'iMac' started by JABacchetta, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Nov 12, 2012
    I'm purchasing a new, fully-loaded iMac when they come out, but I haven't decided on the monitor size yet.

    I've read a few other threads discussing everyone's preference between the 21.5-inch and the 27-inch monitors, but most of the responses don't really seem to be that logical. The trending answer seems to be "because the 27-inch looks cool."

    I'd like to hear more analytical reasoning from those who have experience on them, especially if you work from your computer. Here's what I've come up with so far:

    - The 27 would obviously be better for watching movies. Although, personally I watch movies on my TV from the comfort of my couch, so this "pro" doesn't get any points with me.

    - The 21.5 is easier to navigate, with less mouse movement. This might seem a little finicky to some, but I spend upwards of 15 hours a day on my computer, so any sort of stress reduction on my eyes and/or hands is a plus.

    - Some say that the 27 is better for multitasking (i.e. opening two windows side by side). I personally never liked side-by-side on the same monitor. I'd prefer two monitors for multitasking. But maybe it's something that takes getting used to, or maybe I just need a large screen like the 27" to appreciate side by side windows, or maybe I just need to become more efficient at it? Not sure.

    - From my understanding, the 21.5 would be better for gaming, taking up less of the GPU resources. But I know that the fully-upgraded 27 is slightly more powerful than the fully-upgraded 21.5, so maybe this point is moot?

    - The 27 uses more energy.

    - The 27 takes up more space.

    In summary, if you watch movies on your computer, get the 27-inch. Otherwise, get the 21.5-inch.

    Agree? Disagree? Additional pros and cons to add?
  2. macrumors 6502

    Apr 8, 2010
    I'll repost what I wrote before:

    Having only wanting to get a 27" at first, I've decided to get the 21" in the end, after a LONG time deciding, heres why:

    the 21" has more of a traditional desktop computer experience, it just feels more like a computer its more comfortable.

    the 27" is just a monster, its extreme..its like a TV/workhorse for editing/zooming/cad/coding/having lots of
    things opened at once, as many people have noted they seldom use the space

    it is overwhelming, you can't sit close to it, and if you have a smaller room it looks way too big in it.

    you have to turn your head side to side and drag the mouse a lot to get to things

    everything looks tiny on the 27" the pics, the videos, the text, icons on webpages etc etc and was giving me eye fatigue after 10 minutes of use, its just not a computer for casual everyday use
  3. macrumors 6502a


    Dec 21, 2010
    I was going to get the 21 inch, but I'm wanting to upgrade the ram and also, perhaps further increase the ram if I needed to in the future.

    With the 21 inch model it's not possible to upgrade the ram, with the 27 inch there is a access panel to get to the ram slots.

    I was in front of a 27 inch iMac (old model) in my PC World last week. I was using Safari mostly and was standing around 2ft away from the screen and I did not suffer any eye fatigue. I would think the larger screen would reduce eye strain because of its larger size.

    Best thing to do re eye strain, is to go into a shop that sell the iMac and have a play around with it for an hour (like what I did) and see how your eyes feel. With any computer, it's advisable to take breaks away from the screen no matter what the size of the screen is.
  4. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 12, 2012
    Thanks, that about sums up what I've been contemplating these past few weeks. I make my living from an online magazine, and I also do a bit of work in Photoshop, so there are times when I'm zoomed in or have dozens of browser tabs open at one time, but I do all of that on my 20-inch screen now, and I can't figure out exactly how a 27-inch would improve my productivity. I can see how dual monitors might help me, but not a massive screen.

    I found myself being swayed by all of the "get the 27-inch or you'll regret it" posts, but nobody really gave any good reasons as to why the 27 was better. I'm becoming more confident in my near-decision to purchase a 21.5 now.


    Thanks for the response. I can see that being a factor for some. Personally I'll be configuring my 21.5 with 16GB, and that's all I'll ever need, so that won't play into my decision.

    As for eye strain, I'd probably need to emulate my work habits and spend a LONG time at the computer in one sitting to really get an idea. I know that some people complain about the glossy screens. I'm really hoping this won't be a big deal for me.
  5. macrumors regular

    Nov 2, 2009
    My decision to get the 21.5" came about two seconds after standing in front of a 27" in the store. Just too darn big. I don't like sitting in the front row of a movie theatre either. I work with text and can easily switch between applications using different Desktops.
  6. macrumors 6502a


    Dec 21, 2010
    If you sure 16 GB will be enough and you are happy with the 21 inch size, then i would say that will be a good choice for you.

    The new iMac's screens are apparently 75 percent less reflective than the older models, so the complaints about glossy screens should be less with the new iMac.
  7. macrumors member


    Feb 21, 2009
    To be honest, aside from specs, you really do have to compare the imac to the size of your room. In an Apple Store the 27" looks just right. I wouldn't use a 21" in a room that size. If you have a home studio or office, 27" should be perfect. If you have a small room with a bookshelf, desk, and bed, I would go for the 21".

    That aside, I used to own a 24" and I felt that size was perfect... too bad its aspect ratio isn't as great for movies as is on today's machines.
  8. macrumors newbie

    Sep 25, 2012
    Can anyone directly address this? I am very curious about this too. I want to use my iMac for some moderate gaming, but I'm not sure JUST how much more powerful the 27" will be compared to the 21" once you factor in the increased computational power required to display that huge screen. Can anyone help?
  9. macrumors regular

    Aug 29, 2006
    i would say go with 21.5". actually the fact apple discontinued 24" imac and go with 24" and 27" is a disaster.

    lots of people will tell you bigger screen is always better, this is simply NOT TRUE. i've personally bought 27" imac and 27 thunderbolt, i returned them TWICE. I have good eyesight, but the text on the screen is way too small for me. not that i can't see it, but it caused serious eye fatigue after watching the screen for over an hour. however if you sit closer to the screen, you have to turn head around in order to fully use the space of the screen, which is the reason why many people don't fully use the big screen at all.

    the 27 may be good for people who do lots of photo editing, or watch movies, but definitely not for people who work with text or webpages a lot. like you, i don't watch movies on computer, i prefer watching it on tv (ipad mirror play to Apple TV), which is a much better experience than on iMac.

    btw, i think apple will upgrade its 21.5 iMac to 24" sooner or later, maybe in couple of years or maybe even 5 years.
  10. macrumors 6502

    Apr 8, 2010
    I had the 24" and also thought it was a bit too big because you had to look up...21.5" is perfect
  11. Icaras, Nov 13, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2012

    macrumors 601


    Mar 18, 2008
    California, United States
    I certainly agree with your first statement. And I'm not saying the 27" is of lesser quality at all. It's just people will have different sized desks, different sized setups, and different uses of their iMac. And if one were to opt for the top end 21.5", it will be no slouch in performance either. If we were to look back at the 2011 iMac benchmarks, then we can expect the 2012 21.5" to be the top 2nd performer in the entire iMac lineup.

    Same here. I view all my video content through Apple TV connected to my 55" LED TV in the living room. I also prefer it this way. What I do extensively on the iMac however is game, and this is where some may find the 27" display a blast to use. However, I wouldn't settle less than the top end models of each size for gaming.

    Every screen size upgrade, at least within the last 3 redesigns (not including this one), was introduced when the iMac was redesigned, so it may be in 3 years in 2015 that we'll see a 24" and perhaps a 30".
  12. macrumors 6502

    Apr 8, 2010
    doubt it, look at what happened to MBP 17"
  13. macrumors 601


    Mar 18, 2008
    California, United States
    Yea I agree. Screen sizes probably have plateaued. I'm pretty sure the focus now for Apple is to get machines up to retina display spec instead of simply increasing display size.
  14. macrumors member

    Nov 8, 2012
    As usual it's all about what you are going to use your iMac for and your personal preferences.

    I personally would never go for the 21.5" cause it's too small. I've gotten used to big screens with a lot of space which increases my work flow. Going for anything smaller than 24" would be a pain in the ass for me.

    Obviously the 27" will also last longer considering that you can upgrade the RAM on it and the GPU (GTX 680MX) is a lot better then ones on the 21.5".
  15. macrumors 68000

    Jun 25, 2003
    Agree. I have a 24" iMac at home and a 24" monitor on my Mac Pro at work, and I wouldn't want a smaller display. I frequently have more than one application window in view at a time, but have to constantly play around with sizes to see what I want. The extra pixels will make this easier. The 27" iMac is the same vertical height as mine and about 3" wider. I have a fairly large desk, so it won't be overwhelming. The other options on the 27" vs the 21.5" are also a plus. So I'll be going for the 27" when it finally ships.
  16. macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2012
    I'm another one for the 27".

    I need to work with multiple windows visible so even going back ten years ago my main travelling machine was a Dell 16" notebook with 1920x1200 resolution. Didn't do a lot for my eyesight, but it fulfilled the need. It's still around now running Windows XP but hooked up to a more legible 23" monitor.

    If you have poor eyesight, one option, of course, is to run the 27" monitor at a lower resolution.
  17. macrumors newbie

    Feb 28, 2011
    I was initially apprehensive as well about choosing a 27" screen. I can tell you, it seems humongous at first and then everything else you use seems small. Depending on your workflow, I don't like OSX for multiple monitor use. Only having one toolbar is a serious pain. That being said, the extra screen real estate of the 27" more than makes up for only having one screen.

    I use a wacom tablet and trackpad so I can't comment on how much arm movement will increase with a mouse but it would be less than 2 monitors I assume.

    I like to setup multiple 'Spaces' for all of the programs I use daily and then have the first "space" setup with tiled programs that are more ancillary. email, itunes, browser, etc. That way, with the trackpad, I can swipe between programs without moving the cursor back and forth everywhere.

    I should mention that I am a designer, so most of my work is done in Adobe and having the huge screen feels really spacious and comfortable. It almost removes the disconnected feeling of working in a digital realm when your entire view is what you are working on and you are using a pen tablet.

    The huge size definitely isn't necessary, but once you use it, it's not fun going backwards.
  18. macrumors newbie

    Nov 12, 2012
    This moves off the Mac subject, but I am in design school, and I am beginning to build my workspace more (starting with the new iMac). Which Wacom tablet would you recommend for Adobe programs and video editing? I dream of the Cintiq, but it isn't happening any time soon. The medium intuos seems like my best option.
  19. macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2012
    I absolutely see no reason to plunk down serious $ for the 27", unless you seriously require the screen real estate, and more computing and graphical processing (e.g., photo-editing, video-editing, graphics work, etc.) I don't consider gaming, justification for going all out on the 27" iMac. Spending over $3,000 just to game is ridiculous in my opinion. The lack of user accessible RAM and upgrade is a silly argument against the 21.5". After all, it can be upgraded to 16GB, which is more than plenty for today's day and age (only a remote few require 32GB, which is far and in between what is required for today by even the most demanding applications). I would get the fully maxed out 21.5" if the budget allows, if not, the higher end model with 16GB of RAM is a no-brainer. But hey, to each his own. I'm just making sense of my own purchase.
  20. macrumors 68010


    Jun 18, 2009
    FEMA Region VIII
    The 24" iMac was really the sweet spot in my opinion (I have a 24" iMac + 24" Cinema Display), but this setup fits -perfectly- on my desktop.

    If you have the space for a 27" and you can afford the 27", I don't see any good reason to bother with the 21.5".
  21. macrumors regular

    Jun 26, 2012
    Near Glasgow - Scotland
    I have a 24" but far prefer the larger 27". I use my computer for all sorts of Text, Graphics and Video work. My iMac is a great multitasker, so it is nice to have multiple windows open that can be easily viewed without having to move stuff around all the time. I work at around 40-50cms from my screen and have no problems with eye fatigue or having to move my head around to view the screen. I have plenty desk space inform of my Mac so plenty of room to rest my arms on the desk and to position and use a mouse, keyboard and touchpad where they are comfortable and easy to use. I also use an EyeTV tuner so often have a TV Tuner window running on my screen while working.

    However the iMac is easy to connect to other monitors and I currently have it connected to an HP 23" monitor via a display port adaptor. So a viable option is to get the 21.5 " and if you want more Screen estate then add an additional monitor. You will have trouble finding a display as good as the Imacs ones though. I have two HP23" monitors and looking forward to running both connected to a new iMac with twin Thunderbolt ports.
  22. macrumors 6502

    Jun 8, 2007
    it's like hdtv's you should ALWAYS get the biggest available for the available space :D
  23. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 29, 2008
    Not going to debate the other rationale since they are purely subjective. However a fully upgraded 2012 27" iMac will be much faster at gaming than a fully upgraded 21.5". Even though the resolution is higher (about 1.8x) on the 27" the 680MX is multiple times faster than the 650M on the 21.5".
  24. macrumors member

    Apr 27, 2012
    Seattle, WA
    I definitely recommend the 27". It offers more space, better performance, and is great for media consumption, productivity, or anything you really need.

    While 21.5" is a "comfortable" size, the screen size is arguably too small in today's world. The reason I say this is b/c multitasking on a screen that size is lackluster at best, and nowadays everyone has multiple windows open at the same time.

    Personally, I don't have any eye fatigue problems with the 27". Yes, things are small, but most programs offer a way to enlarge things so they're comfortable on the eyes. I really enjoy the space - it's better to not use it but know you have it than to not have it at all.
  25. macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2011
    I allready have an 21.5 2011 base imac in my office. I am a dentist and I use it for general purpose work (and some gaming when I don't have a patient)!

    For my home I am planning to get an 27" one. I have a bigger desk at home and I believe it is going to be better for general use from all the family!

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