The new iMac 24-inch is beautiful, so why is Apple forcing me to add an ugly peripheral?

The iMac 24-inch (2021) has VERY limited ports, and you're the one who has to solve that problem

Apple iMac 2021
(Image credit: Apple)

The new iMac 24-inch (2021) has blown people away with its ultra-slim, ultra-colourful design. It's a gorgeous computer, and managed make the biggest splash in an event that debuted a whole new Apple product in the form of Apple AirTag, and included a bit of a revolution for the iPad Pro (2021) with its new screen and M1 processor. That's damn impressive.

But the cheapest model only has two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports for connectivity – that's it for data. Two ports total. While the next model up in the range adds two more USB-C ports, that's still a complete lack of support for any accessories with older connection types.

Apple's problem is obvious: the incredible 11.5mm thinness that makes it look so good is simply not deep enough for a regular USB Type-A connector. I just measured one on my desk, and it's 12.5mm, and that doesn't include the bits you'd need to plug it into.

It has this problem with the 3.5mm headphone jack too, but Apple moved that over to the side of the iMac, solving the problem. Moving the USB ports to the side would lead to some extraordinarily ugly cabling, so I can see why it wouldn't want to do that.

But the end result is still annoying: you need to add some kind of adapter if you want USB Type-A, or an SD card reader and so on. The cheaper iMac model doesn't include the Ethernet connection on the power brick that the more expensive version does, either.

So the adapter is something of a hidden cost to buying this iMac if you have lots of accessories you want it to work with. Bear in mind that the previous iMac was pretty damn healthy for ports, so if someone wants this iMac as a straight replacement for an old model, they're going to find themselves with lots of cables with nowhere to go.

So you have to buy an adapter. Fine, I'll commit to that… but why are they all so ugly? The options on Apple's site are okay looking if you barely need any ports, and nasty black boxes if they do include a decent number of connections.

CalDigit Thunderbolt dock

This is the most comprehensive option that Apple sells. Not exactly an aesthetic match for your iMac.

(Image credit: CalDigit)

I'm buying a gorgeous new computer, and I accept that it being such a cool design means I'll need an adapter for ports… and now I've got some dark lump on my desk interfering with the look.

If Apple had made (or worked with another company) on a sleek USB-C/Thunderbolt dock in the same colour finishes as the iMac, that fits neatly to the stand, then hey – the cost is frustrating, but it doesn't spoil the look. That's a satisfactory solution.

But a look through the dock options on the Apple Store – the products you can buy along with your iMac – makes it feel like no one at Apple cares about consistent aesthetics, which is clearly not the case.

You can buy different dock options from other companies, of course, but most people will want to buy along with their computer, trusting in Apple's quality control for the products it sells. And even if you do look elsewhere, there's nothing that actually looks good enough for these iMacs.

It's such a sharp bubble burst to get this incredible-looking machine set up on your desk, and then to have to attach something that looks like a modem from 1998. For a design so radical, I wish Apple had committed to keeping it that way for people who can't commit to a totally wireless future yet.

Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.