Apple’s new 21.5″ iMac with 4K Retina screen has user replaceable RAM and modular CPU

Apple during the Worldwide Developers Conference refreshed the iMac lineup with faster Intel chips and updated internal architecture. Good folks over at iFixit have now taken Apple’s new $1,299 21.5-inch iMac model that has a 4K Retina display, discovering something really interesting.

The machine features both removable RAM (via a pair of removable SO-DIMM slots) and Intel’s Kaby Lake processor that—surprisingly—sits in a standard LGA 1151 CPU socket rather than being soldered onto the logic board.

The modular CPU design suggests owners of the all-in-one desktop might be able to replace or upgrade the CPU in the future without a reflow station. The last time the 21.5-inch iMac had user-replaceable RAM was back in 2013. 2012 models of the 21.5-inch iMac also came with a modular CPU.

The stock configuration they tore apart had Intel’s SR32W Core i5-7400 Kaby Lake chip, 8GB of 2400MHz DDR4 memory, a Radeon Pro 555 graphics card with 2GB of VRAM and a 1TB 5400-RPM hard drive.

According to iFixit:

Our teardown confirms that the new 21.5-inch iMac with 4K display has both removable RAM and a modular CPU. Of course, Apple would say neither is user-replaceable. Accessing and replacing these components isn’t exactly easy, but we’re saying it’s possible. Maybe even probable.

A tinker-happy user (armed with the right tools and guide) could at least double the base 8 GB of memory, turning their new iMac with Retina Display into an iMac Semi-Pro.

Here’s the machine’s socketed CPU.

Other teardown highlights:

  • A warranty void sticker on the heat sink discourages users from removing the modular CPU underneath.
  • The Retina display is manufactured by LG Display.
  • There’s a single microphone below the display vs. dual microphones on previous models
  • CMOS battery is replaceable
  • A built-in 3.5-inch SATA hard drive is upgradeable
  • There’s no SSD connector on the board

And here’s the user-replaceable RAM module.

Despite the upgradable RAM and CPU, iFixit gave the machine a 3/10 for repairability.

That’s because the computer is difficult to open as everything is buried under “a finicky glass panel,” in iFixit’s own words. A speciality pizza-cutter-like tool is required to breach the adhesive before any repair.

And because the cover glass and the Retina display itself are fused together, the cost of a display replacement will be high.

At any rate, this is still good news for anyone in the market for a new iMac. Upgradability is paramount with all-in-one designs like iMac’s. And with replaceable RAM and CPU, customers will be able to get more use and more years out of their computer.