The text below comes from a shooting script for the video above; it may not perfectly reflect the dialogue of that video.
One of these is a computer. And one is Apple’s new Studio Display. But which is which? We invited several iFixiters who have never seen the insides of these devices to guess.
Last week we got a little ahead of ourselves and popped the Studio Display open during our Mac Studio teardown—we’ve got the link in the description if you missed it—but we’re back for a deeper dive into this dense display.
This Display doesn’t just look like an iMac, it opens like one too. An iMac opening tool makes short work of the splittable foam adhesive, and, just like the M1 iMac, there’s no “chin” to rest the display on.
Safely on its back, let’s use some heavy duty suction cups to lift the display just enough to free the display connectors. And here’s the reason so many were fooled, it looks a lot like an Intel iMac in here.
Like a kid in a candy store, I’m not sure where to start, but since everyone is talking about it, let’s grab that disappointing webcam first. Every single review says the camera quality is terrible. It’s easy to blame the hardware. But is it really the camera’s fault? Little plastic shield, some copper tape, and this 12MP Ultra Wide camera pops right out.
The iPhone 11 selfie camera from a couple years ago is also a 12MP Ultrawide and they look… pretty much identical. Hardware-wise, a 3-year-old sensor is perfectly capable of packing a better punch than all these reviewers are seeing—megapixels aren’t all that matter. Apple says they’re working on a fix, and it’s entirely possible that a software update will save this little disaster.
Since this is a Display, we should probably check out well… the display, right? This is exactly the same display as the 5K iMac, and while a 60 hertz LCD isn’t much to write home about these days V, at least Apple has a native 5K display without the computer attached!
Stand and Cable
After removing the hinge screws, we find a different way to remove that stubborn power cord. It takes way less force than some have had to use, and we didn’t even need Apple’s fancy wheel to do it.
Now on to the fun stuff. I’m dying to get to both of these power supplies, I’ve never seen board cutouts for capacitors before! Apple never does it the easy way. It’s a huge amount of engineering effort and cost to design a slim power supply like this. Keeping the power supply in the display drove three design decisions that make this really different from the iMac:
- First, these massive fans are here to dissipate heat from the power supply, which generates much more heat than the simple A13 processor.
- Second, a split power supply board with complicated cutouts for the thicker components—Apple’s power engineering team clearly put a lot of effort into this.
- And last, the Studio Display is about 50% thicker than the iMac. If they had gone with an external power supply, this thing could have been the same exact design as the iMac.
Next up, the brains of the operation. With an A13 Bionic chip and 64 GB of storage for some reason, this iMac mini is most of the way to a giant iPhone—it even runs iOS!
These speakers may not be quite as slick as the ultra-thin chambers we saw in the M1 iMac, but they’re certainly impressive for a display.
Don’t be fooled by the two simple Torx screws or the adhesive poking over the edge, these suckers are glued down tight—no stretch release tabs in sight.
Extra vibration in a speaker system is a major problem, Apple has even engineered some exciting force canceling woofers to keep it in check. So glue isn’t surprising or even bad, it is, however, really, really annoying.
Last but not least, let’s talk ports. This 27” 5K Retina display features three USB-C ports, and since it only has one Thunderbolt 4, you can’t daisy chain more displays. If you do want multiple screens, your computer has to drive them.
Swap that third USB-C for a Thunderbolt, add a headphone jack, and you’ve got yourself an iMac. There is one other port on the iMac, the ethernet port—but it didn’t fit inside the aggressively thin form factor, so they banished it to the external power supply.
It’s wild to see what might be an alternate universe iMac. If nothing else, it’s an impressive testament to Apple’s ability to solve problems. If they can make a power supply this thin, I think they can figure out how to make repairs safe and easy. Our door is always open!
Did we miss anything in our teardown speed run? Which device are you still looking forward to seeing torn down? Check out our Mac Studio teardown while you wait, and we’ll catch you next time!