A 24-inch 4K monitor & Mac mini is a good option versus the Apple Silicon iMac

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in Current Mac Hardware edited April 30
The 24-inch iMac is available to pre-order, but the lack of ports and pricing may be an issue for some. Instead, consider a Mac mini and a 24-inch monitor, and you may have cash left over.

The M1 Mac mini is cheaper, has more ports, and easier to transport than the iMac
The M1 Mac mini is cheaper, has more ports, and easier to transport than the iMac


The latest Macs have a variant of the M1 processor, but each has their own tradeoffs and expenses. So far, the Mac mini has the widest variety of ports available with the fewest number of tradeoffs.

The 24-inch iMac comes in two configurations, each with two USB 4/Thunderbolt ports. The higher-end model has two additional USB 3 Type-C ports, but they all have the limitation of supporting only one external monitor. The iMac starts at $1,299 for the two-port configuration and $1,499 for the four ports.

The Mac mini, however, has a much more economical entry price of $699 with a wider port selection. Like other M1-based Macs, it only has two USB-C USB4/Thunderbolt ports, but it also has two USB 3.2 Type-A ports, a HDMI 2.0 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a headphone jack.

It still suffers from the limitation of allowing only one external monitor over USB-C, but the HDMI port enables a second 4K monitor to be connected in tandem. That means for $699, you can have an M1 Mac with the same power as the iMac, but you'll need to bring your own monitor and keyboard.

This isn't a perfect solution, however, since the new iMac is available in seven bright colors and comes with color-matched accessories. The Mac mini is silver and the monitors mentioned are all black, so if you're looking for a cheaper utility computer without all of the colorful flashy designs, this is an option for you.

When Apple moved its iMac from 21.5 inches to 24-inches, it increased the resolution from 4K to 4.5K. This was to maintain a high pixel density at that screen size to meet Apple's definition of "Retina." The monitors you'll pair with the Mac mini will all be limited to 4K at 24-inches, but that shouldn't make much of a difference content-wise unless you're sitting inches from the display.

Add in the price of a mouse and keyboard to your Mac mini setup and you'll still come in less than the cost of a similarly specced iMac. It is also worth noting that you'll have a choice of Apple or third-party keyboard when buying a Mac mini versus being stuck with Apple's Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse (that still charges on the bottom), or Magic Trackpad.

Best 4K monitors for the Mac mini

LG 24UD58-B

LG 24UD58-B
LG 24UD58-B


This 24-inch monitor by LG has a 3850 by 2160 display with two HDMI 2.0 inputs. The basic design, black color, and multiple port options make this a great budget-friendly monitor.

The two HDMI ports and DisplayPort mean you can connect up to three devices at once. There are three game modes for when you want to connect a game console to your spare HDMI slot.

The LG 24UD58-B is available for $296.99 on Amazon.

As one of the cheapest monitor options available in this size and resolution, you'll be left with plenty of wiggle room for more expensive accessories or a Mac mini with more storage. Get the $899 Mac mini with 512GB of storage and this monitor and you'll still come in $100 under the cheapest iMac.

LG 24MD4KL-B

LG 24MD4KL-B
LG 24MD4KL-B


LG makes many monitor types, and the Ultrafine line is one of the best. The LG 24MD4KL-B is a Thunderbolt 3 monitor that can also double as a hub with its three additional USB 3 Type-C ports.

This 24-inch 4K display has a 3840 by 2160 resolution with the P3 color gamut and 500 nits of brightness. It is essentially the standard color and resolution Apple used for the 21.5-inch iMac 4K.

There are also built-in speakers, so no need to clutter your desk with extra speakers unless audio quality is a concern.

The LG 24MD4KL-B is available new on Amazon for $794.95, but a certified renewed option is available at a much more budget-friendly price of $529.99.

If you get the renewed monitor with a base-model Mac mini you'll come in $70 under the base iMac model. This setup is more expensive, but it is the closest to replicating the 24-inch iMac in price and function. The biggest difference will be the 4K display in the LG monitor versus the more dense 4.5K display in the iMac.

Dell P2415Q

Dell P2415Q
Dell P2415Q


The Dell P2415Q is a 24-inch monitor with a 4K 3840 by 2160 display. It has 99% of the sRGB color gamut and multiple connection options.

There is a standard HDMI port and a DisplayPort for connecting multiple devices. Three USB 3 Type-A ports enable charging connected devices at 2A.

This monitor can be turned on its axis 90-degrees for a new vertical view. Since the Mac mini supports an HDMI-connected monitor, this would make a great companion monitor that sits next to a Thunderbolt display.

The Dell P2415Q is available on Amazon for $699.99. There is a 27-inch option with similar specs for $629.00.

This $699 monitor paired with the $699 runs slightly more expensive than the base model iMac, but cheaper than the higher-end iMac. This means you can upgrade the Mac mini to the better M1 chip with 512GB of storage and only come out $100 more expensive than the middle iMac. Of course you'll still need a mouse and keyboard separately.

This purchase would cost about the same as the iMac depending on the configurations chosen, as mentioned, but you'll still end up with a more versatile desktop setup as the Mac mini has more ports, USB Type-A, and the ability to connect to a second monitor over Thunderbolt or HDMI.

Philips 278E1A

Philips 278E1A
Philips 278E1A


If a 24-inch display isn't too appealing, then the size of the iMac probably wasn't either. There are plenty of 27-inch 4K monitors on the market. One budget option is the Philips 278E1A with 3840 by 2160 resolution and 109% sRGB.

Increasing the screen size to 27-inches with the same 4K resolution won't affect picture quality much, but it does reduce pixel density. Apple wouldn't classify this display as "Retina," but it will still appear sharp at normal distances.

This display has two HDMI ports, a DisplayPort, and dedicated audio ports. There are also built-in speakers to keep the setup simple.

The Philips 278E1A monitor is available for $259.99 on Amazon.

This budget 27-inch monitor is another great choice when price and utility are your primary concerns. As with the cheaper LG monitor, the Philips monitor leaves plenty of room for more expensive Mac mini configurations and better accessories. Consider a mechanical keyboard, a more ergonomic mouse, or more RAM to couple with this 27-inch monitor.

Mounting the Mac mini

The versatility of the Mac mini isn't limited to just its port configuration -- it's also owed to its size. Some of these monitors don't use the VESA screws for the stand, and can be used to attach the Mac mini to the back of the display -- or television. Do so, and you'll have a cobbled together all-in-one Mac at a lower price.

HumanCentric Mac mini Mount

HumanCentric Mac mini Mount
HumanCentric Mac mini Mount


The HumanCentric Mac mini Mount lets you attach the Mac mini to your wall, desk, or even the monitor itself. It comes with VESA screws, so you can hide the tiny desktop behind the monitor and only have to manage the power cord running off the desk.

The same mount comes with wall screws and anchors for placing the Mac mini anywhere you may need, even under the desk.

The HumanCentric Mac mini Mount is available for $14.99 on Amazon.

Versatility versus style

The 24-inch iMac is a stunning computer with a slim chassis and multiple color options, but that beauty comes at a price. Not only is it expensive, but it's also less compatible unless you buy docks or dongles.

You can get a Mac mini today at any official Apple retailer versus waiting until the iMac becomes available after its May 21 launch. It's a small Mac that can be placed in a bag and carried to the office or on a trip and will easily connect to a projector or hotel TV without needing a dongle.

The Mac mini starts at $699 but can be upgraded with an additional graphics core and 512GB of storage for $899. Buy the middle-tier Mac mini with any of the monitors mentioned here, and you're still coming in under the price of an iMac with the same configuration.

For some, the utilitarian nature of the Mac mini will be more appealing than a flashy, colorful iMac with few ports. For a limited time, readers can also take advantage of exclusive M1 Mac mini deals knocking up to $110 off every configuration at Apple Authorized Reseller Adorama using promo code APINSIDER during checkout with this activation link.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 65
    ITGUYINSDITGUYINSD Posts: 301member
    Except for the Philips, those are some ugly monitors.  The new iMac 24 has it over all these with regards to aesthetics.
    oberpongorob53StrangeDaysaderutterInspiredCoderoundaboutnowblastdoorDetnatorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 65
    The Mac Mini is such a pedestrian computer. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 65
    oberpongooberpongo Posts: 163member
    I always wondered why they did not put the „Mac“ inside the base of an iMac stand in form of a Mac mini and simply produce the 24 inch screen only. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 65
    oberpongo said:
    I always wondered why they did not put the „Mac“ inside the base of an iMac stand in form of a Mac mini and simply produce the 24 inch screen only. 
    Isn’t that what Microsoft does with the Studio?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 65
    No it is not. Monitor in 24 inch size is way too small and it is ill idea of someone who does not understand principles of human vision. It is the same as marketing foolishness from years ago about 32 millions of colors while human eye can recognize about 300,000. Selling on technical specs does not pay off.

    If you really want to squeeze more information on screen that is expressed with 4K resolutions then you need minimum 27 inch monitor or better: 32 inch monitor. Tiny fonts do not work when you have to start using eyeglasses to see them. 24 inch monitor is for 1080/HD resolutions and it is old standard at this point, but popular with many applications including some office work.
    williamlondonGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 6 of 65
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,889member
    This is a valid comparison and it’s great to have options. Don’t forget to throw in a decent webcam for the Mini too, say another $80 USD. 

    The Mac Mini is by no means “ugly” but there is no denying how beautiful the new iMacs truly are. They are so thin and so clean looking and the colors are great and only add to their appeal. 

    The next gen Mac Mini is the one that I’m hoping will appeal to power users and folks who don’t mind trading off good looks for performance and versatility. 

    If I was buying a home computer for family, kids, mom & dad, etc., type of people today I’d be looking squarely at the new iMacs, no question at all. It has a smile inducing new puppy wow factor that the Mini just can’t match. 


    randominternetpersonInspiredCodeFileMakerFellerroundaboutnowrundhvidwilliamlondonwatto_cobraTRAG
  • Reply 7 of 65
    All of these displays are so ugly. I’ve tried to pull the trigger on one for my MBP, but I can’t do it. I don’t want to support poor design. 
    StrangeDaysaderuttertokyojimuroundaboutnowDetnatorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 65
    I have a 32” monitor, an Apple KB, trackpad. Connected to my 2017 MacBook. Option One: Sell it all, and get a new iMac. Or Option 2: just get a MacMini. I’m leaning towards Option One. :)
    rob53InspiredCodewatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 65
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,330member
    I was waiting on the iMac refresh and was ready and waiting to buy it, but went for the Mac Mini instead. They got greedy by dumping a neutered model in at £1249, I doubt I'm the only one they pushed to the Mac Mini by them doing that.
    edited April 30
  • Reply 10 of 65
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,689member
    ITGUYINSD said:
    Except for the Philips, those are some ugly monitors.  The new iMac 24 has it over all these with regards to aesthetics.
    Yeah what the hell. Is it still the '00s? 
    InspiredCoderoundaboutnowDetnatorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 65
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,890member
    No it is not. Monitor in 24 inch size is way too small 
    The M1 iMac has a 24 inch screen, how can a Mac mini with a third party 24 inch screen not be a good option because of the size of the screen?  It's the same.

    Many people are satisfied with 24 inches.  It's plenty big for a monitor.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 12 of 65
    No it is not. Monitor in 24 inch size is way too small and it is ill idea of someone who does not understand principles of human vision. It is the same as marketing foolishness from years ago about 32 millions of colors while human eye can recognize about 300,000. Selling on technical specs does not pay off.

    If you really want to squeeze more information on screen that is expressed with 4K resolutions then you need minimum 27 inch monitor or better: 32 inch monitor. Tiny fonts do not work when you have to start using eyeglasses to see them. 24 inch monitor is for 1080/HD resolutions and it is old standard at this point, but popular with many applications including some office work.
    That's why Macs do pixel doubling. A Mac running at 4K has text as large and readable as 1080P but it is twice as sharp compared to actual 1080P. Windows can't do this yet, which is why there are no PC 5K 27" monitors, the text would be too small on Windows but its fine on pixel doubled Macs like the 27" iMac.
    edited April 30 randominternetpersonInspiredCodeFileMakerFellerrundhvidwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 65
    No it is not. Monitor in 24 inch size is way too small and it is ill idea of someone who does not understand principles of human vision. It is the same as marketing foolishness from years ago about 32 millions of colors while human eye can recognize about 300,000. Selling on technical specs does not pay off.

    If you really want to squeeze more information on screen that is expressed with 4K resolutions then you need minimum 27 inch monitor or better: 32 inch monitor. Tiny fonts do not work when you have to start using eyeglasses to see them. 24 inch monitor is for 1080/HD resolutions and it is old standard at this point, but popular with many applications including some office work.
    That DPI might be fine for video games, but I want a high DPI screen for work. A 32” screen would be great, but that should be at least 6K. A 1080p 24” screen would be a pixelated mess. There should be a minimum of 4 pixels per point. The PC market only really builds gaming screens.
    edited April 30 roundaboutnowwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 65
    Yep, the 32” iMac will likely have a 6k display. Here’s hoping.

    I’ve looked and looked and can’t find a monitor that would satisfy me coming from a 5K Retina iMac.

    I do think the 24” iMac is very, very good value, when you compare the cost of a comparable Mac Mini with Apple Keyboard, Apple Mouse - the 4.5K display with good speakers and webcam is only costing about $450 which makes it a bargain to get a retina display for that.
    FileMakerFellerjdb8167Detnatorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 65
    RickDawgRickDawg Posts: 1member
    Don’t forget a microphone and the necessary desktop   area to hold them and the WIRE(s). 

    Plus the focal area of a separate camera when you’re looking at the screen. 
    williamlondonthtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 65
    colinskycolinsky Posts: 4member
    I was waiting for the M1x 5K iMac. 24" is not right for me, so I decided on an M1 Mini and an LG 27" 5K. This way, when the M1x Mini is released (or M2, or whatever they call it) I can swap in the M1 mini and not have to buy another monitor each time I buy a new Mac. 

    I always alternated between humping up for the best Mac I could afford one year, and then the best monitor I could afford the next year. When my 2009 Mac Pro aged out, though, the trashcan Mac Pro was outside my reach, and I went for a better-speced Late 2015 27" iMac. 

    Now I'm addicted to the 27" retina screen. Previous iMacs could be used as external monitors, but not any more. My LG Ultrafine 27" arrived today--thank you, COVID check!

    roundaboutnowwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 65
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,645member
    I've struggled with this for a while. I went so far as to get a 27" UHD monitor and it is currently being driven by a 2009 27" iMac as a second monitor. My thinking was that having the CPU and monitor separate, any update later would be easier - if a new CPU came along, but the screen was still ok, no need to replace it all. And of course, vice versa. The new iMac is perfect for my wife's needs, and one is on the way. I suspect when I see it...well...I'll need one too, and that UHD monitor will be the second screen for it. Then...no messing around with a good camera. I suddenly need a good webcam during covid. 

    Options are good.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 65
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 629member
    Only if you get the Intel Mini now while you still can. 

    There's a reason it's more expensive than the M1 junk.  It's worth it.

    (And go for a bigger monitor.  24" is kinda tiny these days.)
  • Reply 19 of 65
    I really want to buy the new iMac 24”, but how do I combine it with my PlayStation 5? I have only room for one monitor on my desk.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 65
    Sharpness (pixel pitch) is my priority, having been spoiled by my 5K iMac. With this in mind, I would accept the smaller real estate of a 24" 4K monitor over a larger size 4K monitor.

    Too bad the 4K monitors shown are so ugly.

    Too bad 5K monitors are still so expensive (you can get a new 24" iMac for the price of a 5K monitor!). I would put up with some ugly for a reasonably priced 27" 5K.

    Too bad there isn't a separate 24" 4.5K monitor yet. Hopefully soon (but please don't be ugly or expensive!).

    Interesting to note that Dell's 32" 8K is lower price than Apple's 32" 6K (not that I would pay that kind of money for either). The Dell actually looks decent too, but as near as I can tell, 8K support on Macs not a given yet.
    watto_cobra
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