Apple just introduced their new generation of iMac, and it’s dramatically thinner than the previous model. Over 3x thinner to be exact. So how was Apple able to pull this off?. With the previous model of iMac, Apple had to build the logic board and thermal system to accommodate Intel’s processor.
Which ran really hot and required a big fan to cool everything down. Also, Intel’s processor only served one purpose. To process information! So the iMac included other components in addition to the processor like RAM, a GPU, and a controller hub to provide the functionality every computer needs.
That resulted in a large logic board that took up a lot of space. Add together a large thermal system with a large logic board, and you get this bump that appeared on the back of the previous generation iMac. But as you can see, that bump has been removed with the new model. And that’s because of Apple’s M1 system-on-a-chip. Where they combined all the components mentioned into one.
That not only means a dramatically smaller logic board, but also much higher energy efficiency. Now you may ask, why does a desktop computer that’s always connected to power need to be energy efficient? Well, less electric running through the system results in less heat being generated.
That means we can downsize the thermal system and save even more space. So with a compact logic board and thermals, Apple realized they could probably move all the electronics from behind the iMac’s display, and squeeze them inside the chin, or the space below the display.
That way, the backside bump that’s existed with almost every model of iMac could finally be removed. But there were some challenges to this approach. The previous iMac’s chin housed important components like the audio jack, SD card slot, USB ports, an ethernet port, and a large AC power port. These would take up too much space in the new iMac, so Apple came up with some clever solutions to keep what they needed, and simply get rid of the rest.
The audio jack required at least 13mm of depth to plug in to the back of the computer, but the iMac is 11.6mm, so Apple repositioned the audio jack on the side instead. The SD card slot and standard USB-A ports were removed entirely, with the iMac offering two USB-C and Thunderbolt ports.
If users need an SD card slot, a USB-A port, or even HDMI, they could simply buy adapters instead. But what about the AC power plug? This thing is chunky by today’s standards. And it’s actually the same plug Apple has used to power the iMac since the original model in 1998!
Although it’s age wasn’t the problem, rather its size. The depth of this connector is 18.2mm. Way too big to fit inside the iMac’s 11.5mm chassis. And Apple couldn’t take the audio jack approach by positioning the power connector on the side, since that would just look ridiculous.
So they were forced to come up with a new plug altogether. And here it is. It’s shiny, perfectly round, and shallow enough to plug into the iMac. But what’s really cool is that it attaches magnetically so you don’t have to fumble around the back trying to push it in, and it has a color-matched woven fabric cable. Something Apple didn’t even do with the original colorful iMac in the 90s. But there was still one problem left for Apple to solve. And that was the ethernet port. There just wasn’t enough room for it inside the chin, but it’s one of the most important ports to include.
Business customers especially need ethernet to establish a network that’s more secure, fast, and reliable than using wireless. So how did Apple solve this problem? Well, they integrated an ethernet port into the iMac’s power supply. Which not only saves space inside the computer, but also cleans up user’s desktops since the ethernet cable will be laying on the ground instead of across their desks. So with a smaller logic board and thermal system, repositioned audio jack, a redesigned power connector, and an integrated ethernet port, Apple was able to make the new iMac just 11.5mm thick. And to put that in perspective, the original iPhone in 2007 was 11.6mm thick.
So here we are 15 years later with an entire iMac desktop computer that we can say is thinner than an iPhone. So that is how Apple made the iMac so thin!
Source: How Apple Made The iMac So Thin