Tech by VICE

The Most Powerful iMac Is the One You Build Yourself

Apple's return to upgradability means you can DIY yourself a monster iMac.

by Jason Koebler
Jul 18 2017, 2:29pm

Afbeelding: Quinn Nelson

Until earlier this month, I hadn't bought a new computer since 2010. I've never owned an iMac, but the fact that the 21.5-inch version finally has upgradable RAM made me pull the trigger. My 32 GB of RAM came in the mail Friday, and I was stoked to do a DIY upgrade … until I saw this video posted by tech YouTuber Quinn Nelson. Now I feel like a dope.

Nelson has one-upped me in every possible way, stripping down a mid-tier 27-inch iMac and rebuilding it into the most powerful iMac known to man with third party parts. Nelson replaced the iMac's stock CPU with an Intel i7, added a 2TB SSD, and put in 64 GB of RAM. He says the parts cost him a total of $3,471—a lot of money!—but nearly $2,000 less than a computer with the same specs would cost direct from Apple ($5,299). For the record—Nelson said the same specs are possible with a base model, too, but he wasn't initially sure whether the CPU cooler is the same in the base- and mid-tier. Turns out they are.

Image: Quinn Nelson

Nelson's project isn't for the faint of heart, but it's also not rocket science, either: If you have any DIY skills and feel comfortable taking off the iMac's display (a few specialized tools make this much easier), the CPU and RAM are easily upgradable. Installing an extra SSD isn't terribly difficult either, but does require an adaptor and a thermal sensor to ensure that the iMac's RAM doesn't run at full speed 100 percent of the time.

After rebuilding his computer, Nelson says his DIY iMac beat Apple's top-specced factory iMac in every possible benchmark. I'm not going to Frankenstein mine into a top-end machine right off the bat, but Nelson's success makes me more confident that in a few years I can swap out a few parts and get some extra lifespan out of it.