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iMac and it’s 360-degree lifecycle

iMac is back with another new lease of life – but what’s next?

iMac - M3 Apple silicon- what's next

iMac – one small word that conjures up so much thought and emotion.

I don’t know why, but whenever I go to an Apple Store the first thing I always check out are the iMacs on display. To me they define Mac and the release of the latest iteration of it has only served to highlight just how much I love them.

Even though my current Mac lineup comprises an M1 Max MacBook Pro, a 27-inch Intel iMac and an M2 MacBook Air, last week, whenever I could I sat and worked on the new M3 iMac, sure – some of that will be the new toy syndrome, I know that, but I always feel most at home when working on an iMac. Yeah, my MacBook is quicker and my Air more portable, but the iMac is just damned alluring and appealing.

iMac’s 1st week

I’ve had the M3 iMac on my desk now for just over a week and I have precious little negative to say about it.

Although mine is the base model, it has performed ever so well and has proven to me just how far Apple silicon has come in three years. I’ve written my blogs on it in Ulysses and done the normal day-to-day emailing and accounts-type stuff on it.

When it comes to the audio and Macs I nearly always use either desk monitors or AirPods Max but last week I gave the onboard 6-speaker array a go – and they are very, very useable – I was pleasantly surprised. If you are looking for decent sound without the need to clutter your desk with extra gubbins, these speakers will hit the mark – I promise!

Although the 1080p FaceTime HD camera has no Stage Manager facility (which is odd given the market that this iMac is supposedly aimed at) it’s a way, way better unit than the one that shipped with the Studio Display for example. The colour is better and the image seems less compressed. Put it this way, it’s now perfectly useable – which again saves you laying out more cash on webcams.

I’d stop short of saying the three mics are studio quality, but for built-in mics, on the FaceTime calls I’ve used, they’ve performed well and people say they sound good at the other end.

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Stress testing

I even decided to push the 8 GB of RAM on this iMac and do some basic video editing on it. I’ve loaded Adobe’s Creative Cloud onto it already as those apps are essentials to my day.

I record a free members’ weekly newsletter (you can subscribe to it here) and last week, I recorded it on the iPhone 15 Pro Max in ProRes and in log. The 15-minute file was 60 GB and I was editing from a Samsung T7 SSD external drive.

Even though that was a pretty knurly file, the basic configs on the M3 iMac dealt with it fine – well from an editing point of view at least. It was so keen on rendering and exporting it, but it did get the job done – and it got it done silently. Not bad for a Mac that is supposed to just sit in a kitchen and do nothing intense right?

Overall the first week or so with my latest iMac has been everything I’d hoped – but it got me thinking about the lifecycle of the iMac.

25 years on

iMac is 25 years old and it seems to have gone full cycle.

When Steve Jobs first unveiled it in 1998 the vision was to create a consumer-level Mac that was simple to use, easy to get online with and relatively inexpensive.

That original iMac was a massive and bold departure from what had gone before. Gone were the traditional, boring beige body and floppy disk drives and in their place came sleek, funky colours, USB ports and CD-ROMs. Although at the time this was a risky move, it was proven to be the right course to take. A legend had been born.

The first G3 gave way to the G4 which had a dome-shaped base and fully articulated arm. The next iteration was the G5 – which was the first Mac that used Intel inside. That was the last of the pretty, playful Macs and by 2007 the now familiar & famed anodised aluminium body made its first appearance.

And that was to prove to be the pivot point for the iMac brand – suddenly it was seen as a serious workhorse and not just a plaything.

Going pro

The iMac possibly reached its zenith in 2017 when the Xeon processor-based 27-inch iMac Pro was launched. Make no mistakes, this was a serious bit of kit and was the best stop-gap if you couldn’t quite stretch to the full-blown Mac Pro.

But now, in this current lineup of Apple silicon Macs, there is no place for the iMac Pro or even a large iMac for that matter. In a recent video of mine, the comment I got most was that Mac users wanted a large iMac – and as much as I don’t blame them, I just can’t see it.

For under £700, you could buy a Mac mini which is a little powerhouse and hook it up to a £1500 Studio Display and you’d have yourself a brilliant desktop set-up for just over £2000. Then of course, if you outgrew the Mac mini, with the Studio Display already on your desk, you have the option of buying a Mac Studio or even a Mac Pro. I can hear the argument of these options not being all-in-one Macs and I’ll take that – but they are equally very quick and modular desktop solutions that would suit any workflow.

Full circle

With the return of colours to the iMac 3 years ago, the iMac has now pretty much gone full circle.

Those first iMacs were all colourful and cute but gradually through their lifespan grew up to become the iMac Pro and a real choice for professionals. I think the iMac brand ended up hitting above its weight for a few years. Was it ever supposed to be a pro-level machine or did it just iterate and fill a gap?

It’s fair to say that the Mac lineup has had its ups and downs over the years. As of now, we are in a halcyon period and spoilt for choice with Macs at every price point. As I mentioned earlier, even my base level M3 iMac can carry out work that only three years back would have been unfathomable on such lowly spec’d workstations.

That is the reason I not only can’t see there being a place for a new, large iMac but also have concerns for the iMac full-stop. I think it will survive being culled, but by and large, desktops in general now are struggling for a market share – the world now is all about portability and Apple has that section covered with the awesome MacBook Air and MacBook Pros – and that is without even mentioning iPads. You want portability – you’ve got it by the bucket load with Apple.

I’d like to believe that somewhere deep down Apple has a tiny bit of sentiment left and will let the iMac legacy remain to fight on for a few more years. Almost more than any other Mac – that one is directly linked back to Steve Jobs and is the Mac that saved Apple from shutting its doors for good a quarter of a century ago.

It’s so easy to become nostalgic and think back to all the great days spent with our iMacs and possibly even iMac Pros – they’ve become part of a Mac user’s DNA and culture. In reality, there is no need any longer for an iMac – but need and want are two very different beasts.

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