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iMac – my 1st BIG love affair

I have much to thank and blame iMac for. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane…

iMacs - the best of Macs

You always remember your first love right…where you met and those first moments together – well that is how it was for me and the iMac.

I can remember where I bought it, the day of the week and I think I can even picture my server that day too – odd isn’t – but ‘dem dares de facts!

It’ ’s part of what draws me back to iMacs every time.

Not the first…

The iMac was not my first Mac – that honour fell to a first-gen MacBook Air – and that was an odd relationship.

I was over the moon and excited to get my hands on my first Mac – it seemed like a big moment and a tediously long time coming. Although moving to macOS was all I’d hoped for, the happiness was marred by the fact that the MacBook Air was too small for my iTunes library. The store – not an Apple Store but an official re-seller was super helpful and re-mapped my library to an external drive, but it just never felt quite perfect after that moment – damaged goods as it were. It never felt quite good enough.

The main thing that came from using that MacBook Air though was that it showed me what working on a Mac was all about – and I knew I wanted more – which is where my iMac odyssey began.

So the story starts…

Just one year after buying that MacBook Air – I went back to that same store one Thursday and picked up my first iMac. Although it was still an off-the-shelf model it was a big step up from the MacBook Air that I had been working on. This was to be a proper daily workhorse and became my main Mac for around three or four years.

The design of it I still think looks pretty sharp now – very angular and meaningful. Some of the aspects may look a little dated now – the very thick black bezels, deep chin and boxiness but overall I think it would hold its own against many 2023 machines.

One of the things that first caught my eye was the display – it seemed almost like a space-age display coming from PCs. Glossy, bright, dense blacks and zingy, strong colours. Just from a display point of view alone, I knew there would be no turning back…

It was quick too – at least for what I was doing back then – don’t forget this goes back over a decade. I was starting to use In Design and Photoshop and this thing was flying! I upgraded the RAM – remember when we could do that on iMacs – which made it run even quicker. This time I was a fully satisfied Mac owner – no feeling of damaged goods here!

One mistake I made was buying it with a spinning disk drive and not an SSD – a mistake once made and never repeated. The boot-up times weren’t great and from memory, opening apps wasn’t too snappy – but…every morning I got to the desk I just wanted to work!

Eventually, I got the drive swapped over to an SSD which kept me able to use this Mac even as my demands on it grew.

But just check out the I/Owe used to get on base iMacs – a FireWire port, four USB 2 ports and an SD card reader too – oh – and a CD/DVD player as well.

I guess because of the dimensions of an iMac and the internal space it has the speakers have always sounded decent – plenty of grunt, loud enough and with decent bass iMacs have always sounded fantastic. And speaking of I/O we also used to get not only a headphone jack but also an audio line-in jack.

Damn, we were spoiled…

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Time to get serious

Still loving using Macs it was time to trade up and move on.

My workflow was getting more intense and the 21.5-inch iMac was starting to struggle. I wanted more power and a larger display to work on – so with previous lessons learned, I ordered my next iMac – this time with an eye to my needs.

I made sure it had an SSD, and 1 TB of storage which seemed huge at the time and I got the internals beefed up as well.

As I mentioned I was already a big fan of the iMacs displays, but the 27-inch 5K Retina Display was another level – it was and still is stunning. And now I was working with all that extra screen real estate – it simply felt like a luxury of riches.

I was in iMac heaven.

This model had the 4 GHz Quad-Core Intel I7 processor and an AMD Radeon R9 Graphics Card. I bought it with 32 GB of memory with an eye to the future. This was the first iMac that I’d lived by the rule – that still stands true today – always over-spec what you think you’ll need. Although you pay more upfront in the long run it pays you back handsomely. And as if proof were needed of that mantra – this iMac lasted me 7 years. It was the Mac I used every day until I finally swapped to Apple silicon and the M1 Max MacBook Pro.

The audio gain was great and this time I had a FaceTime HD camera as well as decent onboard mics.

The I/O was even better:

  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 2 x Thunderbolt 2 ports
  • 4 x USB 3 ports
  • SD card reader
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • and even a Kensington lock slot

iMac and beyond

So although I’ve spent the last two years working on a MacBook Pro – my heart has always had a soft spot for iMacs. The 27-inch iMac has never been switched off – I just can’t bring myself to do it. To this day it still sits in my studio – I check emails on it and occasionally even write on it.

The straw that finally broke the camel’s back for me on the 27-inch iMac was when I started to edit video with it. That was one bridge too far and at that point, I knew I had to move on. Waiting over 40 minutes for a simple 4K video with no effects or grading to export was painful – and a waste of time.

So to the latest member of my iMac family – the M3 iMac.

When the iMac was relaunched in 2021 with M1 Apple silicon it was a major re-design but Apple was ever so clever in keeping the DNA and essence of the iMac very much intact.

Even though it was de-badged it retained the chin and the bezels – even though they were now white. Harking back to the original iMacs from 25 years ago (how can the iMac possibly be 25 years old?) we now once again had a choice of colours – which was a nice touch.

It was slimmer than ever with Apple flexing over what could be achieved with their silicon in it for the first time. It was so slim that one of the headline facts that stunned us at launch was that the 3.5mm headphone jack had to be placed on the side as it was too slim to have it placed around the back as usual.

The good old days

Remember how I’ve been going on and on about the fantastic I/O on the older iMacs…well those days are well & truly behind us.

On these new iMacs, you have to spend the cash to get a decent array of I/O – with the base model I have only having a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports. It’s not a huge issue for me as this isn’t my main, daily Mac.

But if you are buying a new iMac to use daily it’s probably worth buying one of the 10-core GPU machines to get the additional two USB 3 ports along with the Thunderbolt 4 ports and the gigabit ethernet port – remember future-proofing is alwaysthe way forward…

All change

There is always this discussion that it’s an insult that Apple would sell any Mac let alone one that costs £1400 with only 8 GB of unified memory. But here’s the thing – Apple silicon changed the rules. I’m not here to say that 8 GB will be able to handle anything you throw at it – but it will make a bloody good effort to.

Without going back over the obvious – 8 GB of Apple silicon is not the same thing as the 8 GB of pre-Apple silicon days. These chips are just so fast, powerful, competent, productive and able. With M3 now in iMacs, it means you can configure your new iMac with up to 24 GB of memory.

Having seen for myself how my 8 GB M3 iMac handles video editing and audio work it’s made me realise just how quickly Apple silicon is developing.

The sweet spot

If I were going to select a sweet spot of the available configs I’d always suggest more memory over storage. Storage is easy enough to add to as an after-market bolt-on, but you don’t get that luxury with memory.

Go full out and load it with 24 GB of memory but just buy 512 GB of storage and then buy a Samsung T7 SSD for extra storage – I’ve been super-impressed with the one I bought and can’t rate then highly enough.

That spec machine should see you through 4 or 5 years of use at least and will cost you just over £2000. Although value is hard to justify – if you are spending 8 hours or more a day in front of this Mac and working solidly on it then I’d say that does represent pretty good value for money. It should earn you your money back fairly quickly.

How can you possibly argue with a gorgeous 4.5K Retina display, good speakers, camera and mics and the latest Wi-Fi 6E & Bluetooth? With 24 GB you’d have enough memory to handle pretty much everything except the most demanding workflows – everything is all in one box and up and running in a matter of minutes – this is your powerful plug n’play iMac. M3 looks to be pretty special…

Looking over the generations of iMacs I have here you sense and see the lineage – over that quarter century, iMac has just been getting better and better and more refined and powerful.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is not a serious Mac – it’s as serious as you want to make it!

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