I happen to love it, but is it right for you?
I’ve pretty much been using the M3 iMac solidly since it arrived just under a month ago – and on the whole, I’ve been delighted with it – but would I recommend it to you probably…but I’ll come back to that a bit later on.
The ins & outs of it…
The first thing I want to talk about is the I/O.
I ordered the base model as I figured I wouldn’t be using it an awful lot – it would be my backup Mac so the fact it only had the two Thunderbolt 3 ports was no big issue for me – but the important thing is that they are both Thunderbolt 3 meaning I can get speeds of up to 40 Gb/s.
On the odd occasion I need more I/O I can easily use my Anker hub anyway which offers all the expansion I could ever need – even an ethernet connection. Of course, if you choose the models that are higher spec’d than this one you’d get a pair of Gen 2 USB 3.1 ports as well – although they only have speeds of 10 Gb/s.
All iMacs come with a 3.5mm headphone jack on the side – being only 11.3mm thick it was the only place to put the jack but I do question who would use it anyway. If you are going to use headphones surely you’d use a pair of AirPods Max or AirPods Pro and not a wired pair – and you’d need to be a pretty serious audiophile to want to bother hooking up a pair of speakers or studio monitors to your iMac.
Even this £1400 model comes with a six-speaker system with decent bass coming from the force-cancelling woofers. This M3 iMac will give you wide stereo sound and has support for Spatial Audio too – that is assuming that you are playing music or video mastered with Dolby Atmos.
I’ve always loved working on iMacs and this new one is no exception. What I found most appealing about them over a decade ago holds true to this day – and that is the all-in-one design.
The idea of being able to pop to the store and pick up a single box that contains everything you need to get going is just brilliant – Steve Jobs always wanted the iMac to be the everymans Mac – and this is.
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M3 iMac – the Mac for everyone
Over the years they have stayed true to the iMac ethos – an all-in-one Mac that is plug and play. When the iMac was first re-designed for Apple silicon in 2021 it kept all of the design cues that make an iMac an iMac including the chin and the bezels. But they did pay a lot of attention to other design details – such as the colour-coded Magic Keyboard & mouse – even the cables were matched to the colour Mac you bought.
As you’ll no doubt have heard by now for all of Apple’s attention to design they couldn’t be bothered to swap out the charging port on the mouse & keyboard to USB-C. It’s not a big issue – I mean despite Apple’s pledge to switch over to USB-C I still have to use a lightning cable for my AirPods Pro and the Apple TV remote as well, but for people coming to the Mac for the first time this means that Apple has added to e-waste rather than reduce it which flies in the face of everything they are supposed to be representing.
Unlike the studio display whose power cable is not removable, the iMac’s braided cable is not only detachable but also has the most reassuring magnetic self-locking click…I could play with that click for hours….
Just like the first time around, colours on the iMac are limited on the base model to blue, green, pink or silver – but on the higher spec’d iMacs you still get the extra options to choose from of yellow, orange or purple as well.
When I first started to use iMacs all those years ago one of the first things I noticed was the stunning Retina display – it seemed so far ahead of its time – black blacks, super sharp text and bright vivid colours. And again – this new iMac doesn’t disappoint on that front either.
It’s still a 24-inch panel with a 4480×2520 resolution at 218 pixels per inch and support for 1 billion colours. With a max brightness of 500 nits, it feels as if you are seeing all those colours as well.
Although my Studio Display is a bit brighter at 600 nits, you’d honestly never know. You can still only run one other display from this iMac though but it can be up to 6K although only with a 60 Hz refresh rate.
M3 – a welcome upgrade
One of the biggest advantages that M3 brings to those higher spec’d iMacs is that you can now configure it with up to 24 GB of unified memory – and with that config, this iMac would be a pretty serious player – particularly if you were to plump for 2TB of SSD storage as well. I know this is meant to be a playful family Mac but quite honestly if you tick all the boxes you’d have a pretty serious bit of kit on your hands.
There were also a few minor improvements Apple made and although they won’t jump out at you they are decent quality-of-life improvements – like Bluetooth 5.3 & Wi-Fi 6E – as I say not headliners – but useful spec bumps.
Face the camera
The 1080p HD FaceTime camera is not too bad and the mics are certainly useable for family or business calls.
In the event where Apple launched the M3 iMacs they made a lot of comparisons not to the M2 range but to the M1 range of Macs – okay – in the iMacs instance there was no M2 comparison to be made – but Apple has done one of their naughty little slights of hand with the 256 GB iMac that I have. On the M1 model, the 256 GB version had two 128 GB chips – this time around though it only has a single chip which means the read-write speeds are slower.
I guess that was a cost-cutting move from Apple but luckily for them, there are enough meaningful overall upgrades to the M3 series of chips you don’t notice it day-to-day.
Scary Fast was a first for Apple in so far as for the first time they announced the entire family of M3 silicon – with the MacBooks getting M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max.
But the iMac was only given the basic M3 chip which I guess means we can assume that as per with the M1 iMac we won’t be getting a more Pro version of the iMac. I’ve already written that I sadly believe the days of the larger more powerful iMac are a thing of the past and the numbers support that.
Mac sales are dwarfed by iPhone sales. In 2022 $205 billion came from iPhone sales with Mac only earning about $41 billion. Apple is very secretive about the exact breakdown of MacBook sales versus desktop sales but we know the global demand is down overall for desktops – and there is no reason to assume that Apple are bucking that trend.
Making the switch
I first switched to Apple silicon, because of the enormous power promised by these M series of chips – for the first time I switched from desktop, from a 27-inch iMac to an M1 Max MacBook – it offered me all the power of a desktop but with the advantages of being mobile – and although it seemed like a big move I’ve never once looked back with regret.
So is this iMac for you? That depends on your workflow – but I’d have no hesitation in suggesting one of these to friends or family. I’ve done basic Photoshop on it and it’s handled it fine – okay – I’ll admit I’ve not tried super complicated, multi-layered PS documents on it – but even so with just 8 GB of memory this M3 iMac is working fine for me.
I even imported last weeks video file – a 144 GB ProRes log file file that I shot on the iPhone. Because of its size I had to work from the Samsung T7 SSD, but loading it into Premiere Pro the timeline scrolled easily enough without dropping frames.
The pro days
Yesterday I wrote about what Pro means any more when it comes to buying your new Mac – but if you are a pro and were thinking this iMac can’t be for me – think again.
Although it looks all cute and friendly in its colourful clothes, if you spec it all the way up, you’ll have a machine that will last you years and handle some pretty demanding workflows – and you’ll get to work on that lovely 4.5K Retina Display as well which is still a joy.
So like with any expensive Mac purchase – future-proof it and load more memory and storage on there than you think you need and work your backside of on your M3 iMac and just watch it swallow up pretty much whatever you throw at.
The demand may be dipping for desktops – but I still love working on iMacs…
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