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M3 iMac – brilliant but is it in danger?

My new iMac arrived yesterday, and I have some concerning thoughts about it’s future

M3 iMac

I’ve written recently about my love affair with iMacs and yesterday’s arrival of my latest one the M3 iMac so far hasn’t disappointed me – in fact, it left me buzzing.

After Apple’s latest event, most people seemed to be taken by the MacBook Pros and the new space black colour in particular. I know Scary Fast was predominately a MacBook event, but there was no way I was in the market for a replacement MacBook. My M1 Max is only 18 months old and costs way too much to be pushed aside so early in life. That Mac is my mainstay – an absolute workhorse and I love it.

No, what interested me far more was the M3 chip coming to the iMac range. When Apple silicon iMacs were first launched back in the spring of 2021 I wasn’t writing or making content about Macs and tech gear, so to buy it when I had a perfectly good 27-inch iMac made little sense. Back then I wasn’t editing videos either, so although the Intel machine was occasionally found to be lagging, by and large it was still doing just fine.

But it’s a different playing field now. The M1 MacBook was my first taste of Apple silicon and then I took another bite of the apple (sorry about the pun) when I got the M2 MacBook Air. Because of my love and affinity for iMacs, I’d always wanted an M series model – and yesterday my dream came true.

M3 iMac already working

Annoyingly my new iMac didn’t arrive until 2 pm yesterday which kinda messed up my plans for the day.

I’ll be making a video about it so yesterday was spent making sure I had plenty of b-roll to use in the video later this week in the edit. But to get the shots I had to get Mac out and start setting it up.

Much like with the iPhone 15 Pro Max set up a few months ago it never ceases to amaze me just how simple Apple make it to get your new gear up and running. There were precious few updates – just one to Safari and that was it – I was up and running in what seemed to be a blink of an eye. Once I’d signed into my iCloud account everything else followed seamlessly.

I’d purposely bought the lowest base-level entry iMac as I wanted to see for myself what the native powers of M3 and the 3-nanometer architecture were – and I’ll come back to my first impressions in a little while.

Having only 256 GB of storage meant I was super careful about what I wanted to have on here – I say on here as I am writing this story in Ulysses on the new iMac.

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So far I’ve only used 100 GB and I have the essentials on here – CleanMyMac, Creative Cloud, Ulysses, Grammarly and Chrome. I am more of a Safari user, but I still need Chrome for a few extensions that I have to use. I’m in two minds about installing Dropbox – but for the time being I think if I need it I’ll just rely on the web version.

Of all the Adobe apps I’ve already added to the dock my essential 4 – Lightroom, Photoshop, Premiere & Audition. I always find that someone’s dock gives away an awful lot about the person – someone taking a peek at mine would guess in a flash what I’m up to I reckon.

Speed

After getting everything installed yesterday, late last night I finally got to sit down and begin to get a feel of what the M3 inside this iMac is all about – geez it’s fast – I mean seriously fast!

I am not a Geekbench person – I prefer to look at real-life situations and applications. My go-to stress-testing apps are Lightroom, Photoshop and Premiere.

Firstly the apps seem to open even quicker than on my M1 Max machine but the speed and ease it seems to be dealing with tasks is just breathtaking. Remember this is the very cheapest iMac money can buy and if this is anything to go by, a tripped-out M3 Max machine must be crazy good.

I loaded up about 20 images in Lightroom and applied some basic presets to them and it just gobbled the task up. The fan did very briefly spin up at one point during the day – I think it was when I was working in Premiere whilst updating and downloading several other Adobe apps at the same time – but that was it. After that, it was quiet all day.

I took some ProRes log footage from the iPhone and dropped it into Premiere and it was a similar story – not a murmur. Okay – I’ve not had time to put a real session in on it, that’s to come, but the ease with which it’s dealt with everything so far has left me a bit gobsmacked!

As I left the studio last night though, my gut feeling is that this M3 iMac is going to mean I can leave the MacBook Pro at home more and more. I am pretty certain that I’ll be able to start Premiere Projects on the iMac and then finish up on the MacBook/Studio Display combo later. Rather than just being a pretty face in the corner of the studio I reckon this thing will be set to work.

Hopefully, you’re enjoying this story  -  if you wanted to say ‘thank you’, the best way is simply to clap, highlight and get involved in the comments. And my promise to you…If you get in touch I will answer! So clap, highlight and comment away…

The perfect lineup

I’ve moaned a lot about Apple and some of their confusing line-ups – iPads come to mind, but right now, I think we have about as near to perfect a line-up of Macs as you could wish for – it’s so good that it does leave me a little worried about the future for my beloved iMac though.

Let me explain…

The latest Apple event saw the 13-inch MacBook Pro laid to rest which means the only Mac that made no sense at all is now defunct. Your entry-level Macs are now the M2 Mac minis & the class-leading MacBook Airs – the M1 machine still holds its own and you also now have the M2 models in 13-inch and 15-inch. That’s a damn good starting point that means you can get into a Mac from well under £1000.

Then you move into the M3 MacBook Pro Macs with the Mac Studio and Mac Pro out there for those with the most demanding workflows. That means the cheapest Mac is now only £649 and the most high spec’d Mac Pro costs £12,548 – meaning there is a Mac for everyone. Apple also has two displays to offer as well so you don’t have to lose the pleasure of working on a Retina display.

The talk of a larger iMac or even an iMac Pro just doesn’t stack up – sadly there’s barely a need for an iMac at all anymore – let alone adding to the range. iMac is 25 years old this year and at the time it was launched it revolutionised desktop computing. It was a simple solution that meant anyone could work on a Mac without the need to be some computer nerd. They were pretty, useable and affordable – all of which still hold today but Apple silicon has changed everything.

Now an equally simple solution to the iMac would be a Mac mini and a Studio Display. Sure, it’s not an all-in-one computer, but it’s not a million miles from it. In the age of sustainability, all-in-ones don’t make much sense either. If my 27-inch iMac is anything to go by the internals and computer part of iMacs will give out a long while before the panel. That old Intel iMac may be slow as a tortoise these days but the 5K Reina panel is still chuffing gorgeous.

If Apple are serious about its environmental claims then they need to address the elephant in the room and bring back the option of Target Displays to iMacs. I would happily have bought a Mac mini in the blink of an eye and popped it underneath that 27-inch display. As it is my old iMac is now just pretty much gathering dust – and that’s a crime.

Final thoughts

So yes, my first impression of the latest M3 iMac is positive and as I suspected, I think it will outperform its price point and where it sits in this perfect class of 2023 Macs.

It’s meant to be the dining room or kitchen Mac for non-power users – but in reality, it looks to be way more than that.

All that said though – I do fear that its days may be numbered. If you’ve grown up with iMacs and love them as much as I do – I wouldn’t hang around too long – its days could well be numbered.

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