M3 iMac vs M1 iMac: It's what's inside that matters

After almost three years of no updates, Apple's 24-inch iMac was finally updated in October 2023 with a new M3 chip and better Bluetooth and WiFi features.

When the M1 iMac first arrived in April 2021, it was a big redesign of Apple's all-in-one computer. There were two Intel-based models that more or less had the same aluminum-silver appearance for over five years.

Instead, it was a mix of seven bright colors, a powerful M1 chip, alongside a Touch ID keyboard and mouse peripherals to match the color you picked out.

But what are the big differences between the M1 and M3 models? With this in mind, we've compared both iMacs to see what's new in 2023.

iMac (2023) vs iMac (2021): Specs

The big differences between the two iMac models are what's inside. On the outside, you get the same great design and colors. But when you look further, there are plenty of differences to consider an upgrade.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
iMac (2023) vs iMac (2021)
Specs iMac (2023)iMac (2021)
Display size24-inch24-inch
Display type 24-inch (diagonal) 4K LED-backlit display24-inch (diagonal) 4K LED-backlit display
ColorsBlue, Green, Pink, Purple, Yellow, Orange, SilverBlue, Green, Pink, Purple, Yellow, Orange, Silver
ChipM3 (Pro or Max available)M1
Capacity 256GB, 512GB, 2TB256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Memory8GB, 16GB, 24GB8GB, 16GB
WirelessWi‑Fi 6E (802.11ax)Wi‑Fi 6 (802.11ax)
Camera 1080p FaceTime HD camera1080p FaceTime HD camera
Touch IDPart of Keyboard peripheralPart of Keyboard peripheral
Apple Pay Yes Yes

The jump from M1 to M3 will be the biggest difference between the two models. Apple touted in its 'Scary Fast' event that the CPU cores in M3 are 30% faster than the M1 chip, while its efficiency cores are 50% faster than M1 while using half the power.

The 10-core GPU in the M3 is a massive 65% faster than the M1 chip. So, when it comes to gaming, you could benefit from higher frame rates and the new hardware-accelerated ray tracing that's part of these new chips. Apple also said that the M3 chip is up to 2x faster than the M1 iMac, alongside being up to 2.5x faster than the old 27.5-inch Intel iMac models.

Other improvements also come in the form of WiFi and Bluetooth. It's a slight jump from Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) to Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax). This means that if you have a compatible wireless router and very fast internet, you'll be able to reap the rewards of a faster connection with this new iMac.

These are huge improvements on the 2021 model. So, if you're looking at a desktop iMac that can almost do it all, from video editing to gaming, the M3 iMac is the Mac for you.

iMac (2023) vs iMac (2021): What's new

Most of the new features this year involve the insides of the iMac (2023) model, and it's not just the M3 chip.


The Apple M3

(Image credit: Apple)

There's almost a three-year difference between the M1 chip and the new M3 series. For this new iMac, you get a 30% increase compared to M1, alongside hardware-accelerated ray-tracing for games. This is where light and shadows can reflect off objects in real-time as you explore a huge world for example.


m3 imac

(Image credit: Future)

A new 24GB memory option is available thanks to the M3 chip. So if you do a lot of video editing in Final Cut Pro or photo editing in Adobe Photoshop, the extra memory could help in these workflows.


M3 iMac

(Image credit: Apple)

Faster Wi‑Fi 6E (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.3 wireless connections for internet and connecting to wireless devices that also have the same Bluetooth spec.

iMac (2023) vs iMac (2021): Design

iMac 2020 in an office

(Image credit: Apple)

The colors remain the same here, which may disappoint some who were hoping for some new shades.

As before, you can choose between:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Pink
  • Silver
  • Yellow (Available on the iMac with four ports)
  • Orange (Available on the iMac with four ports)
  • Purple (Available on the iMac with four ports)

It's still a great selection of colors, but keep in mind that Yellow, Orange and Purple are still exclusive to the iMac models with two USB 3 ports.

iMac (2023) vs iMac (2021): Which should you buy?

M3 iMac

(Image credit: Apple)

When it comes down to this, it's an easy decision. The M3 iMac is far more powerful than the M1 iMac that was released back in 2021.

You get the same great design as before, but you get all the improvements that Apple touted back at its 'Scary Fast' event. From hardware-accelerated ray tracing to a 30% performance increase on the M1, there's a lot to like here.

Granted, it's a shame that the mouse and keyboard peripherals still use a Lightning port, but at least there's a USB-C to Lightning wire included in the new iMacs.

If you were biding your time to upgrade to a brand new iMac, the time is now, thanks to its powerful M3 chip and all-in-one design.

Daryl Baxter
Features Editor

Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.

Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.