Apple announced the updated 24-inch iMac with a new M3 chip at the end of October 2023 and the early reviews are starting to pop up. And as expected, people are mixed on whether this is the iMac for you.
The M3 update brought with it little other than a new chip which was always going to be a disappointment to a ton of people, but that doesn't mean that the release is a bust — there are still plenty of reasons to buy an iMac in 2023 and rolling into 2024. It really does depend on where you're coming from.
As is the case with so many of Apple's products these days, the M3 iMac is a much better upgrade for some people than others depending on whether they're currently using an Intel machine or something else. In the case of the iMac, that "something else" boils down to the M1 iMac and in some cases, that isn't always as cut and dried as you might think, either.
What the reviewers say
Somewhat predictably, some reviewers chose to focus on one of the big letdowns of the M3 iMac — the retention of Lightning-powered peripherals. The Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse continue to use Lightning at a time when Apple is moving other products to USB-C, like the iPhone 15.
That was one thing that TechRadar took an exception to, noting that the Magic Mouse still has the same old problems that people have been complaining about for years. "Sticking to the same design also brings back some old frustrations, such as the charging port on the bottom of the Magic Mouse, which means you can't use it while it's charging, plus a reliance on the increasingly obsolete Lightning connection for charging all of the peripherals, rather than getting with the times and using USB-C," the review says.
The lack of a USB-C port is undoubtedly a strange position for these iMac accessories to find themselves in and we have to wonder why Apple didn't take this opportunity to put Lightning in its place — in the past.
Another issue is the base configuration which sees the M3 iMac come with just 8GB of RAM as standard. Tom's Hardware points out that "there are quite a few 'gotchas'" in terms of what you get for your $1,299.
"While the $1,299 starting price is enticing, you're saddled with just 8GB of unified memory and a 256GB SSD. That's hardly enough to futureproof the iMac," the review reads. "A simple upgrade to 16GB of memory costs a staggering $200, while storage upgrades are equally pricey." Other upgrades also cost money, including upgrading to the $1,499 model just to get a couple of USB 3 ports.
In terms of YouTube reviews, it seems that the majority chose to focus on the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro reviews. That might change in the coming days, however.
A performance upgrade for some
With the new iMac looking just like the old one and the port situation remaining less than ideal, all of the attention is understandably on that M3 chip. Thankfully, it seems that the M3 doesn't disappoint.
"When it comes to our benchmark tests, Apple’s claims about the M3’s impressive performance certainly hold up," TechRadar's review says. "In Geekbench 5, which again puts the CPU part of the chip to the test, the new iMac scored 2,284 in single-core tests, and 10,716 in multi-core tests, compared to the previous iMac’s scores of 1,725 and 7,650."
That's all good news which brings us to the obvious question — should you upgrade?
That'll likely depend on what you're coming from of course. If you're coming from an Intel iMac, it's a no-brainer. This M3 chip will blow your mind. The same might be true if you're using an M1 and hitting its limits, too. But in reality, that probably isn't happening all that often. If it was, you'd be running an M2 Pro or M2 Max by now. And, unfortunately, that means the iMac is a non-starter for you regardless of whether the M3 bests the M1. If you need those extra cores one of Apple's Pro or Max chips affords, you're out of luck.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.