The most surprising entrant on my list of the best Macs of the Apple silicon era was the M3 iMac.
It surprised me, anyway. The 24-inch iMac is a computer I’d only ever experienced at the base level with the controversial 8GB of unified memory. That changed when I visited Apple’s UK headquarters at Battersea Power Station in November where the Mac team demoed a fully juiced-up M3 iMac. It was, quite simply, epic.
I’ve always praised the Apple silicon iMac refresh. It has no competition; if you want the best all-in-one computer on the market, you buy an iMac, and the new slender design with its eye-popping colour options will slot perfectly into any scenario.
The M3 iMac is a killer purchase for 2024, and, if you’re still sitting on the fence, I’ve decided to put together five reasons why you should part with your hard-earned.
1. The M3 reveals what the iMac is capable of
As noted earlier, in November, I was lucky enough to be invited by Apple to check out the M3 iMac in London. It was my first experience of what you get for your money if you spend as much as possible and hit every upgrade button during the checkout process. Doing so leaves you with a 24-inch iMac running an M3 chip that is supported by 24GB of unified memory and two terabytes of SSD storage. In the UK, that’ll set you back £2,799.
As is always the case with Apple, this is still a very expensive computer. But I think you’re getting a lot for your money.
However, the 24GB iMac is for a very specific crowd which is, I’d guess, rather small. As I’ve always said – if you need 24GB of unified memory, you know you need 24GB of unified memory. For everyone else, I’d suggest opting for the 16GB upgrade with the 512GB of storage (you can easily add more with external drives in the future). In my mind, it’s the perfect iMac, and at £1,999, it’s great value, given what you get for your money and how long it’ll last.
To give you an idea of what this thing is capable of, I’ve run the yet-to-be-patented, highly respected (I think) Mark Ellis Reviews Benchmark. This involves a piece of 10-minute 4K footage being run through Final Cut Pro for a render and export with both processes timed.
To set the scene, here’s the base model M3 iMac’s test results:
M3 iMac (8GB)
- Render: 01:45
- Export: 04:53
- TOTAL TIME: 06:38
That’s pretty respectable for a machine with just 8GB of unified memory.
These are the results if you go for that 16GB upgrade:
M3 iMac (16GB)
- Render: 01:41
- Export: 04:53
- TOTAL TIME: 06:34
That’s right – a four-second saving.
Before you reach for the 8GB Button, bear with me. This result reveals a couple of things. Firstly, my benchmarking is about as back street garage as you’ll find – it’s fun and interesting (hopefully), but it should never influence your buying decision. Secondly, the result above reveals how pointless number crunching is in the Apple Silicon era.
I was lambasted by lots of people when I published a video revealing the same ‘benchmark’ results between the M3 iMac and a 2017 Intel version with 32GB of RAM. The latter beat the former in the export test and I was told precisely 8,176 times that I was an idiot for not testing the Intel iMac against a 16GB M3 iMac.
As you can see above, if I’d done that, there would have been no meaningful difference in the result. And, you know what? It doesn’t matter; the M3 generation of iMacs wins with the total time, regardless of the Intel iMac’s export performance – and most people will never compare this stuff, or feel shortchanged with their M3 iMac purchase.
What matters is ensuring you have an iMac that will last and provide decent resale value further down the line. That’s why the 16GB version is the perfect iMac for your money.
2. The only meaningful next step is display size
If there’s one question that dominates all others in the comments thread of any video I publish about the 24-inch iMac, it’s when we’re going to see a big version of this new design.
I’m still on the fence about this. I’m not convinced Apple is ever going to deliver a replacement for the much-loved 27-inch Intel iMac. Sorry.
If you’re on the fence about buying a 24-inch iMac because of that display size, there are two things to bear in mind. Firstly, those 24 inches feel ample and far bigger than you think, in person. This machine certainly doesn’t feel as restrictive as the 21.5-inch iMac of the Intel days.
Secondly, even if Apple is going to eventually replace the 27-inch iMac, we have no idea when that’ll be. It could be next month. It could be in a year. It could be in 2026. Equally, we all know that if one arrives, it’ll be astronomically expensive.
Just buy that 24-inch iMac today.
3. The design is a masterpiece
Remember the uproar that ensued when the 24-inch iMac hit the shelves in 2021? It centred on the new ‘chin’ design which no longer featured the Apple logo. Why have a huge space beneath the display if there’s no Apple logo there, everyone cried.
The answer is simple: without that chin, it doesn’t look like an iMac. Walk into an office full of chinless iMacs, and you’d have no idea that the room is infested with Macs (particularly if they’re all shoved against the wall, which is usually the case).
Apple doesn’t want that; it wants people to admire and recognise its machines, wherever they’re spotted. The iMac is an iconic design, and the 24-inch version simply brings it into Apple’s current design language, which is more minimalist than it has ever been – even to the detriment of the company logo.
If you’ve not seen the new iMac (can we still call it that?!) in person, you’re in for a treat. This is a gorgeous-looking all-in-one desktop computer, and it still has the most exciting range of colour options of any current Apple product.
4. There’s no alternative
There isn’t. Sorry, Windows People.
Are all-in-one Windows PCs even a thing anymore?
I’ve just checked, and it appears they do indeed exist. They look alright, too, but they’re clearly heavily inspired by the iMac and, well, they run Windows, which remains a user experience akin to attaching your man vegetables to a three-phase mains outlet.
If you want a brilliant all-in-one desktop computer that’ll last years, you buy an iMac – simple. Now, you can buy a stupidly powerful one, thanks to that M3 chip.
5. The ecosystem is unbeatable
I’ve talked a lot about the Apple ecosystem this year. It’s hard not to – that thing is so ingrained in my daily work and personal life. Annoyingly so, in fact.
The trade-off is that the Apple ecosystem is brilliant. Over the last few years, Apple has built a host of genuinely useful features that straddle its devices and save users lots of time.
You can use Handoff to copy and paste stuff from your iMac to your iPhone, and seamlessly transfer the FaceTime call you started on the latter to your desktop. If you’ve got a pair of AirPods, they’ll automatically switch from one device to another (a feature which began life in a rather frustrating fashion but which now works with the ‘magic’ that’s inherent in so many Apple experiences). iCloud’s many facets are faultless (have you ever experienced a sync issue?). Apple Pay remains the most reliable and convenient integrated digital payment system on the market.
The list goes on.
It all just works. And if you buy an M3 iMac today, you’ll get access to all of it. For free. Kinda.
Unless you’re waiting patiently for ‘the big one’ and accept that you might be left ultimately disappointed by your desire for a large iMac, the 24-inch M3 iMac is a superb buy for 2024.
As noted earlier, just make sure you increase the unified memory to 16GB to aid longevity.
I love simple buying guidance!