I freely admit that I was worried about the iMac at the start of this year.
With the MacBook Air, Mac mini, and MacBook Pros all receiving upgrades to the M2 platform, the 24-inch iMac was conspicuous by its absence.
Apple’s venerable all-in-one desktop Mac received its biggest update in years when the 24-inch version arrived in May 2021. Sporting a brand-new, slender frame, vibrant colour choices, and the brilliant first iteration of Apple silicon, it won the hearts of many – including yours truly.
Nearly two years later, that computer hasn’t been touched by Apple. There was no M2 update last summer, no M2 Pro or Max variant at the start of this year, and the replacement for the 27-inch Intel version appears to be lost at sea.
However, new rumours suggest we could finally be in for an update this year. This raises the question – is now a bad time to buy an M1 iMac?
The 2023 iMac rumours
Apple Rumour Professional, Mark Gurman, tells us in his latest newsletter that one of the most common questions he receives is “when is a new iMac coming out?”.
Well, he can now share some “good news”, apparently. According to his sources, Apple’s next iMac desktop is at “an advanced stage of development”.
This is known as ‘engineering validation testing’, which means that Apple is putting production versions of the new iMac to the task. The downside is that this means they’re still not quite ready for public consumption. Indeed, Gurman suggests that we’re probably “at least three months” away from seeing them on the shelves – leaving a Q3 or Q4 release the likely end result.
Details on these new iMacs are rather scarce, but if you read between the lines, it’s pretty obvious what is probably happening at Apple HQ. Codenamed J433 and J434, the new iMacs will feature a new M-series chip to replace the current M1. There’ll be some “behind-the-scenes changes”, too, including reworked internal components and a different manufacturing process for the stand.
What I’d like from the 2023 iMac
I think I know what Apple’s up to. That new iMac will probably be one of the first Macs to receive the M3 chip. It looks like there are two models on the way, and I’d take a stab at M3 and M3 Pro configurations residing behind those aforementioned codenames.
This would make sense with the suggested release schedule. We’re probably going to see an M3-powered MacBook Air this summer, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine it being joined by a similarly-specced iMac. As for the M3 Pro version, I’d expect that to arrive a little later alongside updated MacBook Pros.
I’m all for this. I love the new iMac design (if we can still call it ‘new’) but it feels like there’s so much wasted potential with it right now. The M1 chip remains a stonking performer, but it only has so much life left in it and if the iMac means anything to Apple, it really should be configurable with the best chips they have to offer.
Beyond the chip update, there’s not much more I want from the next iMac update. The redesign was so comprehensive that nothing notable was left on the table. I’d love it to be the first Mac to receive Face ID, and the emergence of a larger version would be wonderful (I’ll get to that in a moment), but for now, I’m happy for Apple to simply beef up the internals.
What does this mean for the big iMac?
One of the most common questions I receive from my audience is whether or not I can see Apple launching a replacement for the 27-inch Intel iMac.
I’m afraid I still can’t see it happening.
Apple’s desktop Mac strategy is starting to become clearer for me. I genuinely think that the Mac Studio was a stopgap product while they figured out the best course of action for the Mac Pro. Similarly, the presence of the M2 Pro-powered Mac mini puts a huge question mark on the need for a big iMac as far as Apple is concerned – particularly with the Studio Display now available for those who have the budget.
We also have no idea what the sales numbers were for the original 27-inch iMac. The amount of development time, resources, and budget that would need to be ploughed into launching an Apple silicon version might simply make zero financial sense.
I know this will piss a lot of people off, but with my Apple hat on, I tend to agree with them (if this is indeed their strategy). Why bother with a big iMac when you can buy the best desktop Mac out there already, with a 5K screen to match?
Final thought: should you buy an M1 iMac now?
This is a fair question. If you’ve been holding off buying a new iMac in the hope that a new one is just around the corner, you’ve probably got incredibly itchy feet.
Worse still, you might desperately need an iMac right now, and with these rumours intensifying yet Apple remaining as unpredictable as they’ve always been, it’s tricky to know where to turn.
I feel your pain, but I also have some very simple advice. I really wouldn’t buy an M1 iMac today.
Even if you desperately need one, that M1 chip is getting rather long in the tooth now (as brilliant as it remains). Dropping a not-inconsiderate amount of money on a Mac whose chip will soon be a couple of generations behind isn’t a sound investment.
As reliable as Gurman might be, we still don’t know if we’ll see an updated iMac this year, therefore holding on for one is a fool’s game. Instead, I’d heartily recommend looking at an M2 Mac mini instead (or the M2 Pro edition, if you’re going to get particularly fruity with it). You’ll have to forgo the 5K iMac display (unless your budget stretches to a Studio Display), but the power on offer with the new Mac mini is unbeatable, pound-for-pound.
Of course, if you can wait for a theoretical iMac update – go for it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you if nothing emerges this year!
Before you go
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