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My thoughts on the M3 iMac (2023)

My thoughts on the M3 iMac: base specs assessment, design critique, gaming performance, and future upgrades.
James Birkenau



November 27, 2023


I’ve been a Mac user for a long time, and closely follow every new release. With the new M3 iMac out, I share some of my impressions below.


Assessing the Base Configuration of the New iMac

An image of a minimalist desk with a new imac displaying the storage and memory specs on the screen

The base configuration of Apple’s new iMac has set the tech forums ablaze, and I’ve found myself caught in the crossfire. When it comes to analyzing the specs of the entry-level M3 iMac, it’s essential to approach the matter methodically. Here’s my take on the iMac essentials list:

  • 8GB of unified memory: For standard users, this allocation is adequate, supporting multiple browser tabs, productivity applications, and streaming services with ease.

  • 256GB SSD storage: In the age of cloud services, this may suffice for most casual users and serves well for an OS drive, but for those reliant on hefty software or storing large files locally, it’s a bottleneck.

  • Touch ID: Optional on the keyboard and verging on necessary, it streamlines the login process and makes online purchases a breeze.

  • Magic Trackpad: Again, an optional extra, this feature enhances the user experience with smooth gestures and superior control over the Magic Mouse.

Now, onto my personal musings. Honestly, sticking to 8GB of RAM feels like a tether on potential, especially for an aspiring machine meant to last several years. We’re not just juggling basic tasks anymore; even web browsers can chew through RAM like it’s nothing. Plus, isn’t future-proofing part of Apple’s ethos?

On a brighter note, let’s not slight the inclusion of Apple’s M3 chip. The promise of a performance leap is palpable, especially for creative tasks and day-to-day operations that will undoubtedly feel snappier. And to be fair, 256GB of swift SSD storage is a leg up from the old spinning drives, even if it does pressure users towards the cloud or external storage solutions.

The lack of a USB-C port on included accessories does grate, considering the tech world’s shift towards this universal connector. It stings a bit, knowing how elegantly Apple integrates such standards in other product lines.

In the grander scope, the iMac serves its purpose as a sleek, simple solution for users seeking the quintessential Apple experience without the frills of a pro-level workstation. But for someone like me, with an eye on longevity and a habit of archiving more than just memories, the base model feels like an appetizer when I’m ready for the main course.

It’s crucial to remember, though, our individual needs differ. The base iMac will be a stalwart companion to many, and with its minimal desk footprint and vibrant display, it will dazzle casual users and design aficionados alike. Just keep in mind, if your workload is heavy or you’re big on local storage, you might need to consider one of the pricier configurations.

The Compromise of Design and Connectivity

A close-up of the imac’s edge showcasing its thin design with a variety of disconnected cables lying beside it

Navigating through the recent M3 iMac release, I grapple with the delicate balance Apple has struck between design and connectivity. Initially, I was drawn to the iMac for its sleek, all-in-one form factor that promised to declutter my workstation while delivering Apple’s signature aesthetic appeal. There’s no denying that the M3 iMac carries this legacy forward with its vibrant color options and slim profile, a welcomed sight in any modern office or creative workspace.

However, when it comes to connectivity, my feelings are mixed. On the one hand, the inclusion of two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports is commendable. This allows for high-speed data transfer and versatile connectivity with modern peripherals, supporting my workflow that often involves large file transfers and the need for fast data access. For those of us invested in the Apple ecosystem, this consistency in ports echoes throughout the MacBook range, lending a familiar reliability.


  • Slim and attractive design that fits modern aesthetics

  • Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports enhance high-speed connectivity

  • Consistent port types with other Apple devices


  • Limited number of ports necessitates the use of dongles or hubs

  • Lack of standard USB-C accessories is a missed opportunity

  • Upgrade paths for RAM and SSD seem restrictive and expensive

Yet, the limitation to just these two ports quickly introduces a tangle of dongles or hubs that begins to undermine the minimalist setup I was originally drawn to. I hoped Apple might embrace the USB-C revolution more fully by including these ports in the standard accessories like the Magic Mouse or Keyboard. This move would have not only modernized the iMac but also simplified my desk, doing away with the last vestiges of Lightning cables.

Moreover, while the M3 chip offers a powerful upgrade, the options for user-driven upgrades such as RAM and SSD expansions fall short when compared to the flexibility of the Mac mini or Mac Pro. This perspective is supported by the fans on forums and discussions - we want to see Apple empowering its users to scale their systems along with their growing needs, but this seems to be a diminishing prospect.

In hindsight, and focusing on some positive angles, the new M3 iMac does what it’s designed to do; it’s an efficient workstation for those whose demands revolve around the typical day-to-day tasks. For designers, educators, and office users, it offers a straightforward, high-performing computing experience in a package that’s hard to beat for sheer simplicity and elegance.

Nonetheless, from the perspective of a long-time Apple user and someone who values both form and function, the M3 iMac feels like a mix of compromise and opportunity. I see potential in the design and hope for continued evolution in connectivity that aligns more closely with the needs of power users like myself.

Gaming and Performance Considerations

An imac screen displaying a paused high-resolution game with impressive graphics details

As I mull over the gaming and performance potentials of the M3 iMac, there are a few key considerations playing tug-of-war in my head. Here’s how they stack up:


  • Faster Overall Performance: With an M3 chip, the raw speed increase is a welcome change, particularly when diving into resource-intensive tasks or multitasking.

  • Improved Graphics: For casual gaming, the iMac’s graphics show promise, especially when it comes to Apple Arcade titles or less demanding games.


  • RAM Limitations: The base model starts with 8GB of RAM, which may not be sufficient for heavier gaming or professional creative applications.

  • Storage Considerations: A starting point of 256GB SSD means you’ll need to manage your space wisely or consider an upgrade for a more comfortable experience.

Now, let’s talk about how it feels in use. Jumping into daily tasks, from web browsing to office apps, the M3 iMac performs without a hiccup. Everything feels snappy, and apps launch quickly, providing an experience that feels seamless and efficient. Even though I’m not pushing the boundaries with extreme video editing or 3D modeling, the M3 iMac has power in reserve that instills confidence for the future.

Gaming is an interesting topic. While the M3 iMac isn’t expected to deliver the same performance as a dedicated gaming rig, it certainly packs a more powerful punch than its predecessors. Casual and indie games run superbly, and that’s something to appreciate. However, if you’re aiming to go full tilt with AAA titles, it’s important to remember that the iMac may not meet those high-demand gaming needs due to the lack of a dedicated high-performance GPU. Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

  • Good-to-Go for Casual Gamers: Apple’s push towards gaming with Apple Arcade and improvement in GPU performance with each chip iteration makes the iMac a viable choice for casual gamers.

  • Triple-A Titles: With higher requirements, some of the most graphically intense games won’t be the smooth ride you’d find on a gaming PC or console.

In real-world use, I’m mostly doing a bit of everything – some Photoshop here, a dash of Final Cut there, combined with my regular slice of Stardew Valley and Cuphead gaming sessions. The M3 iMac hasn’t left me wanting in performance, and for someone who lives largely in the creative and productivity space with only a splash of casual gaming, that’s great news.

When it comes to content creation – something many iMac users are deeply involved in – the M3 chip’s enhanced performance and graphics lend a helping hand in ensuring your creative process isn’t hindered by hardware limitations. Just remember to consider an SSD upgrade at purchase if your workflow involves large files.

Overall, the M3 iMac feels like it’ll continue to be the stylish workhorse we’ve grown accustomed to, with a welcomed performance boost. Sure, it’s not the gaming powerhouse some might dream of, but as someone who values design and macOS’s ecosystem, the trade-offs are worth it.

Future Upgrade Paths and Peripheral Integration

A workspace with a mac mini setup next to an array of different computer peripherals

The M3 iMac update definitely stirs a mix of emotions, and as we approach the end of this article, let’s bring all of this into perspective:

  1. The Good:
  • M3’s enhanced performance is a significant stride forward.

  • Clean, all-in-one design still appeals for a clutter-free setup.

  • Up to 24GB of RAM on an iMac presents ample headroom for creative tasks.

  1. The Drawbacks:
  • Base configurations haven’t seen the yearned-for leap in value.

  • Peripheral stagnation, particularly the lack of USB-C options, is disappointing.

  • High spec configurations come with a steep price jump.

As someone entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem and a long-time fan of their integration, I can’t help but feel that Apple is somewhat leaving certain users—those like myself—behind. We’re entering an era where expectations for standard offerings are elevated, not just by industry standards but by Apple’s own precedent.

On the bright side, the raw computing leap with M3 hints at a future-proof workstation capable of handling increasingly complex tasks. Admittedly, there’s potential longevity there, which isn’t to be shunned. Yet, I find myself questioning the upgrade path. The thought process nudges me towards the modular Mac Mini or Mac Studio, which, paired with a quality third-party monitor, can offer power and a larger display.

Yet, the iMac’s allure for simplicity and integration still has a firm grip. For those considering an alternative desktop experience with similar simplicity, you might find Picking a monitor for the Mac Studio: my thoughts (2023) insightful. There’s unmatched convenience in having a single power cable for the entire desktop setup, and the 24” screen, color-accurate and bright, carries its own weight in gold.

Peripherals are a sore point, though. Ignoring the EU’s USB-C mandate in the newest lineup feels like a misstep. But could it be a calculated one, predicated on stock management? I anticipate a swift change in peripheral connectivity—possibly within the next year—to align with broader industry shifts.

So, what’s the bottom line? It’s a balancing act. The M3 iMac is not without merit—those merits are just somewhat overshadowed by strategic limitations that Apple has placed, perhaps to shepherd users towards higher specs or different products. As a consumer, I have to weigh the benefits of staying within the iMac family against branching out to a more customizable setup.

The landscape of Apple desktop computing is evolving, and while this iteration leaves me with a mixed bag of feelings, I’m hopeful. The tide of innovation and integration eventually carries even the most stubborn ships. For now, I end on a cautiously optimistic note, looking forward to future Apple developments that offer more than just a spec bump but a true evolution of the iMac’s legacy.