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The M3 chip might be the 2023 iMac’s only big hardware update, but that’s enough

Published Oct 25th, 2023 5:44PM EDT
Apple iMac 2021 Design
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Apple on Monday all but confirmed last weekend’s report that new Macs are coming soon by announcing a Mac-centric “Scary Fast” press event for October 30th.

The prerecorded press conference will stream at 8:00 PM EST, an unusual time for Apple events. While Apple is making it seem like a Halloween-related announcement, that’s just a marketing gimmick. It’s very likely the M3 iMac and M3 13-inch MacBook Pro and M3 Pro/Max 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models will be unveiled next week.

Apple appears to be focusing on upgraded performance for this M3 release cycle, even for the cheaper models. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reiterated that the M3 iMac’s main feature would be the brand-new processor. As a reminder, Apple’s only all-in-one desktop hasn’t been refreshed in several years. But the M3 chip might be the only thing the iMac needs.

Reacting to Apple’s announcement, Mark Gurman reposted on Twitter a link to one of his iMac-centric reports dating back to March.

“Apple has been planning an M3 iMac for a while, with the machine going into production months ago,” he wrote on Twitter/X while pointing to his older coverage. “No other major changes other than the chip, but the stand’s internal design has been tweaked. I’d expect colors to remain similar.”

I would expect Apple to make a big deal about the M3 chip, which is built on the same 3nm TSMC process as the iPhone 15 Pros’ A17 Pro. There’s no similar chip available for Windows devices. In other words, the base M3 Macs could become massive gaming platforms — even the cheapest iMac, which might continue to sell for the same $1,299 as the current M1 version.

That’s just speculation on my part, of course. But let’s remember that the A17 Pro currently scores better in benchmark tests than Apple’s M2 chips that power the high-end MacBook Pros. That allows the A17 Pro to run console games that are exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pros and retail for the same prices as the console versions.

The problem with the A17 Pro is that it runs those console games inside a cramped space. The iPhone 15 Pros can’t offer the proper cooling the chip needs. The A17 Pro then overheats, and performance is throttled.

But Macs running on the M3 version won’t have the same problem. They’ll cool the M3 much better. With the thermal problem out of the way, there’s no reason the M3 shouldn’t perform at least as well as the A17 Pro. I’d expect the base M3 chip on the 2023 iMac to be faster.

Apple iMac (2021) all-in-one desktop. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Also, unlike the M3 MacBook Air that will supposedly launched only next year, the iMac doesn’t operate on battery. Therefore, Apple has even more freedom when it comes to performance.

The iMac should not be viewed as a gaming machine. I’m only mentioning the gaming abilities of the A17 Pro, and my expectations for the base M3 chips to highlight the potentially massive performance gains the next Macs will have to offer, especially on the graphics side.

The iMac could turn into a great budget-friendly desktop for professionals who don’t necessarily need Pro, Max, and Ultra versions of Apple’s custom chips.

For those reasons alone, the 2023 iMac doesn’t need anything else than the M3 chip. Sure, Apple can tweak the design slightly and offer other color options. It can also improve the display and speakers. But the M3 chip is the real reason to buy the iMac this year, even if that’s the only meaningful upgrade over the 2021 model.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.