M3 iMac review: Another powerful tool to leverage Intel’s dominance

Two and a half years after Mac transitioned to self-developed chips, I am still using the iMac that was the final product of three years ago.

This machine can be called the last machine king of Intel: a 10-core i9-10910 processor, a Radeon Pro 5700XT with 16GB of video memory, 32GB of DDR4 memory, and a 1TB solid-state drive. To this day, it is still more than enough for a word worker.

On the other hand, with the addition of the Mac Studio product line, the status of iMac in the entire Mac product line has actually been reduced from mid-range to mid-to-low-end: it cannot purchase Pro and Max chips, the memory is not pluggable, and the screen has changed from 27 inches to 27 inches. 5K has been reduced to 24-inch 4.5K, and even the former SD card slot has been cut off.

So, when I got the new iMac, I was very curious: How much progress has the iMac with M3 made? Can it leverage Intel's strongholds?

The thin and light body, colorful appearance, huge chin, magnetic charging cable, network cable interface integrated in the adapter, and even the keyboard and mouse with the same Lightning interface. Since it continues the design of the previous generation iMac, we focus on the evaluation Put it on performance testing.

The basic iMac is equipped with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, 8GB+256G, and starts at 10,999 yuan. My review model was upgraded to a 10-core GPU, 24GB unified memory + 1TB solid-state drive, priced at 19,398 yuan, including a Touch ID keyboard with numeric keypad, Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad.

CPU performance test

The M3 on the iMac is the first PC chip in the industry to use the 3nm process technology. The number of cores is consistent with the M2. It still uses a 4 large core + 4 small core, 10-core GPU design. It is worth noting that the maximum single-core frequency of M3 exceeds 4GHz.

In the GeekBench running score, whether it is single-core or multi-core, there is a 25% improvement compared to the M1 iMac. Among them, the multi-core performance is close to that of the M1 Max and M2 Max, which is about 20% better than the M2.

Of course, the gap between M3 and M3 Max has also widened, and the performance of the latter has surpassed the M2 Ultra on Mac Studio.

At this time, if we look at Intel's last machine king three years ago, it is already at the bottom. Whether it is single-core or multi-core, it is almost twice as far behind the M3.

Compared with M2, M3 does not have a significant improvement in GPU specifications, but it introduces a similar architecture to A17 Pro, adds dynamic cache, hardware ray tracing and grid shading features, effectively improving the performance of GPU in general computing scenarios. .

GPU performance test

In the GFXBench 4K Aztex Ruins (High Tier) offscreen test, the M3 iMac tested 51 FPS, which is nearly a 40% improvement compared to the M1, and a 9% improvement compared to the M2 Macbook Pro.

In this game, the iMac 2020, which uses a discrete graphics card, performed reasonably well.

Hard disk read and write speed

It can also be seen from the BlackMagic Disk test that the writing speed of the new iMac has been greatly improved compared to the low-end version of the previous generation iMac. But compared to the M3 Max, the gap is nearly double.

Combining the rules of the first two products, the chip level and the capacity of the solid-state drive are directly related to the read and write speed of the hard drive, which shows the precision of Apple's knife skills.

Post rendering speed test

Film editing is Mac's traditional strength. We used Resolve to render a 30-minute video in 4K 50FPS H.265 encoded MP4 format.

The rendering speed of the M3 iMac is 4 minutes faster than the M2, which is already comparable to the M2 Pro Mac mini. As for our M1 iMac with 8GB of memory, due to the constant pop-up message of insufficient memory, it could not even complete the export and directly quit the battle.

The model equipped with M3 Max shows a huge advantage, only taking half the time. However, we also found that the M3 Max has not been significantly improved compared to the M2 Max and M1 Max. We speculate that the video encoding and decoding performance of the M3 may not be significantly upgraded.

Facing the M-series processors optimized for HEVC, Intel's iMac has no competitiveness.

In addition, the M3 iMac has added the ability to decode AV1 encoding, which can reduce CPU usage when watching streaming media, which is also a special upgrade point.

iMac is no longer the iMac of yesteryear. How should I choose a desktop computer?

As mentioned at the beginning, with the emergence of Mac Studio and the cancellation of the iMac Pro product line, the positioning of iMac has dropped one position in the product line, but this also makes its target users more precise-it is no longer a Not a productivity tool for the studio, but a home computer for sharing among multiple people.

Its thin, simple and beautiful all-in-one design integrates all accessories such as computer host, camera, display screen, six-speaker system, microphone, etc. The entire device is less than 5 kg.

It does not take up space on the desktop and can always be the focus of attention in the environment. Just like many companies and commercial checkout counters, there are often two iMacs, which add color to the space and are a selling point of iMac that cannot be ignored.

The M3 chip can handle text, picture and video editing work without any pressure. Even relatively heavy 3D designs will not show obvious performance bottlenecks, making it very suitable for home environments without mobile office scenarios.

In addition, each family member can create their own account and log in with one click using Touch ID.

Since the iMac skipped a generation of chip updates, the iMac equipped with M3 showed significant performance differences. Compared with the M1, it was nearly doubled. However, if compared to the M2 on the MacBook Air, the improvement was relatively limited. .

If you are a die-hard user of the 21-inch Intel iMac, the M3 iMac is an ideal successor. Whether you are browsing the web or editing photos later, you will feel a significant increase in speed. As for 27-inch iMac users, they need to make some compromises on screen size, or consider the Studio Display + computer solution.

If you are a user of the M1 iMac three years ago and purchased the 8GB memory version, you may consider whether to replace the M3 iMac based on daily operation conditions.

In terms of configuration selection for the M3 iMac, we recommend at least the 16GB+512GB version.

As for how to choose between iMac, Mac mini and Mac Studio: If you don’t consider desktop space utilization and care more about practicality, Mac mini + monitor is a more economical choice.

If you are engaged in a lot of heavy 3D rendering and modeling work, Mac Studio equipped with M2 Ultra still represents Apple's strongest desktop performance.

The final suggestion is that for creators, don’t wait for a device that may become better, just get the most suitable tool at the moment and create.

From being a bystander and recorder of technology, to becoming a practitioner of how technology affects lifestyles.

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