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Apple Redesigns iPad and MacBook Air, Refreshes Mac Mini

Science & Technology

Benjamin Schmidt - 7Dnews London

Thu, 01 Nov 2018 12:01 GMT

Apple held a special event in New York City on Tuesday, October 30th, where it introduced three updates to its hardware line-up. These included sleek new iPad Pros with new displays and no home buttons, as well as the first major upgrades to the company's popular MacBook Air laptop and Mac Mini desktop in years.

iPad Pro: smarter, faster, better

Standing out amongst the event’s announcements are the newly designed iPad Pros. Incorporating noticeable changes like grippier squared-off edges and the removal of the home button, the two new versions of the iPad Pro bring technology pioneered for the iPhone X and XS to Apple’s tablet range.  

Like the latest iPhones, the new iPad Pros use face identification technology powered by a set of forward-facing cameras and sensors. The tablets also feature new edge-to-edge Liquid Retina displays that Apple claims are the most colour accurate ever on an iPad. The base model has the same footprint as the previous version but an even larger, 11 inch screen due to the smaller bezel border around the display. The larger 12.9 inch iPad Pro features a screen that is the same size as the previous version but in a slightly smaller package.

Attendees try out the new iPad Pro during an Apple launch event (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton).

The new tablets are powered by Apple's latest multi-core A12X Bionic chip, which Apple reports is 35% faster per core and 90% faster altogether. Graphics processing is also twice is as fast, providing iPad users with console-level gaming performance for the first time.

In another big shift for the tablet, the new iPads will be powered by a USB-C connection from now on instead of the older lightning connector. This will allow iPad users abilities like charging their phones from their iPad and the option to connect their iPad to external displays of up to 5K resolution.   

The side of the iPad is now magnetised to allow the new Apple Pencil to be attached. Impressively, attaching the updated Apple Pencil to the tablet will also simultaneously activate Bluetooth pairing and start wirelessly charging the stylus. The new Apple Pencil adds support for tap-based controls and can be purchased for an additional $129. The new iPad Pros start at $799 for the 11inch model and $999 for the 12.9 inch model and will ship on November 7th in the US and 40 other countries.

MacBook Air: impressive tech, depressing storage

A major update to the MacBook Air was also made at the New York City event. As the best-selling laptop in the "ultrabook" category for more than five years, it has been surprising to some observers that Apple has not updated this laptop more frequently. The last physical upgrade was in 2013 and the internals have only incrementally improved since then.  

Fans of the older models will welcome the new version's improved 13.3 inch display, the first to come with a high definition Liquid Retina display. Apple emphasised that the new screens are brighter, have better colour, and provide improved viewing angles compared to previous screens. At the same time, 50% smaller border bezels mean that the screens are now slightly larger within the same 13.3 inch footprint.

New technologies and ports featured on other Apple laptops have also made their way to the MacBook Air. Two USB-C ports have replaced the older USB 3, and the same fingerprint sensor introduced previously on the MacBook Pro is now situated on the top right-hand side of the keyboard. The keyboard itself is new to match the ones on the MacBook Pro, for better or for worse after the new design received several disappointed reactions from reviewers. Internal speakers are now 25% louder and feature 2x better bass, and unlike the new iPhones, the new MacBook Airs still come with a headphone jack.  

Following the trend of higher prices across Apple's hardware devices, the starting price for the MacBook Air is now $200 higher than before, beginning at $1,199 in the United States. That model comes with two 1.6Ghz Core i5 processors and 8 gigabytes of RAM. Sadly, even that pretty penny will deliver a machine with just 128 gigabytes of flash storage. Without an SD slot for additional storage, users who want more internal space for movies, photos, and applications will have to pay an additional $200 -- or $1,399 total -- for a version with a 256 gigabyte hard drive. That's a steep hike for more space given that a 128 GB mini SD card sells for just £20 on Amazon.  

Mac Mini: tiny Mac, huge upgrade 

In Apple's first update of their 1.2 kilogram desktop computer since 2014, the new Mac Mini comes with either a 4 or 6 core Intel processor that the company claims is up to five times faster than those used in previous models. While it has been four years since those previous models were released, that is still an impressive leap. Memory capacity has also been expanded from a maximum of 16 gigabytes to 64 gigabytes, and internal flash storage can now be expanded to up to 2 terabytes with double the access speeds of previous flash-based storage. Rounding out the desktop’s updates are a new Intel UHD graphics processor, Apple’s T2 security chip, and 4 USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports. An HDMI port, 2 older USB ports, and a headphone jack have been held over from previous models. 

Base Mac Minis start at $799 and come with 4-core, 3.6Ghz i3 processors, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and a minimal 128 gigabytes of storage. A more powerful 6-core version with 256 gigabytes of storage starts at $1,099.  

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