October 23, 2012

Apple Threw a Media Event Today. Here's What They Introduced.

No other company builds anticipation for new products like Apple, and they do it without saying a word about their new offerings until they’re ready to ship. Today’s highlights:

  • A new MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display was announced. The base model sports 8GB RAM and SSD storage starting at $1699. Shipping today. All the goodness of the previously announced 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, for $500 less.
  • The Mac mini was refreshed with faster processors, USB 3 ports, more memory and larger SSD storage. Shipping today.
  • There are two new iMacs, and holy crap are they thin. 80% thinner than last year’s model. Still available in 21.5-inch and 27-inch sizes. Starts at $1299/$1799, ships in November/December, respectively.
  • New Apple “Fusion Drive” available in iMac and Mac mini. It’s a combination 128 GB SSD + 1TB or 3TB hard drive in one, seamless volume managed by Mac OS X. Near the performance of a flash-only SSD, but with the storage of a big HDD. I speculated on such a product a while back (the last paragraph killed it). This is worth strong consideration in a new machine.
  • Apple has sold 100 million iPads as of two weeks ago, all in 2-1/2 years.
  • A new, 4th-generation iPad powered by the new, faster A6X CPU was announced. This comes only six months after the 3rd-gen iPad. It sports 2x WiFi performance and the Lightning connector. Same colors, same prices for the same capacities as the 3rd-gen device. This is a minor set of bumps, not a major new product rev, though the A6X chip is interesting. When the A5 went to an A5X it gained a third GPU. Wonder what’s behind the A6’s “X?” 3rd-gen iPad device is phased out. iPad 2 will still sell in 16GB model for a reduced price.
  • The big news: The all-new iPad mini was announced. Extremely thin, manufactured similarly to the iPhone 5. Looks like a bigger iPod Touch. 7.2mm thin, 25%-thinner than today’s new, 4th-gen iPad. As thin as a pencil. 0.68 pounds, as light as a pad of paper. Black or white in contrasting slate, silver rear colors like iPhone 5. 7.9-inch diagonal display. Not Retina. A5 CPU, same as iPad 2. FaceTime cameras front and back; back camera is 720p HD. WiFi and LTE cellular. Lightning connector. 10-hour battery life, same as full-sized iPad 4. This new device is beautiful, a jewel not unlike the new iPhone and iPod Touch. Smart covers available. $329/$429/$529 for 16GB/32GB/64GB storage, $130 more each for cellular LTE and GPS. Pre-order this Friday. WiFi-only ships November 2, WiFi + LTE ships two weeks later.

In a nut, both MacBook Pros now possess Retina displays, a thinner chassis and no optical drive. iPads are 9.7-inches for the 4th-gen, 7.9-inches for the mini. Both possess WiFi with LTE as an option. iPad mini is $170 less than the full-size device at the same capacities and capabilities. iMac is much thinner, possesses a new, Apple-only Fusion drive and loses its optical drive.

Are you sensing a theme? Thin and light, and optical is yesterday’s news.

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