So did you run out and buy the new iPad when it was released six months ago? Guess what, the shocker at today's Apple event wasn't the new small form-factor iPad mini; after all that was the worst-kept tech secret for quite a while now. Instead, while small tweaks -- support for the new Lightning connector -- were rumored for the full-sized iPad, the company instead unveiled a somewhat more significantly updated 4th generation of the device. It seems that Apple can keep a secret after all, especially when it is bad news for those who just shelled out serious bucks for the now old new iPad.
The iPad gets supercharged
Most of the changes to the 4th generation iPad are under the hood. That includes a more powerful A6X processor that promises a two-fold increase in graphics performance as well as in overall performance. On the camera front, the front-facing camera for FaceTime goes HD (720p), while image stabilization is newly added. Wi-Fi performance is said to be faster than previously. Sprint is newly supported, as is the Lightning connector. Pricing remains the same as the 3rd generation iPad, starting at $499 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model, and it is available starting Nov. 2. The $399 iPad 2 remains on sale.
And yes, the iPad mini was indeed announced.
In 2010, the late Steve Jobs railed against the idea of a 7-inch tablet as being too small to provide an adequate user experience. We don't know if Jobs ever rethought that stance, but today -- to the absolute surprise of no one -- Apple went there by releasing the long rumored iPad mini. So what's the deal? And will the hoards once again line up outside Apple stores to be the first to put their hands on one ... like we really had to ask?
While the timing steals a little thunder from the launch of Windows 8 this Friday, and the new tablets that will run it (including the Microsoft Surface), that's not what the iPad mini is about -- though the iPad revamp might have had that in its sights. Instead the iPad mini is positioned to protect Apple's flank from the horde of lower-cost Android-based tablets, including the Google Nexus 7 (and Google has its own event next week with even more Nexus tablets rumored to be on the agenda) and Amazon Kindle Fire and FireHD.
In terms of performance, the iPad mini is a step back from its big brother. The screen size flips around from 9.7 inches to 7.9 inches. You won't find a Retina display; instead the 1,024 x 768 pixel display is the same as the original iPad and iPad 2. It's also not a burner in terms of performance, using the same A5 processor used in the iPod Touch. It also uses Apple's new lightning connector. Versions with 4G LTE support are available. Prices start at $329 for the base (16 GB) Wi-Fi-only model, while 4G adds $130 to the price. The iPad mini with Wi-Fi goes on sale November 2, while versions with 4G support go on sale two weeks later. We'll be covering the iPad mini and 4th generation iPad in our tablets report as soon as reviews are available
New laptops and desktops
While the upgraded iPad and the new iPad mini were the main attractions of today's festivities, they weren't the show's only acts. Though you won't find a retina display on the iPad mini, you will find one on the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display announced -- and available -- today. It is super thin (.75 inches) and light (3.57 pounds), and the 2,560 x 1,600 display packs more pixels than any other notebook aside from the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Prices start at $1,600.
On the desktop front, Apple unveiled a new Mac mini, starting at $600, but the ohhs and ahhs were reserved for the super thin new iMac -- the display is just 5 mm on edge. The base model, with a 21.5-screen, starts at $1,299, while the 27-inch version starts at $1,700. The Mac mini ships today, while the iMac models will be available in November (for the 21.5-inch version) and December (for the 27-inch model).