News Column

IPad Mini a Lighter Take

October 24, 2012

By Ed Baig

The big reveal is here, and the result is something littler: Apple has introduced an iPad Mini. The new pencil-thin (7.2mm) iPad Mini comes a mere half-year after the third-generation iPad was introduced. Apple says it's as light as a pad of paper. It will be priced at $329.

Is it different? The Mini has a 7.9-inch screen, measured diagonally (vs. 9.7 inches for the larger iPad, a new one of which Apple also introduced). That's wider than the 7-inch screens on the Kindle or Nexus 7, just big enough that I couldn't stash it in my inside coat pocket.

The new screen has resolution of 1024 by 768, so all the software for previous iPads will work. But it doesn't sport the sterling Retina display on the latest of its larger sibling. Still, there's nothing you can do with the new iPad that you won't be able to do on the larger iPad, and vice versa.

The smaller screen sizes will change certain behaviors; I suspect, for example, folks might be more inclined to read books on the mini.

The iPad Mini is made of aluminum, as opposed to the plastic that Google's Nexus 7 is made of. The new iPad has a dual-core A5 chip. It has FaceTime HD and 5MP iSight cameras. On certain models, it has LTE wireless as fast as the bigger iPads. Wi-Fi is more robust, too. It has the inevitable Lightning connector (bad news for folks with iPad accessories based on the prior dock connector).

I think this is going to be a humongous seller -- and I suspect the executives at Google, Amazon and Microsoft may be quaking in their boots, especially at the $329 starting price for a Wi-Fi-only model with 16 gigabytes of storage, or $459 starting prices for 16 GB with Wi-Fi plus cellular. Apple also sells versions with 32 and 64 GB, respectively. The Wi-Fi version ships first on Nov. 2.

I obviously want to get my hands, or should I say, one hand on it for an extended period, since that's what Apple is promising you'll be able to do. But I imagine folks are already strategizing about lining up to get one.

Apple says the new smaller iPad has 10-hour battery life, and it retains what is arguably the biggest advantage that Apple claims -- the 275,000 apps in the App Store.

OK, I admit it. I'm lusting after an iPad Mini -- and wondering if I get one how often I'd schlep it, and how often I'd bring along the larger third-generation iPad that I own. The answer to that will come as I use the Mini, and assess its strengths and weaknesses against the larger model. But one person I talked to said he's ready to sell the bigger device and just use the Mini. He's probably not alone.

P.S.: I'm also eyeing the new iMac and maybe the new MacBook Pro. At its big event Tuesday, Apple first gave love to the Mac.

Among the results are a new 0.75-inch thin MacBook Pro that's one-fifth thinner than its predecessor and, at 3.57 pounds, nearly a pound lighter. The machine has a pair of Thunderbolt ports, a MagSafe 2 connector, two USB 3 ports, HDMI and an SD card reader. The Retina display measures 13.3 inches. Apple says the screen has a 75% reduced reflection. It has a FaceTime high-definition camera.

Apple marketing executive Phil Schiller bragged about the screen, the graphics, a seven-hour battery and more. It runs OS X Mountain Lion.

Among its features: Power Nap. It can update your calendar, e-mail, backups and more while the machine sleeps. It starts at $1,699 for 128 GB of storage, so it's not cheap -- and starts shipping immediately.

Schiller also announced a new version of the Mac mini computer, starting at $599. One new configuration is a $999 Mac mini server.

While mobile is the dominant form of computing today, Apple is also unveiling an eighth-generation iMac. It's super-thin (5mm, 80% thinner than the previous generation), has edge-to-edge glass and a beautiful screen, and is so svelte, Schiller quips, "There's an entire computer in there." It does indeed make the previous generation look ancient. The new computer laminates the display directly to the glass.

To get that thin, the DVD/CD drive has been removed. I rely on physical discs less and less these days, but some people will certainly miss the integrated drive. (You can still get an optional SuperDrive.)

Apple is adding what it calls a Fusion Drive, a new spin on storage. It's 128 GB of flash storage that you can add to a 1-terabyte or 3-TB hard drive, fused into a single volume. This sounds great in theory. You get large storage but can take advantage of all the software that's pre-loaded on the machine in the faster flash section. The drive can intelligently figure out the programs you move most often.

The price is impressive, too, $1,299 to start for a 2.7-GHz Quad-core version. Machines ship next month.


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Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012


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