"An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." - Arthur Miller

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Apple's October Event Introduces iPad Air

Tuesday Apple introduced the next iteration of their iPad, iPad mini, Macbook Pro and Mac Pro. As expected, most changes will not particularly big, just small hardware improvements that only graphic intensive gamers will enjoy. For the iPad, its gets another new name called the iPad Air to highlight that its now at just a pound in weight while the iPad mini enjoys a solid boost with Retina Display but its comes with a $70 increase in price tag. In addition to the hardware tweaks iOS X update, called Mavericks, is free along with new hardware buyers able to get most of Apple's suite of programs for free (iLife, iWorks, etc.). Currently the release date is November 1st for the iPad and later in the month for the mini.

iPad Air
- 20% thinner at 7.5mm, 1 pound in weight, screen resolution and battery life same as previous gen.
- Cameras same but now front camera can shoot at 1080p instead of previous 720p
- Contains the A7 chip, same as iPhone 5s with its 64-bit architecture
- Smart cases now cover entire iPad, not just screen but now at double the price for $80.
- Price: $499 ($16GB), $599 (32GB), $699 (64GB), $799 (128GB) and add $130 for mobile equivalent
- Comparison
- Hands-on: Engadget | Verge | Gizmodo

iPad Mini 2
- Now has retina display for 2048x1536 and 326 pixels per inch (ppi), basically same as iPad.
- Contains A7 chip, same as iPad Air and iPhone 5S
- Smart cases now cover entire iPad, not just screen but now at double the price for $80.
- Price: $399 ($16GB), $499 (32GB), $599 (64GB), $699 (128GB) and add $130 for mobile equivalent; iPad Mini 1 now $299
- Comparison
- Hands-On: Verge | Engadget

Macbook Pro
- 13" model: Starts at $1,299 for 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, and upgraded with faster dual-core 2.4GHz Intel Haswell chips, 9 hours of battery life
- 15" model: Starts at $1,999, for quad-core 2GHz Core i7, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD,
- Non Retina Display Macbook Pro's are being discontinued.

Mac Pro
- Coming in December, price starts at $2999
- Starting specs are 3.7GHz quad-core Xeon chip, 12GB DRAM, Dual FirePro D300, 2GB VRAM, 256GB SSD but can go higher
- Very quiet fan, 70% less energy usage then previous Pro

For all intents the iPad 5, er iPad Air, is the iPhone 5 in iPad guts so you can take advantage of the bigger screen. The changes are over-all minor but unifies Apple's mobile devices along the same hardware path for the 1st time. The iPad Mini is probably the biggest leap in quality from the previous generation as it went from essentially iPad 2 gut in a smaller case to iPad Air/iPhone 5s guts in a smaller case. The result is deciding is losing an inch of screen real estate to increase portability is worth saving $100. At this point, chip speed doesn't matter so much as how plan to use it. If need to be able to shove your iPad into a pants pocket or purse, the iPad Mini might be worth it. If plan on watching lots of movies, play video games and do things where the visuals really matter, then that extra real estate matters and should get an iPad Air.

If you are an iPad 3 and 4 users, there is little reason to upgrade as unlikely to benefit from the hardware boost. For those on the fence about upgrading previous device but really want to, then the new iPad Mini might provide that excuse to split the difference. However, just be aware that the average current generation 7" Android device has near identical screen, overall size and CPU specs for half the price. As usual Apple's covers remain overly pricey pieces of crap. Better to wait for the better, cheaper alternatives that will hit the market at about the same time. Do not buy the iPad Mini 1. Its not worth it. If price really matters that much to point you are willing to sacrifice a much superior screen and faster hardware to save $100, you might as well just save $200 and go with a 7" Android device.

For Apple fans, it was a glorious news. For those, like me, that just want to make sure getting the most bang for the buck, then it was just ok news. I like what I saw but as a current iPad 4 owner, I am mostly relieved that my current device doesn't feel out of date and can wait another year or so before considering an upgrade.

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