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Apple Event Highlights: iPad Pro, MacBook Air, Mac mini

Starting mid-to-end November, the new iPad Pro will be available at stores starting at Rs. 71,900 (Wi-Fi, 11-inch) and Rs. 89900 (Wi-Fi, 12.9-inch)

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Apple has had a busy month refreshing its lineup for the year-end holiday season, and close on the heels of the iPhone launches, Apple unveiled in Brooklyn today the last of its hardware refreshes for the year with the introduction of ground-up rethinks on the iPad Pros, the MacBook Air and the Mac mini. Here are the key highlights on what was launched at the event, and when you can expect them to hitting a store near you.

MacBook Air: Lighter than Air, Sharper than Ever

Over the past three years, the MacBook Air had languished in Apple’s portable lineup with a sub-par display and mediocre performance, while the pricier MacBook Pros got all the attention. Apple today finally updated its ultra-portable Air series and brought it in line with the Pros – it finally has a 13.3-inch Retina display and significantly reduced bezels not unlike the current MacBook, all while slimming down to a modest 1.25kgs and retaining its carry-everywhere wedge-shaped design. Other upgrades include a move to USB-C ports, a third-generation flatter butterfly-switch keyboard and a trackpad that is 20 percent larger. It inherits the Touch ID from the MacBook Pro, and when you put it together, the MacBook Air is a lot like the pricier Pro without the Touch Bar, which may appeal to some who found the touch-sensitive second screen atop the MacBook Pro keyboards a tad unnecessary. The new MacBook Air will also be available in the new colors – gold, silver and space gray - that have been previously available with the latest MacBooks.

Under the hood, the new MacBook Air ships with the 8th generation Intel dual-core Core i5 CPU with integration graphics and up to 1.5TB of storage and 16GB of memory. The base model with 8GB memory and 128GB of fast flash storage will retail for Rs. 1,14,900 from Apple Authorised Resellers starting Wednesday, November 14. 

Mac mini: mini gets a Mega upgrade

Apple’s bring-your-own-keyboard-mouse-and-monitor Mac mini made its triumphant comeback into the portfolio with the addition of 8th Gen 6-core or quad-core processors for up to five times faster performance, and support for up to 64GB of memory and up to 2TB of storage. The latter, in particular, is a big change from the standard issue hard drives that shipped on most of the 2014 Mac mini models. As with the MacBook Air, Apple is also including its new T2 security chip on the new Mac mini and updating the ports to a more modern 2018-spec selection – two regular USB-A ports, four Thunderbolt / USB-C ports, one HDMI and an Ethernet port. The external casing looks similar to the all-aluminum enclosure from earlier, but there’s a new space grey finish on the outside in this release. The quad-core Core i3 base model with 8GB/128GB starts retailing at Rs. 75,900 on November 7th. 

iPad Pro: All-screen wonder

While the MacBook Air and Mac mini brought two much-loved but somewhat aging products into the present, the relatively newer iPad Pro got a significant update that pretty much stole the show. Completely redesigned from the ground up, the iPad Pros (both 11-inch and 12.9-inch variants) drop the home button and extend the screen in all directions for a whole new immersive experience, not to mention a whole lot more screen in a smaller form factor than before. With the home button and Touch ID authentication gone, the iPad Pros now use Face ID for authentication and completely adopt the gesture controls that we started seeing in iOS 11 and the iPhone X. No headphone jack though, and the iPads have now made the switch to USB-C for connectivity and wired audio. Interestingly, the use of the USB-C port not only will allow the iPad to be connected directly to digital cameras and external 5K monitors, but it will also be able to provide power to charge a connected iPhone. As with older iPad Pros, the newer Pros have four speakers for a wider stereo sound, no matter the orientation.

With the iPad Pro redesign, the Apple Pencil couldn’t be far behind and in its new avatar, the Pencil attached to the tablet magnetically and charges wirelessly. Much like the Galaxy Note 9, the Pencil (Rs. 10,900) can wake the device from sleep and launch Notes to take quick notes, and even use tap gestures to perform pre-defined actions in third party apps. There’s even a new Smart Folio (Rs. 15900/17900) for iPad Pro, which allows the iPad to be placed at two different viewing angles and integrates a fully-functional keyboard setup.

Starting mid-to-end November, the new iPad Pro will be available at stores starting at Rs. 71,900 (Wi-Fi, 11-inch) and Rs. 89900 (Wi-Fi, 12.9-inch). 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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