Apple Reveals iPad Mini, New Macs

Apple shows off a rash of new hardware products ranging from iMacs and MacBooks to the long-awaited smaller tablet, the iPad Mini.
Apple introduced a downsized version of its popular iPad tablet, the 7.9-inch iPad mini, at an event in San Jose, Calif. on Tuesday. It also showed off a 4th generation 9.7-inch iPad, and updated versions of several Mac computers: a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, a revised Mac Mini, and the next generation iMac.

The iPad mini has been widely anticipated, despite the fact that Apple's former CEO, Steve Jobs, dismissed 7-inch tablets during a conference call for investors in October 2010. "'[W]e don't think you can make a great tablet with a seven-inch screen," he said. "We think it's too small to express the software that people want to put on these things."

Call the iPad Mini CEO Tim Cook's declaration of independence or a course correction after a bad call. With Amazon having shipped millions of 7-inch Kindle Fire tablets and Google estimated to have shipped at least a million Nexus 7 tablets, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, Apple couldn't afford to cede a growing market to competitors.

[ Is a Chromebook competition? Read Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review. ]

"We sold more iPads in the June quarter than any PC manufacturer sold of their entire PC lineup," said CEO Tim Cook. The iPad, he said, has been hugely popular in education and is "taking the business market by storm. … We're not taking our foot off the gas."

Apple designer Jonathan Ive, in a video, characterized the iPad mini as "a concentration, not a reduction, of the original."

Here are some of the details:

Processors: The 9.7-inch fourth generation iPad relies on an A6X processor, a variant of the A6 chip in Apple's iPhone 5. The iPad Mini runs on an Apple A5 processor and includes dual ARM cores and a quad-core GPU. It comes with 16 GB of internal flash memory, upgradeable to 64 GB.

Displays: The iPad Mini features a 7.9-inch display. It does not have a Retina display like Apple's 9.7-inch iPad, but it boasts the same number of pixels as Apple's second generation iPad.

Connectivity: The iPad Mini supports dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless networking, and can reach speeds up to 150 Mbps. Models with cellular connectivity include support for LTE and DC-HSDPA. Both the iPad mini and the fourth generation iPad sport an Apple Lightning connector, which allows connections to cameras, SD cards and VGA or HDMI digital video sources.

Camera: The iPad Mini includes a front-facing FaceTime HD camera and a rear-facing 5 megapixel iSight camera.

Design: If you like the aesthetics of Apple's iPad, you'll like the iPad Mini. It's made of aluminum and glass. It's 7.2 mm thick and weighs 0.68 pounds. The 10.45 mm, 0.75 pound Google Nexus 7 "is thicker and heavier with a smaller display," Apple SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller observed.

Price: Apple is selling the iPad Mini for $329, with the 64-GB cellular model going for $659. The fourth generation iPad starts at $499. As a point of comparison, the recently revised iPod Touch begins at $299.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display starts at $1,699, which includes a 2.5-Ghz Intel dual core Core i5 processor, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 8 GB of 1600 MHz memory, and up to 768 GB of flash storage. A 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7 processor is available as an optional upgrade.

The latest iMac, which looks like a stand-alone display more than a computer, comes with either Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors, an NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M or 650M graphic processor, and 8 GB of 1600-MHz memory, upgradeable to up to 32 GB. Storage options include a 1-TB hard drive, a 3-TB hard drive, or 768 GB of flash storage. Apple is also offering a new storage option called a Fusion Drive, which combines 128 GB of flash storage (for performance) with a 1-TB or 3TB hard drive (for capacity) as a single storage volume. The new iMac also includes two Thunderbolt and four USB 3.0 ports. It starts at $1,299.

The revised iMac mini, starting at $599, also comes with either an Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 processor, with integrated GPU. It includes 4 GB of 1600 MHz memory, upgradeable to 16 GB. It sports four USB 3.0 ports as well as Thunderbolt, HDMI, SDXC, Gigabit Ethernet, and FireWire 800 ports.

Apple also introduced new versions of its iBooks and iBooks Author apps.

"This has been a truly prolific year of innovation for Apple," declared Cook at the conclusion of the event.