Highlighted by an all-new line of iPad Pros, Apple has launched a refreshed group of computing products designed to bolster its appeal to consumers and professionals looking to upgrade or replace their tablets, laptops, and desktops. In addition to new 11-inch and 12.9-inch versions of the iPad Pro, the company announced a new iteration of the MacBook Air laptop and a high-powered replacement for the Mac Mini desktop. And in a sign of the times, all of the new devices feature USB-C, a port specification which is rapidly becoming the norm.
These announcements come on the heels of the September release of the Apple Watch Series 4, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max, as well as the release of the iPhone XR earlier in October.
iPad Pro Gains Face ID and USB-C
In what is one of the biggest redesigns of the iPad since the first version launched in 2010, Apple has retooled the high end of its tablet line to be more competitive against the onslaught of Windows 10 convertibles, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro. Powered by a new version of the A12 Bionic chip used in the latest iPhones, the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models are built around the A12X Bionic chip with the company’s Next Generation neural engine technology.
These iPads have a Liquid Retina display that pushes much closer to the edges than previous iPads. Their square cross-section design measures only 5.9-mm thick, taking on a look that repeats design elements from the current MacBook Pro line.
With the new iPad Pro, the Face ID facial authentication system debuted on the iPhone X in 2017 moves beyond the smartphone for the first time. In the case of the iPad, the Face ID implementation works when holding the device in portrait or landscape mode, or when used with the new Smart Keyboard Folio accessory.
On that smart keyboard. Finally, Apple has seen the light and the Smart Keyboard Folio protects both the front and back of the iPad when folded, and can be adjusted for screen angle.
Also new is a revised Apple Pencil, which magnetically attaches to the iPad Pro for pairing, wireless charging, or storage. The original Apple Pencil charged through a Lightning connector, and was often easily misplaced as it had to be carried separately from the iPad.
Another first for an iPad is the abandonment of the Lightning connector in lieu of USB-C. In addition to facilitating charging, the port supports the USB 3.1 Gen 2 spec for high-bandwidth data transfers and can drive 5K external displays.
The new iPad Pros run the latest version of the iOS 12 operating system.
MacBook Air Gets Touch ID and Thunderbolt 3
This redesign of the MacBook Air sheds a quarter pound of weight compared to its predecessor, and features a 13.3-inch Retina display with over 4 million pixels of resolution. For the first time, the MacBook Air gains Touch ID security authentication through a fingerprint sensor similar to that on the current MacBook Pro, made possible by the Apple T2 Security Chip.
While the new MacBook Air resembles the MacBook Pro design, it departs from its bigger siblings by virtue of a new wedge-shaped profile. The enclosure is made from a custom, Apple-designed aluminum alloy, which the company says enables the use of 100% recycled aluminum during manufacturing and makes it the greenest Mac ever. Color selections include gold, space gray, and silver.
Another welcome advancement is the move to a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports, which enables the use of a wide range of standard Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C accessories. So, the same ports that are used for charging can be used for external storage, multi-port docks, driving 4K or 5K displays, eGPUs, and more.
The device is fitted with 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processors and an Intel UHD Graphics chip, and can be ordered with up to 16 GB of memory. The integral SSD can be specified up to a capacity of 1.5 TB, and is said to be 60% faster than those in the previous model.
As per current Apple practice, the MacBook Air does not have a touchscreen. An integral Apple-designed keyboard and Force Touch trackpad are part of the package.
Apple touts the increased all-day battery life of the new MacBook Air, claiming up to 12 hours of usage before a recharge is needed.
Mac Mini Upgrade Gets 6-Core Processors and Thunderbolt 3
Giving users another high-powered Macintosh option for the desktop, Apple has camouflaged the new Mac Mini by packaging it a compact enclosure very similar to the previous model. In addition to quad- and 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core processors, the Mac mini features up to 2 GB of SSD storage and up to 64 GB of memory.
Designed for flexibility in a wide range of applications, the Mac Mini has a broad array of expansion ports, including four Thunderbolt 3 ports, one HMDI 2.0 port, two USB-A ports, an audio jack, and Gigabit Ethernet. Apple also offers 10 GB Ethernet as an option. As the Mac Mini has no integral display, external displays can be attached through the Thunderbolt 3 or HDMI ports.
The device features the Apple T2 Security Chip, which enables on-the-fly data encryption for the SSD. Furthermore, Apple says the chip ensures secure boot and offers up to 30 times faster HEVC video transcoding.
Similar to the new MacBook Air, the Mac Mini enclosure is manufactured from an Apple-designed custom aluminum alloy, sourced from 100-percent recycled aluminum. Space gray is the only available color choice.
Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.