Apple October surprise: iPad Mini sticker shock, iPad hardware refresh, and more

Bill Detwiler gives you the details and his first-take hardware analysis on the new iPad Mini, fourth-generation iPad, 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, redesigned iMac, and updated Mac Mini.

On Tuesday, Apple unveiled updates to its Mac, MacBook, and iPad products lines. Some announcements, like the iPad Mini and 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display were anticipated. Others, like the 4th generation iPad, were not. Here's a rundown on the updates and my take on each.

iPad Mini

The brand new iPad Mini will have a 7.9-inch screen (1024 x 768 resolution), Apple A5 processor, FaceTime HD front camera, 5MP iSight rear camera, Lightning connector, LTE support, and 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi at 5.2GHz.

Photo by: James Martin/CNET

Pricing starts at $329 for Wi-Fi models and $459 for Wi-Fi + 4G models. Like the fourth-generation iPad, preorders for the iPad Mini start Friday with units shipping in November.

Bill's Take: During his iPad Mini announcement, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller spent several minutes explaining how the iPad Mini was better than competing 7-inch Android tablets. Clearly, Apple is concerned that devices like the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD could lure buyers away from the iPad.

That's why I was surprised Apple gave the iPad Mini a $329 starting price. I expected Apple to charge a premium above the entry-level Nexus 7 or Fire HD's $199 price tag, but believed it would be $50 or at most $100. Existing Apple fans will likely look past the $130 price difference. But, what about first-time Apple buyers?

Until we have an iPad Mini to crack open and test, we won't know how it performs against the Nexus 7 or Fire HD. Regardless, I'm glad to see another choice in the 7-inch tablet market.


Just over six months after announcing the 3rd generation iPad, Apple announced what is essentially a hardware refresh for their flagship tablet. The fourth-generation iPad has an Apple A6X processor, dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, expanded LTE support, a 720p FaceTime camera, the new image processor found in the iPhone 5, and a Lightning connector.

Pricing stays the same as the current generation, with a 16GB Wi-Fi version for $499 and a 16GB cellular model for $629. Preorders for the fourth-generation iPad start Friday, October 26th with units shipping in November.

Bill's take: I'm always glad to see device manufacturers improve their hardware, but Apple risks angering a lot of buyers who just spent $500+ on a now-outdated third-generation iPad.

13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display comes with either a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 or 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 "Ivy Bridge" processor, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 8GB RAM, and an SSD up to 768GB. It measures 12.35 inches (W) x 8.62 inches (D) x 0.75 inches (T) and weighs 3.57 pounds. Prices start at $1,699 and go up to $1,999. The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is available today.

Photo by: James Martin/CNET

Bill's take: Despite looking exactly like the larger Retina MacBook Pro on the outside, the 13-inch model has some interesting internal design changes. Apple moved the SSD away from the motherboard down beneath the Multi-Touch trackpad. The battery is smaller, the individual battery cells are positioned differently, and the cells no longer cover the trackpad. I can't wait to get me hands on one and crack it open.


The new iMac has the same general shape as the existing generation, but Apple made significant design changes to the screen, body, and internal hardware. The LCD panel is 5 mm thinner than previous iMacs and it's laminated directly to the front glass panel—eliminating a 2 mm air gap between the two. Apple also used a plasma deposition process to apply an antireflective coating to the glass. According to Apple, this coating reduces light reflection by 75 percent.

Photo by: James Martin/CNET

By reducing the LCD thickness and dropping the optical drive, Apple was also able to reduced the aluminum body's thickness (just 5 mm along the edges) and redesign the internal hardware layout. You can configure the new iMac with either a quad-core Intel Core i5 and Core i7 "Ivy Bridge" processor, up to 32GB of RAM, discrete NVIDIA Kepler graphics processor, and a variety of storage options—including an SSD/HDD hybrid called Apple Fusion Drive.

Pricing starts at $1,299 for a 21.5-inch model and $1,799 for the 27-inch version. The smaller model ships in November, and the larger one ships in December.

Bill's take: The eighth-generation iMac represents the most significant change to the iMac line since Apple moved to the unibody enclosure in 2009. The lack of an optical drive will frustrate some, but it shouldn't be a deal breaker. It's too early to know whether the design changes will make the device easier or more difficult to crack open and repair. But, I like hardware updated and thinner enclosure's overall design.

Mac Mini

The Mac Mini's updates were all on the inside. The new Mac Mini comes with either a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, or 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 'Ivy Bridge' processor, Intel HD Graphics 4000, up to 16GB of RAM, and a variety of storage options—including an Apple Fusion Drive.

Pricing starts at $599 for the dual-core model and $799 for the quad-core version. The new Mac Mini was available for purchase the day of Apple's announcement.

Photo by: James Martin/CNET

Bill's take: The Mac Mini hardware updates are all solid, but I'm disappointed Apple didn't give the machine a discrete graphics processor. The Intel HD 4000 core is fine for productivity computing and low-end gaming, but an NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M/650M or better GPU would make the Mac Mini a better all-around desktop.

About Bill Detwiler

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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