At its media event yesterday, Apple unveiled a bunch of upgraded hardware to finish off its "best product pipeline" year.
Earlier this year, Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue said the company had "the best product pipeline [coming in 2014] that I've seen in my 25 years at Apple."
A bold statement, considering he'd seen the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad roll out at Apple. Nevertheless, we've seen Apple's full complement of new products and, though it's sure to arouse some debate, Apple has rolled out an impressive slate of products.
Earlier this fall, we saw Apple unveil the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones, as well as the Apple Watch and Apple Pay mobile payments solution, which arrive early next year and this Monday, respectively. Then there's the iOS 8 (launched last month) and OS X Yosemite (launched yesterday) operating systems.
This is an impressive lineup, to be sure. Here's what Apple added to the list yesterday:
1. Retina display-equipped iMac
We'd been waiting for this one for quite a while. This 27" iMac includes modest upgrades to its graphics card and CPU, with no change to the exterior design of the machine -- but the real upgrade is in the screen. Featuring a 5K resolution (more than the Cinema 4K that's coming to HDTV screens soon) of 5120 x 2880, the new iMac includes some 14.7 million pixels on what Apple claims is the world's highest resolution display.
The machine starts at $2500 (USD), which is a fine deal when you consider that similar high-end 4K+ displays can cost that much -- and with the iMac, you get an entire computer as part of the price. It can be maxed out with more RAM and flash storage for around $4400, but RAM is significantly cheaper when purchased aftermarket from a company like Other World Computing.
The current 21.5" and 27" iMacs remain available and unchanged.
2. iPad Air 2
Last year, Apple rolled out a whole-scale redesign to its flagship 9.7" iPad, making it significantly smaller and lighter, with narrower bezels and a very thin design. This year, the company's designers have gone even further, making the new iPad even thinner. It's down to 6.1mm thick from 7.5mm (making it thinner than the new iPhone 6, which is 6.9mm) -- and two iPad Air 2's stacked atop one another are thinner than the original iPad from four years ago. Weight is down slightly from 469 grams to 437.
Other improvements include the arrival of Touch ID for iPads, a welcome addition for users who fruitlessly put their fingers on their iPad home buttons to unlock them. The new screen includes a thinner, fully laminated display that Apple says should make text and imagery appear to be closer to the surface of the screen. There's also a new anti-reflective coating to reduce glare, plus a new gold color option to match the iPhone lineup. Better cameras, a new CPU and GPU, faster Wi-Fi, and more LTE options round out the additions.
Apple has also bumped the storage configurations on the iPad Air 2 to match those seen in the iPhone 6 last month. Pricing now runs $500/600/700 for 16 GB/64 GB/128 GB, with an additional $130 for cellular-capable devices. The old iPad Air continues with a $100 price drop.
3. iPad mini 3
This is a bit of a head-scratcher. Apple added precisely two new features: The Touch ID sensor and a gold color option. To go along with it, Apple has lowered the price $100 for the old iPad mini 2, meaning users are effectively paying a $100 premium for a fingerprint scanner.
Pricing runs $400/500/600 for 16 GB/64 GB/128 GB options, with a $130 premium for cellular-capable. Last year's iPad mini 2 sticks around with 16 GB/32 GB options for $300 and $350 (plus $130 for cellular), and the original iPad mini from two years ago is still kicking, available for $250 for a 16 GB unit.
Apple now sells dozens of configurations of the iPad across five different model ranges. The options are a little outrageous, but there they are.
4. An updated Mac mini
After going for more than two years without an update, the Mac mini has finally gotten some love. The new device starts at just $500 without a keyboard, mouse, or monitor, making it the cheapest way to get into a Mac, and a very nice small server or home theater PC.
For that $500, users get a 1.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, with options ranging up to a 3.0 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7, a 500 GB hard drive (configurable up to a 1 TB Fusion Drive -- a hybrid solid-state and traditional hard drive -- or 256 GB of flash storage), and 4 GB of memory with up to 16 GB allowed.
Other new features include a pair of Thunderbolt 2 ports, four USB 3 ports, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, Apple has gotten rid of the dual-hard drive model and the popular Mac Mini Server, a poor decision if you ask me, because I know a number of people who liked those options. Alas. Nevertheless, it's nice to see the Mini receive an update, as it was by far the most outdated piece of hardware left in Apple's Mac lineup.
Curiously, the iPod lineup didn't receive any updates. However, with more consumers buying iPhones and iPads, it wasn't really a surprise.
All the hardware is available for purchase online today and in Apple Retail Stores soon.
Which of the hardware announcements are you most excited about? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.