Why Apple's 2018 iPad Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini will reinvigorate business users

Business pros fearing Apple was overlooking corporate demand for bolstered performance and continued portability improvements need worry no more, thanks to the new iPad Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini.

Breaking down Apple's 2018 iPad Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini for professionals

While Apple's annual summer Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in California typically serves as the company's flagship event possessing the greatest anticipation and capturing the most attention, its October Brooklyn Academy of Music keynote introduced potent MacBook Air and Mac Mini updates and announced what may be the second most important iPad ever (after the firm's initial release of the paradigm-shifting platform). The event revealed a number of important updates and enhancements that particularly benefit business and corporate enterprise workers immediately, as the new models begin shipping the week of November 5, 2018.

SEE: Hardware purchasing task list (Tech Pro Research)

iPad Pro 2018

The new iPad Pro features a completely redesigned screen, elimination of the Home button, and adoption of gesture interactions from the iPhone X line that further standardizes iOS behaviors on the tablet platform. Available in 11- and 12.9-inch models, the new iPad Pros include enhanced Liquid Retina displays and the performance-focused 64-bit 8-core A12X Bionic CPU more than capable of running Photoshop CC, which Adobe will bring to the iPad in 2019. The new models also feature Face ID integration, while a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 connector replaces the Lightning port.

With up to 1 TB of storage and Gigabit-class LTE, there's no more debating whether an iPad Pro can replace a desktop or laptop. The new iPad Pros are seriously robust tablets.

A new Smart Keyboard Folio and magnetic, wirelessly chargeable Apple Pencil round out input options, while new edge-to-edge, rounded corner Liquid Retina displays (Figure A) with a 120Hz refresh rate and advanced pixel masking and antialiasing upgrade the display quality. Consider the new iPad Pros are a mobile-friendly 5.9mm thin, perform multi-threaded functions up to 90% faster, boast twice-as-fast graphics, and support up to a 2732-by-2048-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch in the larger model, and there's no room for confusion: The new iPad Pros are ready for even the demanding tasks mobile graphics professionals require.

The 11-inch Wi-Fi models with 64 GB storage start at $799. The 12.9-inch Wi-Fi models with 64 GB storage start at $999.

Figure A

Image: Apple, Inc.

MacBook Air 2018

And while many left the MacBook Air for dead, Apple ha's made it clear the leading thin-and-light laptop is healthy and well. Enhancements include quadrupled resolution on 4-million-pixel Retina display models generating 48% more color, two USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 ports, integrated Touch ID paired with Apple's T2 security chip, a more precise backlit butterfly keyboard, 8th-generation dual-core Intel Core i5 CPUs, and up to 60% faster SSDs. Portability is improved, thanks to the redesign reducing the laptop's volume 17%, with the weight down to just 2.75 pounds, a quarter-pound lighter vs. previous models--these are features mobile business professionals appreciate whether moving between offices and breakout areas or into and out of airplanes and hotel rooms.

SEE: Apple's T2 security chip disconnects a MacBook's microphone when users close the lid (ZDNet)

The new MacBook Air (Figure B) also receives an improved three-microphone array. The upgrade better enables Siri to hear and interpret commands and questions. The trackpad is 20% larger and better matches that from the MacBook Pro. Battery life is rated at 12 hours for Wi-Fi surfing or 13 hours of iTunes playback. The redesigned machine is, subsequently, well matched to business users' need for sustained battery life, impressively improved graphics and performance, and a comfortable, accurate keyboard wrapped within a small and portable form factor.

The 13.3-inch MacBook Air models with Retina displays start at just $1,199 for 128 GB models. The 256 GB versions start at $1,399.

Figure B

Image: Apple, Inc.

Mac Mini 2018

Business users seeking reasonably-priced slim but capable desktops will find an iMac Pro is no longer the only option. Apple's Mac Mini (Figure C) refresh brings quad-core Core i3 processors with the option to upgrade all the way to six-core Intel Core i7 CPUs. The CPUs are up to 60% faster than previous models and boast up to five times faster graphics thanks to an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU--all useful for powering Final Cut Pro X, Logic Pro X, Photoshop, MainStage, and Compressor operations, among others.

Figure C

Image: Apple, Inc.

Previous models possessed 16 GB memory capacity; the newly engineered Mac Minis support up to 64 GB of faster 2666MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM memory.

SEE: Apple's first employee: The remarkable odyssey of Bill Fernandez (PDF download) (TechRepublic cover story)

Storage receives capacity and performance improvements, too. All Mac Mini storage is now flash-based, starting with 128 GB PCIe-based SSD, with the option to configure up to 2 TB of SSD storage. All Mac Minis also receive the Apple T2 security chip, which provides a more secure booting environment and a dedicated AES encryption engine, among other benefits.

Businesses possessing legacy displays, keyboards, and mice, rejoice. Despite its small form factor, the Mac Mini's connectivity and ports receive significant upgrades, too. The new models can drive up to three displays and possess four USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 ports, two USB 3 ports, one HDMI 2.0 port, a gigabit Ethernet port configurable up to 10Gb Ethernet, and even a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Pricing starts at $799 for a four-core Intel Core i3 with a 128 GB SSD and $1,099 for a six-core Intel Core i5 version with a 256 GB drive.

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By Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...