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2012-10-24

Summary of the October 2012 Apple event

This blog post summarizes what Apple has introduced yesterday.

Mac mini

Phil Schiller commenting on the introductory slide for this segment: “Mac mini. You knew there would be something called ‘mini’ in this presentation, didn’t you?”.
  • Faster processors, quad core option
  • Mac mini with OS X Server: like the normal high-end model, but with two 1TB hard drives and bundled with OS X Server

iMac

  • Screen sizes: 27" and 21.5"
  • Both models still have the same pixel count as previous iMacs. That is, neither of them has a Retina display, which is still too expensive (and possibly not even technically feasible) at this size.
  • 75% less reflective: thanks to anti-reflective coating and the laminated display (which means that the display is closer to the glass). Good to see Apple react to user complaints here. The previous moves away from matte towards very glossy were not a good idea.
  • Fusion Drive:
    • 128GB Flash storage plus 1TB or 3TB hard disk drive (HDD)
    • Handled by the system as a single drive
    • Built into OS X Mountain Lion
    • Flash: initially holds the operating system and all preinstalled software. Later, the system automatically moves frequently-used files to Flash and lesser-used files to the HDD.
    • Performance: almost as fast as Flash-only.
    • The Flash does not act as a cache, there is no duplicated data. Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson provides more details:
      Speculation in the Ars forums started immediately, with most wondering if "Fusion Drive" works the same as current hybrid disk drives. Those incorporate some amount of NAND flash inside a traditional hard disk drive as an extended cache. Others speculated the Apple technology resembles something like Intel's Smart Response Technology, which uses a dedicated SSD (of up to 64GB in size) as a transparent cache for a larger hard disk drive.
      The Fusion Drive is unlike either of those approaches.
  • Weight: 9.54 kg (21 pounds) iMac 27" versus 13.83 kg (30.5 pounds) previous model
  • How thick is it? Apple slightly tricks us, because on most photos, you only see the 5mm edge. However, the iMac does have a bulge in the center. It is still very thin. They achieved the thinness mainly by making the display 45% thinner and removing the optical drive.
Again, none of the models have DVD drives. You have to buy the $79 Apple USB SuperDrive, which is only USB 2. At this point, we can give up hope of Apple ever supporting Blu-Ray (not that I miss it terribly, but it would be nice to have the option).

Retina MacBook Pro 13"

  • Display: 75% reduced reflection; IPS-based, 178° viewing angle
  • Weight: 1.62 kg (3.57 pounds) versus (1.35 kg) 2.96 pounds MacBook Air 13"
  • The old MacBooks Pros are still sold. Resulting in the biggest lineup of notebooks that Apple has ever had. Quoting Marco Arment:
    Having three very different 13” models is especially awkward. I bet the 13” MacBook Pro and 13” MacBook Air, in that order, are Apple’s two best-selling models, making it difficult to discontinue either of them yet.

iPads

iPad with Retina display (“4th generation”)

  • Processor: A5X → A6X, roughly twice as fast
  • Same weight
  • Same battery life
  • Better camera
  • Support for more LTE networks
  • 2x faster Wi-Fi
  • Lightning connector (which breaks compatibility with the existing dock connector and is thus not all good)
  • This model replaces the previous model after only 6 months. The reason is probably so that it competes better against other tablets during Christmas shopping. Previously, the iPads were introduced months before and less competitive. Additionally, getting a new device for Christmas and seeing it become outdated just a few months later isn’t fun.
  • The iPad 2 is still being sold. Apple should drop the “2” and call “the iPad” the “iPad Retina”, instead.

iPad mini

  • You can hold it in one (male adult) hand.
  • Weight (cellular models): 312 g (0.69 pounds) versus 662 g (1.46 pounds) iPad Retina
  • Screen resolution: quoting Daring Fireball:
    Screen resolution-wise, it’s exactly what I expected for a 163 PPI display in 2012:
    • noticeably nicer than the 133 PPI iPad 1/2,
    • noticeably worse than the 266 PPI iPad 3/4.
    The iPad Mini display seems brighter and to have better contrast than the iPhone 3GS display, but unsurprisingly, rendered text looks exactly like it does on the 3GS.
    The iPad mini having the same pixel density as the iPhone 3GS means that Apple’s guidelines for the sizes of iOS UI elements still hold, because these always applied to both iPhone and iPad:
    44 x 44 points is the comfortable minimum size of a tappable UI element.
  • Apple sells the mini as “better than iPad 2”:
    • Dual Core A5 (same as iPad 2)
    • Better cameras
    • Same battery life as iPad Retina (iPad 2’s battery lasts longer)
    • Wi-Fi twice as fast
    • Same pixel count, higher pixel density
  • The Smart Cover [1] has been redesigned to account for the smaller size (see image below). Apple’s lead designer Jonathan Ive: “By eliminating the separate aluminium hinge, we now essentially wrap the iPad mini in a single simple colored material.”
The iPad mini Smart Cover.

iBooks

  • Continuous vertical scrolling: is now an alternative to paged navigation. Gruber suspects that that is a better fit for the smaller screen of the iPad mini.
  • Improved iCloud integration: You can now sync both the books that you own and your current reading positions in those books.

More material on the web

Related blog posts

  1. How the iPad 2 Smart Cover performs its magic

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