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Apple Shocks, Surprises & Disappoints At iPad Mini Announcement

Going into today’s press conference from Apple, we knew one thing for sure – we would be seeing a brand new iPad, a smaller variant designed to combat the Nexus 7 tablet from Google, and the Kindle Fire HD from Amazon. But there were a number of surprises along the way – some exciting, and some not so exciting. Here’s what you missed if you missed out on the press conference.

New Macs for everyone!

Apple struck hard and fast with an update of nearly the entire Mac line (minus the bastard step child, the Mac Pro).

The Mac mini received a much requested spec bump including an updated graphics card, more RAM and something called “Fusion Drive”.  An additional add-on, this gives users the best of both world’s of computer storage. It’s a hybrid of a hard disk, and solid state media, providing a 128GB solid state drive combined with a 1TB hard drive. The Fusion Drive “automatically and intelligently manages your data so that frequently used apps, documents, photos, and other files stay on the faster flash storage, while infrequently used items move to the hard drive.” Sounds like a pretty slick piece of hardware. Pricing starts at $599 for the Mac Mini, with the “Fusion Drive” costing an additional $250.

This was also followed up with the much-anticipated announcement of the 13″ version of the MacBook Pro Retina. The specs are very similar to the 15″ version released late in the Summer, but are now in the more popular 13″ form factor. Pricing starts at $1699 for that.

The most intriguing new release in my eyes was the brand new iMac.  The all-in-one desktop wonder has somehow become even thinner, with an edge of just 5mm in size. It’s a stunning looking machine, and I have honestly no idea how Apple engineered this. The Fusion Drive is also available for these new beauties, which start at $1299.

A New iPad, but not the one you expected.

After dropping some hardware bombshells came a new iPad, but not what we had anticipated – the iPad 4th Gen.  Despite the iPad 3rd Gen being released just this past March, the 4th Gen will be available shortly.  It’s ultimately a minor spec bump, now featuring an A6X processor (based off of the processor found in the iPhone 5) and the new Lightning connector.  Pricing remains the same, starting at $499. Either way, we didn’t exactly see it coming, and it makes me wonder about the refreshes for the iPad moving forward. Will it become an event like the iPhone? Or will tablet spec bumps be like those for laptops and desktops – small, gradual and unnecessary for those with tablets 2+ years old?  Time will tell. I just know I’m very happy with my 3rd Gen, thanks.

Like the iPad, but smaller.

Last, but far from least, was the iPad we all expected – the iPad mini.

With a 7.9″ form factor and an aluminum casing similar to the iPhone 5, it’s a very pretty little machine, and Apple is clearly aiming for the Nexus 7 here, as they even showed direct comparisons in usage and web browsing.  But there are a few issues I can see. Ultimately, the innards are exactly the same of an iPad 2, down to the non-retina screen resolution, pushing the mini version two generations behind the full-sized model.  Additionally, the pricing is a giant bag of hurt.  The direct competition for the iPad Mini, the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD cost $199 for their entry-level models. The iPad mini? $329. Given the increased cost should you want more than 16GB of storage, or 4G Wireless accessibility, this could be a big problem for Apple this holiday season, but only time will tell. The iPad mini hits on November 2nd, and I expect the standard fervor upon its release.

All of the new hardware is currently available for pre-order on Apple’s online store.