If you were hoping for a redesigned Mac Pro to get a surprise debut at today’s Apple event, you were disappointed — though Apple has promised that a new pro workstation design is on the way, any heavy-duty hardware release is now a 2019 prospect at best. Instead, Apple emphasized portability, announcing a new MacBook Air with a 13.3-inch retina display, new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros, and a new Mac Mini that can be stacked on the desktop or racked by the thousands in a data center to create a build farm for iOS apps.
That Mac Mini refresh, the line-up’s first since 2014, is a welcome update for customers who want computing power in a small, flexible package. The new Mac Mini box starts at $799, which gets you 8 GB of 2666 MGz SO-DIMM RAM and a 3.6 GHz quad-core processor, but power users can opt for six-core processing, up to 64 GB of RAM, and up to 2 TB of flash storage. For connectivity, the base system has Gigabit Ethernet (10 GigE is an option), four Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI out, and two USB-A ports. Apple said Paramount is using them for post-production of the Elton John biopic Rocket Man and suggested linking three of them on the desktop to accelerate video encoding in Apple Compressor.
Fans of lightweight computing may be interested in the new MacBook Air, which brings a retina display to the featherweight form factor for the first time. The size of the force-touch trackpad has been increased and the notebook ships with 8 GB of RAM and a 1.6 GHz (3.6 GHz turbo) core i5 processor as standard. Storage is the bottleneck here, with a mere 128 GB SSD included for $1,199.
And then there’s the new iPad Pro, an attractive option for creative types who value the ability to sketch or annotate with the Apple Pencil that became more useful last year with the introduction of real split-screen and multitasking features. The Home button has been eliminated from the top-of-the-line 12.9 inch iPad Pro, replaced by Face ID. That has allowed Apple to reduce the footprint of the device without reducing the size of the screen. Its weight, too, has been reduced, to 1.39 pounds. One thing that’s not reduced is the price — the new top-of-the-line iPad Pro starts at $999 with 64 GB of storage, compared to $799 for its predecessor (with that same 64 GB) when it was launched last June. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro can be had with 1 TB of storage on board, but it’ll set you back $1,749 — not including the redesigned pencil (now $129, up from $99) or smart keyboard ($199, up from $169).
Apple justified the higher price point by touting the included A12X Bionic chip, featuring an eight-core CPU, seven-core CPU and Neural Engine for Core ML (machine-learning) tasks. It’s also said to be well-suited for executing AR applications. The same hardware is included in the new 11-inch iPad Pro, which starts at a less eye-watering $799.
All of the new hardware will be available next Wednesday, November 7, Apple said.