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Apple Announces New 2018 iPad Pro With USB-C, Face ID; Mac Mini; MacBook Air

In rapid succession, Apple has followed up its launch of no less than three iPhones with three categories of Apple products today in New York. At the Brooklyn Academy of Music, CEO Tim Cook began the 30 October Special event with the Mac.

2018 13.3″ MacBook Air

With a great refocus on its rapidly growing “new to Mac” user base, Apple’s new MacBook Air builds on its iconic wedge design that Steve Jobs famously pulled from an envelop back in 2008. With a Retina display (finally!), thinner design, thinner display bezels, and is available in Silver, Space Grey and Rose Gold.

The 13.3-inch display is bordered with bezels that are 50% thinner, and feature four times as many pixels for 4 million total pixels, and 48% more colour – perfect for budding creatives of all genres. There’s still a FaceTime HD camera up top, and the new MacBook Air supports the new Group FaceTime feature for group video calls.

With thinner bezels, the new MacBook Air is 17% smaller in terms of volume, and 10% thinner, and still more than a hundred grams lighter than its predecessor.

It features Apple’s butterfly mechanism keyboard, which has been improved to the third generation. It features backlit keys that are four times more stable for greater responsiveness and accuracy. A new ForceTouch touchpad is now 20% bigger like on the other MacBooks. The new MacBook Air also features a new TouchID sensor on the top right corner for login security, and also for third-party apps and Apple Pay. It is powered by the T2 chip that provides a secure enclave that protects Touch ID data and safeguards the boot process.

It has two Thunderbolt USB-C ports for charging, video and data transfer, enabling the MacBook Air to power up to 5K external monitors or an external GPU. Louder speakers, improved microphones for Siri can also be found on board.

In terms of processing, the MacBook Air has an 8th Gen Intel dual-core i5 CPU with Intel integrated graphics, and supports up to 16GB of RAM, along with up to 1.5TB of SSD storage that is 60% higher than the last iteration.

Apple has gone the extra mile to ensure the eco-friendliness of its new products, guaranteeing the recyclability and sustainability of its production process. In the keynote, Apple announced a new process, that enables all MacBooks to be manufactured from 100% recycled aluminium – reducing its mining activities and ecological burden.

The 2018 lineup of MacBook Air variants in Space Grey, Rose Gold and Silver. Image: Apple

The baseline 2018 MacBook Air is available in an 8GB RAM, 1.6GHz/3.5GHz Core i5 CPU and 128GB SSD storage configuration and will start at USD 1,199 (SGD 1,660). Preorders begin immediately, and units will hit shelves next week on November 7.

2018 Mac Mini

Next up is the Mac Mini: it comes in Space Gray, and base models begin with 8th Gen quad-core processors and are available in six-core variants. It also comes with 32GB of RAM, configurable with up to 64GB of SO-DIMMs memory. They will only be available with faster SSD flash storage with up to 2TB of storage. There will also be T2 security chip on board for posterity. These work together to deliver up to five times faster performance, and up to 30x faster HEVC video encode.

The Mac Mini, now in Space Grey. Image: Apple

IO is extensive, with gigabit ethernet (configurable to up to 10Gb ethernet), four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C and two USB-A ports, a HDMI connection, and an audio port.

The 2018 Mac Mini starts with 8GB RAM, 3.6GHz quad Core i3 and 128GB of SSD storage, and is available at USD 799 (SGD 1,106). It is configurable up to 64GB of RAM, 3.2GHz/4.6GHz six-core Core i7 CPU, 2TB SSD and 10Gb Ethernet. The Mac Mini will also be available in stores November 7.

2018 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro

Last is the new iPad Pro in 11-inch and 12.9-inch models. With a totally-refreshed design, the iPad Pro now features a more angular frame and an edge-to-edge display, with rounded corners, pixel masking and anti-aliasing seen on the iPhone XR with the same Liquid Retina LCD display technology. It also comes with Apple Pencil technology but is able to charge the Pencil with magnetic docking on the long side.

The new form factor on the new iPad Pro is one of the biggest changes on the company’s tablet lineup yet. Image: Apple

The 11-inch iPad has the same footprint as the previous generation’s 10.5-inch display, giving more screen real estate per inch. The larger display sports a 2388 x 1668p resolution screen with 3.98 million pixels at 264 ppi. The larger 12.9-inch iPad is much smaller than the previous 12.9-inch iPad – smaller than the Legal paper size, commonly used in the US. The iPads are also 15% thinner at 5.9 inches thick, meaning they are 25% smaller in terms of volume than their predecessor.

The Liquid Retina displays feature ProMotion, with wide colour gamut support and True Tone for colour accuracy and user comfort.

Pixel masking, anti aliasing and all the technology used on the iPhone XR’s Liquid Retina make a return on the iPad Pro. Image: Apple

Both iPad Pros feature Face ID, with the same TrueDepth camera technology found on the iPhone X, Xs and XR devices. With the flood illuminator, dot projector and infrared camera, the TrueDepth system is able to detect and recognise 3D objects to deliver secure logins and payments on the iPad Pro. Face ID will work in any orientation, even upside down.

With no home button, navigations on the iPad Pro is the same as the new generation iPhones, with the addition of split view enabled by the bigger screen. Dragging an app from the dock to the side of the screen opens the second app, and elements can be easily transferred between the two open applications. The Slideover feature quickly opens up a smaller app pane to enable quick responses to text messages.

Gesture navigations makes a debut on the iPad. Image: Apple

Audio has been greatly improved, with the same four-speaker array with one grille at each corner, but now with woofer and tweeter pairs for more immersive, fuller-bodied sound. Apple claims a 10 hour battery on the iPad Pro, and includes an 18-watt power adapter in the box.

The iPad Pros are powered with the A12X Bionic, which feature the same 7-nanometer process manufacture as the A12 Bionic found on the latest iPhones. This enables greater performance and efficiency than ever before. With more than 10 billion transistors, the A12X Bionic has an 8-core CPU, with four performance and four efficiency cores in a fusion architecture, with multithreading. Single core performance benchmarks indicate a 35% speed improvement from last year’s iPad Pro. Multicore performance is a whopping 90% faster than the previous iPads, too. It also has a 7-core proprietary GPU that boasts twice the speed from the previous iteration.

Perhaps one of the most revolutionary improvements to the iPad: USB-C. Image: Apple

There’s also a new neural engine, with up to 5 trillion operations per second, delivering core ML to organise photos, and create Memories. Applications can also leverage the neural engine to intelligently enhance workflow. Pixelmator analyses a vast amount of image pairs to determine the best enhancements to add to photos during editing.

They also boast all-day battery life, and are able to support up to 1TB of storage. Most remarkably, the iPads are connected via USB-C, enabling fast data connections to allow usage of up to 5K external displays, and easier connectivity to peripherals and gadgets. The USB-C port also allows for charging out, allowing users to charge their other devices on the go.

The Apple Pencil has also been improved with the second generation Apple Pencil, which attaches magnetically to the long edge of the iPad, instantly pairing and charging with the iPad. Touching the iPad display with the Pencil will wake it and instantly launch the Notes application, and tapping on the flat edge of the pencil switches to the writing implement and the eraser by default. In other applications, this action is customisable.

The Apple Pencil Gen 2 now docks, charges, and pairs magnetically on the long side of the iPad. Image: Apple

There’s a new emphasis on augmented reality, with augmentations and optimisations to system performance to deliver the best experience possible with the large display. Cameras, gyroscopes and accelerometers work in tandem to deliver accurate motion tracking, while the GPU on the A12X Bionic chip delivers realistic graphics, real-time writing and world tracking with ISP acceleration. The Neural Engine works to provide true-to-life reflections which are one of the most demanding elements to render.

In terms of applications, the improved performance of the iPad Pro makes supporting the most demanding apps possible. AutoCAD comes to iOS with desktop-level performance – Apple claims it will run as well as the fastest PCs; Assassin’s Creed Rebellion comes over from consoles, with demanding effects like fog and ambient light delivered at 120fps. DJ Pro harnesses the power of the A12X Bionic and Core ML to process and beat match an unparalleled amount of music samples concurrently.

The 2018 iPad Pro 11-inch is offered in 64GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB storage options, and starts at USD 799 (SGD 1,106). The 2018 iPad Pro 12.9-inch is offered in the same range of storage configurations and starts at USD 999 (SGD 1,383). Like the previous Mac products, these will be available within a week on 7 November.

Local pricing has yet to be announced. All figures in SGD are conversions based on exchange rates at the time of publishing.

Ian Ling
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

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