Initial Thoughts On Apple’s New iPads, Upgraded Retina MacBook Pros, And Free OS X Mavericks – The ‘Book Mystique

After a new product announcement drought of just short of a year, punctuated only by the MacBook Air upgrade in June (albeit a major upgrade), and the iPhone 5s/iPhone 5c/iOS 7 releases, Apple’s October 22 raft of announcements was like drinking from a firehose. It outdid even the October 23, 2012 omnibus product release event that unveiled the iPad mini and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, along with substantially refreshed iMacs and an A6X 4th-generation iPad.

Indeed, too much ground to cover comprehensively on short notice, so in this week’s ‘Book Mystique column I’ll concentrate mainly on the items to be released immediately or in a few days.

MacBook Pro with Retina Display

First out of the gate is the updated MacBook Pro with Retina Display, which gets the long-overdue 4th-generation Intel core i Haswell Processors that the entry level MacBook Air has had since last June. The new rMBPs are pretty much what I had been expecting specs-wise, with Haswell-enabled longer battery life (although still about 30 percent less than the non-Retina MacBook Air, faster PCIe flash storage SSDs and faster WiFi that the Airs also got in June, a graphics processor upgrade. However, Apple still managed to surprise with $100/$200 price cuts for the two rMBP models respectively, starting at $1,299 for the 13-incher, and is now throwing in iWork and iLife for Free with every new Mac. The new top of the line Apple laptops also come with OS X 10.9 Mavericks (about which more in a moment) loaded up. The Retina displays maintain the 2012 spec.

Apple says the PCIe-based flash storage delivers up to 60 percent faster read speeds than the previous generation drives, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless offers performance that Apple claims is up to three times faster than before when connected to an 802.11ac base station.

One disappointment is that the non-Retina MacBook Pro got passed over for a Haswell upgrade, and the 15-inch model is discontinued altogether, although the 13-inch old-school MacBook Pro remains available at least for the present with its June 2013 spec. carried over, so at least Mac laptop users who need high-capacity storage at a reasonable price and /or a built-in optical drive are still accommodated.

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The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display can be had with Haswell dual-core Intel Core i5 processors up to 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.1 GHz, and Apple says the latest Intel Iris integrated graphics deliver up to 90 percent faster performance than the previous generation MacBook Pro with Retina display. The 13-inch model can also be configured with faster dual-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 2.8 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.3 GHz.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display gets Haswell quad-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 2.3 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.5 GHz, and Intel Iris Pro graphics for enhanced integrated graphics performance, or Iris Pro and GeForce GT 750M discrete graphics with 2GB of video memory for the ultimate in performance. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display can also be configured with faster quad-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.8 GHz.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display delivers up to nine hours of battery life –two hours more than the previous generation, while the Haswell 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display delivers up to eight hours of battery life, or one hour more than the previous generation.

In the I/O department, Dual Thunderbolt 2 ports deliver up to 20Gbps of bandwidth to each external device, allowing users to connect to multiple displays and high performance devices, while an HDMI port offers quick connectivity to HDTVs and projectors.

Another value-enhancement is that both iLife and iWork productivity apps are now included with every new Mac purchase. iWork includes Apple’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote applications, and can make having Microsoft Office more a preference that a necessity, and restore included functionality Mac users lost when Apple stopped bundling the erstwhile AppleWorks suite with new Macs several years ago. Apple says the iLife and iWork apps have been completely redesigned to take full advantage of OS X Mavericks, updated to 64-bit, and integrated with iCloud.

They also say that the MacBook Pro with Retina display meets stringent Energy Star 6.0 requirements and achieves an EPEAT Gold rating, with the Retina display featuring LED-backlighting being mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. MacBook Pro with Retina display also includes PVC-free components and cables, contains no brominated flame retardants, and uses highly recyclable materials and material-efficient packaging designs.

The updated MacBook Pro with Retina display is available immediately through the Apple Online Store, Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers (see our exclusive price trackers). The 13-inch MacBook Pro is available with a 2.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.9 GHz, 4GB of memory, 128GB of flash storage, and Intel Iris graphics starting at $1,299; and with a 2.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.9 GHz, 8GB of memory, 256GB of flash storage, and Intel Iris graphics starting at $1,499); and with a 2.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.1 GHz, 8GB of memory, 512GB of flash storage, and Intel Iris graphics starting at $1,799. Configure-to-order options include faster dual-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 2.8 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.3 GHz, up to 16GB of memory and flash storage up to 1TB.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro is available with a 2.0 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.2 GHz, 8GB of memory, 256GB of flash storage and Intel Iris Pro graphics starting at $1,999 (US); and with a 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.5 GHz, 16GB of memory, 512GB of flash storage, and Intel Iris Pro and NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics starting at $2,599 (US). Configure-to-order options include faster quad-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.8 GHz, up to 16GB of memory and flash storage up to 1TB.

Additional technical specifications, configure-to-order options and accessories are available online at:
http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro

iPad Air And iPad mini With Retina Display

The new iPad Air is also generally pretty much what I and a horde of other commentariat pundits had been expecting n a full size iPad upgrade, but with even more impact as a reality than speculation and conjecture. This thing is really thin! Very impressive, even though I’ve had no complaints about my old iPad 2’s size and heft.

I have been on the fence as to whether I would upgrade to a fifth-gen. iPad, or go with an Apple Certified Refurbished 4th-gen unit, but this new iPad Air makes it difficult to justify going with the older model just to save a hundred bucks or so. There is the matter that my iPad cases, sleeves, and certain other peripherals won’t work with the iPad Air.

The 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 resolution Retina display is carried over from iPads 3 and 4, but they have been grafted into a new thinner and lighter from factor. Weighing in at just one pound, iPad Air is 20 percent thinner and 28 percent lighter than the fourth-generation iPad, thanks to a a 43 percent narrower screen bezel al la the original iPad mini, and thinner enclosure section.

Apple says the iPad Air’s dramatic downsize is attributable largely to the power efficiency of the new Apple-designed A7 system-on-chip that debuted with the iPhone 5s last month, and which allows the battery to be even smaller, helping reduce the overall volume by 24 percent from the previous generation while doubling computing and graphics performance and maintaining the nominal claimed up to 10-hour battery life. I will be interested to see some head-to-head comparisons of real world battery life with that of the fourth-generation unit.

Apple also announced a new iPad mini with Retina display, boasting the same pixel count as the 9.7-inch iPad panel on its 7.9-inch screen for a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch. The new Rmini iPads also get the same 64-bit “desktop-class” A7 SoC as the iPad Air, which means that users who opt for the iPad mini now don’t have to compromise performance in order to get the smaller form factor. It seems a no-brainer that this screen resolution and performance parity will result in even more iPad mini cannibalization of full-size iPad sales, notwithstanding the coolness of the new iPad Air. As one who is productivity-centric and would entertain the concept of a 12 or 13-inch iPad, the small ‘un runs opposite to my personal taste in tablets, but evidently an awful lot of folks prefer the smaller unit that can be packed around in a handbag or large pocket.

The specification upgrade has jacked the base price of the iPad mini with Retina display by $70 over that of the original iPad mini, but I think that amount of value has been added and then some more besides. If you’re cash-strapped, and think you can happily get along with 1024×768 panel resolution and A5 power, the original mini will continue to be made available with a $30 price cut to $299, alongside the iPad 2 which soldiers on at $399, although I don’t anticipate that there will be many takers for the 2 selling at the same price as a new iPad mini with Retina display. On the other end of the spectrum, the iPad mini with Retina display will also be available in a 128 GB model at $699 for WiFi, and $899 with Cellular/LTE.

Apple also notes that The 7.9-inch Retina display of iPad mini is 35 percent larger than screens on 7-inch tablets, and that it’s the only small tablet to deliver the full iPad experience, now with Retina panel quality. Movies play at full 1080p HD-resolution.

Apple’s A7 chip that powers both the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display features 64-bit architecture, faster graphics and improved image signal processing from previous generation models, with Apple claiming up to twice the CPU and graphics performance on iPad Air compared with its immediate predecessor, and up to four times the CPU and eight times the graphics performance for the iPad mini with Retina display compared with the original iPad mini. The A7 chip’s 64-bit architecture and support for OpenGL ES version 3.0 unlocks game console-like visual effects, and both new iPads also feature the M7 motion coprocessor that gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to offload work from the A7 for improved power efficiency.

Both new iPads also feature two antennas to support Multiple-In-Multiple-Out (MIMO) technology, bringing claimed twice the Wi-Fi performance to iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display at a data rate up to 300 Mbps. Cellular models also come with expanded LTE coverage to accommodate more LTE networks worldwide, while continuing to deliver support for other fast cellular technology around the world (DC-HSDPA, HSPA+).

iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display now have new FaceTime HD camera with improved backside illumination sensors featuring larger pixels for better low-light performance. Apple says the iSight camera with a 5MP sensor and improved optics, combined with iOS 7 and the image signal processing of A7, further improves still image and video capture on iPad bringing faster auto-focus, up to three times video zoom, five times still zoom, better dynamic range and automatic image and video stabilization. I’m disappointed that they didn’t go with the even better 8 megapixel camera that the iPhone 5s got, but at least it’ll be a big step up form the poky 2 MP shooter in my iPad 2. And yes I do take pictures with my iPad, being secure enough that I don’t care if somebody thinks it makes me look like a dork or not. It’s handy.

Another moderate disappointment for me is that there’s no Gold color option, which would have been my choice of livery for a new iPad. Space Gray/Black does nothing for me, so mine will have to be a Silver/White unit the same as my iPad 2. Go figure.

The new iPads come with iOS 7, featuring hundreds of new features, including Control Center, Notification Center, purported improvements to what Apple loosely calls “Multitasking” (i beg to differ, I liked the app switcher in iOS 6 better, and any multitasking meriting the name should support at least two window simultaneous views, as both Android and Windows 8 do). There’s also AirDrop, enhanced Photos, Safari, Siri and iTunes Radio, a free Internet radio service based on the music you listen to on iTunes.

Of course a big advantage to going with an iPad instead of a Microsoft Surface or an Android slate is the App Store, which Apple says now offers more than one million apps to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users in 155 countries around the world, and more than 475,000 apps are designed specifically for iPads. You also now get the iLife suite of creative apps, including iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand, and iWork suite of productivity app — Pages, Numbers and Keynote — bundled for free with every new iOS device running iOS 7. The iWork apps are also available as free updates for existing users, so more iPad users will have access to these apps even if they can resist upgrading and choose to stick with their current machine for the present. All apps have been redesigned to match the look and feel of iOS 7, and have been optimized to support 64-bit technology.

iPad Air with Wi-Fi models will be available in silver or space gray starting on Friday, November 1, for a suggested retail price (all prices in U.S. dollars) of $499 for the 16GB model, $599 (US) for the 32GB model, $699 (US) for the 64GB model and $799 (US) for the 128GB model. iPad Air with Wi-Fi + Cellular will be available starting on Friday, November 1 for a suggested retail price of $629 (US) for the 16GB model, $729 (US) for the 32GB model, $829 (US) for the 64GB model and $929 (US) for the 128GB model. iPad 2 is available at $399 (US) for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and $529 (US) for the 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G model for either AT&T or Verizon.

iPad mini with Retina display will be available later in November in silver or space gray. iPad mini with Retina display Wi-Fi models will be available for a suggested retail price of $399 (US) for the 16GB model, $499 (US) for the 32GB model, $599 (US) for the 64GB model and $699 (US) for the 128GB model. iPad mini with Retina display Wi-Fi + Cellular models will be available for a suggested retail price of $529 (US) for the 16GB model, $629 (US) for the 32GB model, $729 (US) for the 64GB model and $829 (US) for the 128GB model. Additionally, the original iPad mini is now offered at a more affordable price of $299 (US) for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and $429 (US) for the 16GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model for either AT&T, Sprint or Verizon.

New polyurethane Smart Covers for iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display will be available for $39 (US) in a range of colors, including blue, green, pink, yellow, black and (RED). iPad Air Smart Cases and iPad mini Smart Cases are completely redesigned in a aniline-dyed leather, and available in six colors, including yellow, beige, blue, brown, black and (RED) for a suggested retail price of $79 (US) for iPad Air and $69 (US) for iPad mini. Smart Covers and Smart Cases are available through the Apple Online Store (http://www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores and select Authorized Apple Resellers.

iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display will be sold through the Apple Online Store, Apple’s retail stores and through AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and select Apple Authorized Resellers. Starting on November 1, iPad Air will be available in the US, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China (Wi-Fi models only), Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao (Wi-Fi models only), Macedonia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. At Apple retail stores in these countries, iPad Air will be available beginning at 8 a.m. local time on Friday, November 1.

For more information, visit:
http://www.apple.com/ipad-air/features/

OS X Mavericks Now Free At the Mac App Store

Last but not least, Apple has decided to make OS X 10.9 Mavericks, released yesterday, a free upgrade from the Mac App Store. Apple claims more than 200 new features, including bringing iBooks and Maps to the Mac, and also includes a new version of Safari, enhances multi-display support, introduces Finder Tabs and Tags and delivers new core technologies for better power efficiency and performance.

We didn’t save even $20 by waiting to upgrade to a Mac with Mavericks loaded up, but that’s fine on the balance. If you’re already running Lion or Mountain Lion, upgrading to Mavericks would not appear to have any downside. OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard holdouts still have the same reasons to resist.

“Mavericks is an incredible release, which introduces significant new apps and features, while also improving the performance and battery life of your Mac,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “We want every Mac user to experience the latest features, the most advanced technologies, and the strongest security. We believe the best way to do this is to begin a new era of personal computing software where OS upgrades are free.”

OS X Mavericks new features, include:
• iBooks, which gives you instant access to your iBooks library, more than two million titles in the iBooks Store, and works seamlessly across your devices;
• Maps, which brings powerful mapping technology to the desktop and lets you plan a trip from your Mac and send it to your iPhone for voice navigation on the road;
a streamlined Calendar that estimates travel time between appointments, and provides a map with weather forecast;
• a new version of Safari with Shared Links, which helps you find what’s new on the web by consolidating links shared by people you follow on Twitter and LinkedIn;
• iCloud Keychain, which safely stores your website usernames and passwords, credit card numbers and Wi-Fi passwords and pushes them to your trusted devices so you don’t need to remember them;
• enhanced multi-display support, which makes using multiple displays easier and more powerful, with no configuration required;
• interactive Notifications, allowing you to reply to a message, respond to a FaceTime call or even delete an email without leaving the app you’re using;
• Finder Tabs, which help unclutter your desktop by consolidating multiple Finder windows into a single window with multiple tabs; and
• Finder Tags, a powerful new way to organize and find your files located on your Mac or in iCloud.

Apple says Mavericks also includes new core technologies that boost performance and improve the battery life of your Mac. Timer Coalescing and App Nap intelligently save energy and reduce power consumption. Compressed Memory automatically shrinks inactive data to keep your Mac fast and responsive. Mavericks also delivers significant performance enhancements for systems with integrated graphics through optimized OpenCL support and dynamic video memory allocation.

OS X Mavericks is available today for free from the Mac App Store. Any Mac capable of running OS X Mountain Lion can also run Mavericks. You can upgrade any Mac that supports it to Mavericks for free directly from OS X Snow Leopard, Lion or Mountain Lion.

Compatible Mac models are:
iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
Xserve (Early 2009)

To get details about your Mac model, click the Apple icon at the top left of your screen, choose About This Mac, then choose More Info. For a complete list of system requirements and compatible systems, visit:
http://www.apple.com/osx/specs

OS X Server 3.0 requires Mavericks and is available from the Mac App Store for $19.99 (US).

For more information, visit:
http://www.apple.com/osx/specs/

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