October 31, 2018 // 12 p.m.
Apple has officially announced its latest hardware updates, bringing a new MacBook Air, long-thought-abandoned Mac Mini, and an iPad Pro boasting the new A12X Bionic system-on-chip (SoC) with claimed 'Xbox One S-class graphics' capabilities.
Unveiled during a press event late last night, Apple's hardware refresh is comprehensive. For laptop users, the standout was the new 13.3" MacBook Air with 'retina' high-resolution display and a revised design that decreases the previously-hefty bezels and switches them to a less distracting black finish. Externally, the devices also include a Touch ID fingerprint scanner, a latest-generation Force Touch trackpad, and the controversial third-generation scissor-switch keyboard. Internally, the device is based on 8th generation Intel Core processors, supports up to 16GB of RAM, 1.5TB of storage, and offers a 13-hour battery life during video playback. Despite its new features, the machine is also smaller than its predecessors by around 17 percent.
For those who had thought the four years since Apple updated the Mac Mini meant the platform had been abandoned, there's good news and bad news: The good news is that last night's event saw a long-overdue refresh of the range; the bad news is that what was once a relatively low-cost entry point to the Mac family is now around 60 percent more expensive than its predecessors. As well as a new exterior, the refreshed Mac Mini offers up to a six-core 8th generation Intel Core processor, 64GB of RAM - up from the previous generation's 16GB limit - with up to 2TB of storage. Connectivity includes four USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI, and the option of a 10Gb Ethernet port.
The iPad Pro, though, was Apple's focus point for the event. Positioned as competition to fully-fledged computers, rather than tablets, the new 11" and 12.9" iPad Pro models are the first to feature Apple's A12X Bionic system-on-chip. Developed in-house based on Arm IP, the A12X builds on Apple's previous-generation A12 with a boost in performance from a more powerful seven-core graphics processor capable of driving what the company claims is 'Xbox One S-class graphics and an eight-core central processor split into four performance and four low-power cores - both of which can run simultaneously, in a shift from the company's previous performance-or-efficiency-pick-one approach. As before, the SoC also includes Apple's in-house Neural Engine machine intelligence accelerator.
Externally, the iPad Pro models receive an upgrade to support Face ID in place of the Touch ID-integrated home button and a move away from Apple's own Lightning port to USB Type-C with bidirectional power delivery. The tablets also include support for a new Apple Pencil - exclusive to the new models, with the older-generation Pencil being incompatible - with improved performance and wireless charging, along with a magnetic clip system that attaches it to the iPad Pro when not in use in a manner not dissimilar to Microsoft's Surface Pro range.
Pre-orders for Apple's new hardware, all of which is now manufactured from 100 percent recycled aluminium, are open now on the official storefront. The company has also announced an upcoming shift to its 15" MacBook Pro family, which will receive AMD Radeon Pro Vega 20 and Radeon Pro Vega 16 graphics options in a refresh scheduled for this November.