Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Thoughts on Today’s Apple Event

13″ Retina MacBook Pro

This is a great model in between the 13″ MacBook Air and the 15″ retina MacBook Pro. It’s very clear that Apple sees this as their lineup as of, say, two years from now. All solid state, ultra thin, ultra light, and wicked fast. According to early reports, the integrated graphics are more than fast enough and, while it isn’t as featherweight as the Air, it’s very light and very thin.

This fixes my biggest issue with my 13″ Air — the display. Not only does it have a significantly higher resolution, this display is an IPS panel, not the pithy TN panel used in the Air and previous Pro (the Pro had a slightly better TN panel than the Air). I’d expect to see this same panel in the future retina Air.

A small part of me is considering selling my two-month-old Air for this Pro. It looks spectacular.

New iMac and Mac Mini

5mm. A quarter of an inch. That’s how thin the edge of the very-tapered back of the iMac is. And, from the pictures both from Apple and the press, it looks stunning, though they are carefully avoiding showing the bulge in the middle of the back. Rarely do things in 2012 look or sound like the predictions of 2012, but this looks like the computer of a typeset-in-Eurostile 2012.

The new iMac (and Mac Mini) features something Apple is calling “Fusion Drive”, which is essentially a much more capable hybrid hard drive. It’s a combination of a hardware mix of a solid state memory and a spinning hard drive, and very smart software to actively swap data between the two.1

Also of note is the lack of an optical drive. Apple was regarded as crazy for dropping the floppy drive in the original iMac, and the comments suggest the same for the optical drive this time around. It’s 2012, though, and between USB thumb drives and cloud storage options, optical media seems like a relic of a bygone age.

Everything about this lineup of new iMacs is stunning. The new laminated displays are particularly appealing, speaking as someone who has a Thunderbolt Display with that 2mm air gap. I love my laptop + external display setup, and I don’t expect to shift from that in a hurry, but the new iMacs are quite clearly the best consumer and prosumer desktops in the world.

The new Mac Minis are a great computer for $600. Now they’re faster, and that’s good. Moving on.

iPad Fourth-Ish Generation

The third generation iPad gained a retina display, but the processor stayed the same, merely getting better graphics to drive the quadrupled pixels. This meant that it uses more power, which meant it produces more heat, needs a bigger battery, and weighs more. And it still isn’t enough because some animations are significantly slower than on the iPad 2.

The A6X chip in the new (new) iPad means that the animations are sorted out, while using less power and producing less heat. But the battery and weight have remained the same, unfortunately. It’s a much better product, though, especially with the new Lightning connector.

Apple used to call it the “new iPad”, and now calls this the “iPad with retina display” to distinguish it from the iPad Mini. Why is it so difficult for them to name this product? Are they waiting for both lines to have retina displays so they can simplify the naming scheme?

What struck me most is how odd it is for Apple to update a product just halfway through its expected cycle. It would surprise me if they did so again in another six months, so I expect that the iPad has shifted to a fall release cycle. And this makes me wonder what their new spring product will be. Apple releases new stuff every quarter, and their Q2 2013 is looking somewhat sparse right now.

iPad Mini

Finally.

You’ve heard everything about this, so this will be brief. I’m pleased to say that I only missed a couple of things in either of my spitballing articles regarding the iPad Mini. I was off by a week for all predicted dates, and I was wrong on the price.

The $329 price point doesn’t surprise me, but like everyone, I was hoping for a little less. I think $299 is the magic price point, but I don’t think they’re going to lose any significant sales numbers by pricing it $30 higher. Judging by the slight dive of AAPL, Wall Street didn’t like the price, but I bet they’ll love the sales figures when Apple releases them in January.

Put it this way: Apple is doing their best to paint the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire as cheap and plasticky. It’s $130 to upgrade from a generic plastic tablet to the name-brand premium iPad. I’m willing to bet that most people won’t hesitate. Apple wants to compete in the small tablet market, not the cheap tablet market.

As soon as the iPad Mini gets a retina display, I will be upgrading my 10” iPad to the smaller model. It looks fantastic. And did you see the cute Smart Cover video?

Software?

Judging by my Twitter timeline, I certainly wasn’t the only person to be disappointed by the lack of any mention of iTunes 11, or iWork and iLife updates. Nothing has appeared in the developer centre either, but I suspect a developer beta release of iTunes wasn’t planned in the first place.

Still, Apple has about a week to meet their October release target for the new version, and I certainly hope they make it.

There were a few software updates today worth mentioning. iBooks Author was updated with new templates, support for mathematical expressions, and embeddable fonts. iBooks was updated with continuous scrolling, passage sharing with Twitter and Facebook, and support for books created with the new iBooks Author. Nice updates, but nothing crazy, and there’s still no support for long-form text-heavy books in Author.


  1. If Twitter searched tweets from a few years ago, I could find the one where I speculated this as a way to mitigate the expense of higher-capacity flash memory. ↩︎