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October means it’s time to wish last year’s iPad models a happy birthday — and welcome in the next generation of Apple’s popular line of tablets. So just what does Apple have in store for us? Though Apple didn’t wow us with an iWatch, a larger iPad, or the long-rumored Apple Television, they did show off new iPads and MacBooks. Is that enough to pique your interest? I’ll let you know what you need to know about Apple’s latest.
The latest iPads
If you’ve been following the rumor mill — or even if you haven’t — it’s not much of a surprise that Apple’s new iPad — the iPad Air — is 20% thinner, has a new A7 processor for faster performance, and has an upgraded 5MP camera. It has the same 9.7″ display but a 43% smaller bezel and weighs in at just a pound — making it the lightest full-sized tablet on the market. Sorry, but there’s no fingerprint scanner or gold color option for iPad Air — but you can get it in space gray or silver with 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB of storage space. You can buy a Wi-Fi only model or add cellular service — for an extra cost — with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon This new iPad starts at $499 and will ship on November 1st.
The iPad mini looks much the same, but there are big performance boosts under the hood: the mini has a faster processor and a high-resolution Retina display. Like its big brother the iPad Air, the mini is silver by the top-of-the-line A7 processor, which makes it much zippier than the last generation. The iPad mini is also available in space gray and silver with 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB of storage space, in Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi plus cellular models. The mini with Retina starts at $399 and will ship later in November.
These faster tablets — and the thinner and lighter iPad Air — are certainly compelling, but the prices are high — especially for those on a tight budget. Apple’s solution for budget-conscious users is the $399 iPad 2 iand the original iPad mini, now available for $299 — and though you can find better bargain buys for Android tablets, that’s as close to a budget tablet as you’re likely to get from Apple.
On the accessories side, there are new cases and smart covers to fit Apple’s new tablet lineup, but no Surface-like keyboard cover — though Logitech and Zagg make great keyboard cases for anyone who needs to do a lot of typing on their tablets.
New hardware and software for Mac-lovers
Apple has been talking about its latest operating system, OS X Mavericks, for a while, but it’s available to download today — for free. And though a new operating system doesn’t have the glitz or glamor of a golden iPad, Mavericks offers some big performance improvements, including better power management to let your Mac last longer on a charge, iCloud Keychain for keeping your passwords secure, and a smarter calendar application for keeping on top of your schedule. These improvements are definitely worth the $0 price tag.
The MacBook Pro line also saw a refresh with new Intel 4th generation processors for better battery life. The 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display is thinner and lighter, and the updated Haswell processor will give it up to 9 hours of battery life. The 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina display is powered by the quad-core Crystalwell processor which will give it 8 hours of battery life. And both have a $200 price cut over previous versions: you can order them for $1299 or $1999, starting today. And for those of you who are tied to the desktop, there’s the new top-of-the-line Mac Pro, a high-powered desktop machine which starts at $2999 and will ship before the end of the year.
And for apps, there are updates to iPhoto, iMovies, GarageBand, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote — all of which are free on new Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Though it may not sound like much, these are great apps — and now you won’t have to pay for them. What’s not to like?
These upgrades are sure to put Apple on the holiday wish list: but high prices and tight budgets could still keep you from these new tablets.
Elizabeth Harper contributed to this report.