iPad minis, and other fun things.

On Tuesday apple announced a few new things, most notably the iPad mini, in a press event that was live broadcast online (via the Apple website or an Apple TV). I have a few thoughts about the things they had to show off.

New Mac minis

The Mac mini was given an incremental upgrade, with nothing all too noteworthy beyond the introduction of more modern hardware. I run a Mac mini as a media server and can't overstate how nifty the little thing is. Most critically, when idle it is extremely power efficient which is important for a machine that spends most of it's existence powered up and ready to rock.

They did add Fusion Drive (see below) to the configuration options, which probably makes it even more suitable for small server purposes.

The New iMac

The new iMac, in terms of hardware, received similar incremental upgrades to the Mac mini, and now includes more up-to-date graphics and processor capabilities. The Fusion Drive option is of course available (still see below) and the LCD layer is now laminated on to the glass to save space and improve image quality. Anyone who's used an iPhone 4 or later knows that this'll make a big difference to reflections on your screen.

The big reveal was the revamped design. It's now only millimetres thick at the edges, and looks incredible from the promo shots. It does however bulge significantly at the back (that hardware has to live somewhere) - though is significantly slimmer than the previous generation even at it's thickest. It looks impressive.

The iPad with Retina Display

The 3rd generation iPad was surpassed. A new iPad with a faster processor (double the cores of the iPhone 5), incrementally better camera hardware and a lightning connector was unveiled. My pet theory is that the key improvement here from Apple's perspective is the Lightning connector - now all of the flagship devices use it, and manufacturers no longer have to support it and the old 30pin connector which will now phase out completely over the course of the next twelve months. They had to offer more than just the connector though, and the hardware bump is significant, if not spectacular.

The iPad 2 remains the 'budget' alternative, and the 3rd generation is discontinued.

iPad mini

This was the 'new' product. It's very comparable numbers wise to the iPad 2 beyond the obvious smaller format. It does not have a retina screen (which is a little disappointing) but runs at the same resolution as the iPad 2 at a higher PPI, so it will still look good.

The decision to do this has one key benefit, unlike the iPhone 5's switch to a 4 inch screen apps will not have to be redesigned to fit the screen; apps will display in non-retina exactly as they do on the iPad 2. Every app on the App Store will work immediately. It's a good move, and the jury is out on whether or not a retina screen will be incorporated on a future release.

Fusion Drive

This was the most interesting announcement for me from a technical perspective. It's a single volume drive incorporating solid state storage and more traditional spinning disks. Mountain Lion will maintain your most often accessed apps and data on the SS portion of the drive, and you'll have the greater storage capacity of the HD portion. In theory, for most of your usage, this will mean more or less SSD performance - if it works as advertised then it's the ideal compromise.