Post-Event Thoughts on the 'iPad Mini' Event

I finally got around to watching last Tuesday’s keynote this past weekend, and I wanted to share my thoughts on what Apple announced. If Marco, Shawn, and Stephen can do it, then so too can I. I’ll discuss each product in turn, as they were introduced at the event.

13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro


My feelings about the new MacBook Pro echo Marco’s (see link above):

Prior to this, the computer I recommended for nearly everyone was the 13” MacBook Air. But the new 13” Retina MacBook Pro is only about 0.6 pounds heavier, has much higher CPU, RAM, and storage options, and has the much nicer Retina screen. It commands a premium of about $500, which is significant, but you get much more for it.

This is now the computer I’ll recommend that most people get.

My main machine currently is a 13-inch MacBook from 2008, when Apple introduced the first unibody notebooks. Though the resolution is a measly 1280x800, I’ve never had issues with pixellation or the screen feeling cramped. That said, it’s awfully tempting to upgrade to the Retina model. Besides the dramatic upgrade to the display, the new model would offer me lots more: an SSD, more and faster RAM, Thunderbolt, USB 3, an SD cad slot, and the removal of an optical drive I barely use. Not to mention a thinner and lighter enclosure. Still, part of me wants a true “desktop” main Mac1, so I’m inclined to pass on the 13-inch Retina MBP even though it’d fit my (pretty spartan) needs quite nicely.

The addition of the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro now pushes the MacBook Air -- at one time Apple’s flagship laptop -- to the opposite end of the spectrum. The shift is awkward. The Airs are still great machines, to be sure, but they’re now Apple’s “budget” offerings. They don’t have Retina screens (yet), aren’t as powerful as the Pros, and are, of course, cheaper. I suspect that once the Airs go Retina, they’ll reaffirm their position at the forefront of Mac laptops. At that point, the Airs will have the best of all worlds: a great display, power2, and size. As of this writing, though, the Pros have the Airs beat in every way save for size, so I wouldn’t recommend getting an Air unless you really value their advantage in portability.

Forget the non-Retina MacBook Pros. Spend the extra $500 on the Retina model; it’s worth it.

Mac Mini


Not much to say about the Mac Mini. It’s faster, still cute, and still starts at $599. And consider: the Mac Mini has Thunderbolt whereas the red-headed stepchild of the Mac line, the Mac Pro, does not, much to the chagrin of John Siracusa.

iMac


I’m really excited for the new iMacs, if only for aesthetic reasons. The display on this thing is thin, and the whole friction-stir welding alchemy bit sounds cool. I’m leaning heavily on getting the base model 21.5-inch version ($1499) to replace this ever-tiring MacBook, as the specs are sufficient enough for my needs and, again, I’m drawn to the new model’s slim profile. Moreover, getting an iMac would be psychologically soothing insofar that I’m actually getting a true “desktop” machine: one computer that sits on my desk 24/7/365.

Of note, the new iMacs can support up to 32GB (!) of RAM. Computations unbound.

iPad 4


The introduction of the fourth-generation iPad came a mere 7 months after Apple introduced the iPad (3). In all the recaps of last week’s event I’ve read, the universal sentiment is that the release of the iPad 4 now was the shocker. But, as Tim Cook said, Apple’s not taking their foot off the gas pedal. This was an aggressive move, classically Apple, even though it certainly pissed off those who just bought the, ahem, “new” iPad prior to the event. Oh well, shit happens. Such is the pace of the tech sphere.

Owners of the iPad (3) (myself included) shouldn’t feel too left out, though. While the additions of a 720p FaceTime HD camera and the A6X chip are certainly welcome, the fact of the matter is the New, New iPad is, in essence, an iPad 3S. An incremental update. What’s interesting is I doubt highly we’ll see another iPad come March. Apple likely is pushing the iPads (plural) releases to the Fall, right before the holiday shopping season. What better time to announce new goodies than right before Americans credit card-swipe themselves into debt? Of course, this is all pure conjecture on my part, but if my theory proves true, then it’ll be interesting to see what Apple does between, say, January and WWDC in June.

iPad Mini


No, I didn’t pre-order one, nor do I plan to order one anytime soon.

The form factor really appeals to me. I like that it’s an iPad, just smaller and lighter. Easier to hold, easier to carry. It runs all the same apps that the full-sized version does. Again, just in a smaller and lighter form. As a nerd, I’m disappointed that the Mini is missing a Retina display, but it’ll come. And when it does, I’ll be very tempted to switch to a Mini as my main iPad. That said, I do have questions regarding the Mini’s usefulness as a laptop replacement. As I’ve written, I’m very keen on the idea that my iPad is able to help me get “real” work done: writing, mostly, but also even things like photo-editing and whatnot. I’m left to wonder, though, if the smaller display/physical size would prove to be a hinderance doing such things. My initial reaction is that the experience would be worse for some things (writing, perhaps) but better for others (say, reading).

John Gruber best sums up my feelings about iPad Mini 1.0 in his review (link below, in footnote 3):

All of the accolades and advantages of retina displays work in reverse. I adore the size and form factor of the iPad Mini, but I also adore the retina display on my full-size iPad. My ideal iPad would be a Mini with a retina display.

Questions aside, however, I’m excited to go beck out the iPad Mini at an Apple Store, and I think Apple will sell a metric shit-ton of ’em. The reviews I’ve read so far3 have been very positive, and I expect it to be a hot-seller for Christmas this year.

Bonus: The iPad 2


At first I didn’t get why the hell it still lives, but once again, Gruber offers perspective:

[T]he iPad 2 must have continued to sell well over the last seven months. There can be no other explanation. If it weren’t selling well, Apple would have dropped it from the lineup. But because it is selling well, they’re keeping it in the lineup, because they don’t know why it’s selling well. If it’s only because of the lower price, the iPad Mini might obviate it. But perhaps it’s not that people want the least expensive iPad, but instead that they want the least expensive full-size iPad.

The last sentence is the key here. Full size for $100 less, Retina screen be damned.


  1. Yes, I could hook up a Cinema/Thunderbolt Display and effectively have my “desktop”.  ↩

  2. Assuming you’re an average user who does things that aren’t taxing the CPU.  ↩

  3. I’ve read three so far: John Gruber’s, MG Siegler’s, and Jim Dalrymple’s.  ↩