Recapping Apple's iPad Mini event: more than just iPads

So it turns out Apple did manage to keep some news a secret in the run-up to its big event yesterday.

In the run up to the event everyone was talking about the iPad Mini and the rumors were all pretty much spot on. We were expecting a 7.85" screen and it's actually 7.9" but otherwise it's pretty close to what the leaks reported. It has a 1024x768 screen (same as the iPad 2), a dual-core A5 CPU, an HD FaceTime camera and a 5 megapixel iSight camera on the back. There's an LTE version but it'll cost you, of course.

Apple must be feeling heat from Google since they made a point of comparing the Mini to the Nexus 7, pointing out that the Nexus is thicker and heavier (the iPad Mini is .68 lbs, 7.2 mm thick) and made of plastic, and that the Nexus has a smaller screen. (I thought that was the point?) They neglected to compare the iPad Mini's 162 PPI screen to the Nexus 7's 216 PPI.

The iPad Mini starts at $329 for a 16 GB configuration, which seems like a very aggressive price point for an Apple product. Clearly Apple wants to put a stop to the Android 7" tablet momentum that's been building, and there's a good chance they'll be able to do so at that price. Apple fans are going to love this thing and Android fans are going to dismiss it, but I think Apple still has more mindshare among non-geeky consumers, so...

You can pre-order an iPad Mini starting Friday and they begin shipping on November 2nd.

So that was the iPad Mini, but what we didn't see talked about much (if at all) running up to the event was a 4th generation iPad. That's right, your six month old 3rd gen tablet is now officially obsolete. The 4th generation has an A6X chip that doubles both CPU tasks and graphics performance when compared to the 3rd generation. It also moves to the Lightning connector and Apple promised both Lighting to USB and Lightning to SD card adapters. Interesting.

The 4th generation iPad retains the same pricing and configuration as the 3rd generation.

But it wasn't all iPads at the event. The Mac product line got a refresh as well.

As expected, there's now a 13" MacBook Pro with a retina display. It's a slender beast, just .75" thick. At just over 3.5 lbs it's the lightest MacBook Pro model, but then there's no optical drive. That had to save them a few ounces. Configurations include i5 or i7 CPU, 8 GB RAM is standard and you can get up to a 768 GB SSD storage. Prices start at $1,699.

There's a new Mac Mini in the line-up. These have dual or quad core i5 or i7 Ivy Bridge CPUs, up to 16 GB RAM, and up to 256 GB SSD storage, or if you want a conventional hard drive you can get a terabyte. Prices here start at $599 for a 2.5 Ghz dual core i5 with 4 GB RAM and a 500 GB HD. There's a $999 server configuration that has a 2.3 Ghz quad-core i7, 4 GB RAM and dual 1 TB HDDs.

Last up is a new iMac. It comes in 21.5" and 27" models and they're just 5 mm thick. It's crazy to think there's an i5 or i7 CPU inside and up to 3 TB of storage. Apple is also introducing a Fusion Drive, which combines 128 GB SSD and a 1 or 3 TB HDD into one enclosure. Your OS is installed on the SSD and software determines what programs and data you access more frequently and automatically moves them to the SSD as well. All your documents stay on the HDD. Pretty neat.

The 21.5" iMac ships in November. $1,299 gets you a 2.7 Ghz i5, 8 GB RAM, a 1 TB HDD and a GeForce GT 640 M graphics card.

The 27" iMac ships in December. $1,799 gets you a 2.9 Ghz quad-core i5, 8 GB AM, a 1 TB HDD and a Geforce GTX 660M graphics card.

Bottom line is that it was a great day to be an Apple fan, with lots of new toys to lust for. Me, I'm honestly a tad disappointed that my iPad is already obsolete; I hope developers don't start targeting the 4th generation platform too soon, but I'm sure they will. But that's just sour grapes on my part. The new iMac line was a very pleasant surprise; they're relatively inexpensive (for Apple products) and are very stylish. A nice living room computer.

What do you think of Apple's new lineup? Is that iPad Mini calling to you? Anything else that's grabbing your attention?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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