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The Apple iPad Air: More speed, much less weight, few surprises

  • Apple iPad 4G family

    Apple unveiled a thinner, lighter version of its popular tablet called the iPad Air and a high-resolution version of the iPad Mini at a Tuesday event in San Francisco.Apple

  • Apple-iPad-mini-retina.jpg

    The new Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display.Apple

There weren’t many unexpected hardware announcements today at Apple's media event, though we certainly weren’t disappointed. One of the few surprises was that the company is offering so much of its signature software for free—including Mavericks OS upgrades and iWork and iLife updates.

The 9.7-inch Apple iPad got a new name today: the iPad Air. It’s narrower, 20 percent thinner, and 28 percent lighter than its predecessor. The bezel is 43 percent thinner and measures just 7.5mm thick. And the iPad Air weighs just 1 pound compared to 1.4 pounds.

The iPad Air runs on the Apple A7 chip, the same as in the iPhone 5s. That means it uses 64-bit computing technology. The company says graphics performance is 72 percent faster than the original iPad. The iPad Air has a 5-megapixel camera, and battery life should be 10 hours. It starts at $499, like the prior version. It will ship on Nov. 1.

The iPad mini also got a major makeover today, with the expected addition of a Retina display. That means resolution is 2048x1536, same as the iPad Air. It also uses the A7 chip, and should have 10-hour battery life. Retail price is $399 ($70 more than the first iPad mini), and will be available later in November. The original iPad mini got a price cut to $299.

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Apple also released the latest version of its OS X operating system, Mavericks, today. In a first, and in order to get it into the hands of as many users as possible, Apple said, the upgrade would be free, whether you’re currently running Mountain Lion, Lion or even Snow Leopard. Mavericks will also run on certain Macs from as far back as 2007. iPhoto, Garage Band, and iMovie are also free with the purchase of new Apple devices.

Updates to the iWork and iLife apps are also free. iLife updates include new versions of iPhoto, iMovie, and Garage Band. Among the latest features is the ability to make a coffee table book right from your iPad using iPhoto.

With iVideo, picture-in-picture is now available on the iPhone or iPad. iMovie Theater puts all movies, trailers, and shared clips in one place, available on iCloud and even Apple TV. Garage Band lets you record 16 tracks. And iWork now has full file compatibility across all devices and a new user interface.

Apple also announced a new Mac Pro desktop this past summer. The company confirmed the new desktop will be available in December, starting at $2,999 for a model with a 3.7GHz processor, 12GB memory, 2GB video memory, and 256GB of flash storage (upgradable, notably, to as much as 1TB). The Mac Pro features an innovative design for a desktop, with a small round case instead of the traditional rectangular case design.

We'll be getting some hands-on time with the new devices announced today; check back soon for our report.

—Donna Tapellini


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