Buy or Don't Buy: New, Thinner iPad

Becky Worley
Special Contributor, Yahoo! Tech
Upgrade Your Life

Apple just went ballistic with a slew of new product announcements: the iPad Air, iPad Mini Retina Display, Macbook Pro 13 and 15-inch models, and the Mac Pro desktop.  Nothing revolutionary here, but solid improvements.

The questions are:

Is the retina display on the iPad mini worth an extra $100?
Will there be enough inventory for the holiday buying season?
Will the improvements to the Macbook get Windows 8 users to switch?
Is anyone outside of Hollywood going to buy a $3000 desktop computer?

iPad Air: starts at $499

The biggest surprise of the day was the new name for the iPad, the iPad Air. It is 20% thinner than the previous model. Its weight is reduced from 1.4 lbs to 1 lb. It has a 64-bit A7 chip, which Apple says is 8 times faster than the previous model. The upgrade to a 64-bit processor may seem like a geeky throwaway, but it future-proofs your purchase. As more apps take advantage of this faster chip architecture, the iPad you buy today will still seem fast for many years to come. 

The new iPad also has Apple’s new motion processor, which will work with apps to track movement and motion. It doesn’t employ the fingerprint ID system that the new iPhone does, but it does have a pretty silver bezel on the edge of the device that surprisingly makes it look like a Samsung device. It starts at $499 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi version and $629 for one running on LTE cellular data. It will be available November 1st.

BUY OR DON’T BUY: the iPad Air is all about being thinner and lighter. The faster processor future-proofs the purchase.  If screen real estate is important to you for viewing video and for typing, this is the iPad you want for Christmas.

[Related: Do Apple Products Ever Go On Sale?]

iPad Mini with Retina Display: starts at $399

The iPad Mini got the biggest upgrade of the day: 2048 X1536 pixels for a crystal clear viewing experience and all the same internal specs as the iPad Air: the new A7 processor, M7 motion processor, and the 5-megapixel iSight camera.  This cements Apple’s commitment to the smaller 7.9-inch screen size.  At the iPad Mini launch a year ago, Apple didn’t seem too sure about how it would sell, but now by upgrading the specs to match the full-sized iPad, Apple is showing its belief in the Mini (and they have clearly seen sales data to back it up). While the Mini may cannibalize some of the Air’s market share, its price and form factor may be even more popular and affordable in the long run. It starts at $399 for the 16 GB model and will be available in late November.

BUY OR DON’T BUY: While $100 for a clearer screen seems like a lot, you are actually getting an iPad with many internal upgrades AND the nicer screen, so the $100 increase over the previous iPad seems justified.  But keep in mind this tablet is almost twice the price of the Nexus 7 Android tablet retailing for $229. Also, Apple is being a little oblique about actual arrival dates for the iPad Mini Retina Display, and there have been rumors of supply chain issues limiting inventory. So yes, I think this is worth buying if the smaller form factor interests you. But if you must have it for the holidays, order as soon as you can or prepare to stand in line. Will the new Mini be the Cabbage Patch doll of 2013?

MacBook Pro: 13-inch starts at $1299; 15-inch starts at $1999

The Macbook Pro line desperately needed a refresh. So today Apple unveiled new 13 and 15-inch models. The 13 inch model is considerably thinner and lighter: .71 inches thick and weighing just 3.46 pounds. Both models have faster Intel processors, faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and faster graphics processors. Battery life is pegged at 9 hours for the 13-inch model and 8 hours for the 15-incher. 

BUY OR DON’T BUY:  For those who need a faster Mac – it’s not an issue; you buy, especially since the new 15-inch model is $200 cheaper than its predecessor, and the 13-inch model is $100 cheaper. But I would wait until the full reviews come out to see if the 13-inch model has overcome some of the performance issues it suffered in the past. The bigger question is for non-Apple users who’ve heard the complaints about Windows 8: Do these new Macbook Pros justify doubling the cost of a PC purchase? This is subjective, but I think this is a perfect time to jump on the Mac bandwagon and away from the sometimes frustrating Windows 8, IF the cost is not prohibitive.  I made the switch years ago, and since then, I’ve saved time and money owning a Mac.

MACPRO: Starts at $2999

The MacPro is a powerhouse desktop computer with tons of geeky features. It is clearly intended for video editors and power users.  It has the newest Intel Xeon Processors, faster graphics processing than ever before, and up to a terabyte of solid state storage. It can output to the new 4K monitors, and I was actually surprised Apple didn’t announce its own 4K monitor today, as it is making such a strong push for video editors and graphics professionals with this machine.

BUY OR DON’T BUY: Uh no. This is a big boy toy with a serious price tag. Yes it would be cool to have one, but it’s overkill for all but the film and video set.