First Impression of the New iPad Air

4:50 PM, Oct 22, 2013   |    comments
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Apple employees show off the new iPad Air (R) and iPad Mini at a satellite launch event in central London on October 22, 2013. (CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY

SAN FRANCISCO - Apple insisted there'd be lots to cover when it invited the press - and from a distance, the curious eyes of the tech community - to San Francisco for today's product unveiling. The company was true to its word, though there weren't a lot of major surprises, even with the announcements that some offerings, including the next version of the OS X operating system for the Macs are free.

Anyone hoping for an iWatch smartwatch (which I wasn't expecting) still must wait, likely until at least next year. There's was no souped-up Apple TV set-top box either, something I thought might happen and that I was hoping would happen. I'd like to see an Apple TV box that would let you run apps and games.

In the category of what was expected - and delivered - was a thinner and lighter full-size iPad, and an iPad Mini that gets Apple's vibrant Retina display.

What wasn't expected, perhaps, was a new moniker for Apple's full size-slate - iPad Air - so named because of how thin and light it is. Indeed, it weighs in at one pound, compared to 1.4 pounds for its predecessor. Apple claims it is the lightest full-size tablet anywhere.

The new iPad brings what Apple says are improved cameras, dual microphones, along with Apple's 64-bit best-of processor, the A7. It starts at $499. (Apple is keeping the iPad 2 in the lineup, at $399.)

The latest mini starts at $399 but folks looking for a bargain may want to consider the original model. While lacking the Retina display, it brings a far more appealing $299 price.

All of the iPads of course run the iOS7 operating system that some people really like and some people loathe. I'm in the camp that is positive on iOS7 though I do hope some of the lingering bugs get addressed. My third generation iPad, for example, has been crashing some ever since I installed iOS7.

The other expected news today was indeed the rollout of OS X Mavericks for Macintosh computers. Among among other features it promises better battery life - up to an hour for Web browsing on a current generation MacBook Air - tags in Apple's Finder, and fresh Maps and iBooks apps.

The Mavericks update can be downloaded today, and the headline is that Apple made the latest operating system free. Moreover, Apple says you can install it on Macs dating back as far as 2007, even if you haven't been running what is now no longer the current version of OS X, Mountain Lion.

"Free" was a common theme, with word that newly updated iLife (iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand) apps and iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) apps are also free.

Mavericks, of course, will be preloaded on the brand new Macs that were also unveiled (and shipping) today. There's a thin and light 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop that runs speedy Intel "Haswell" processors with bolstered battery life of up to 9 hours, even while you are watching a movie. That's the claim anyway-I'll be putting it to the test.

Apple also says that flash storage and Wi-Fi in the computers are faster, as is expansion via Apple's Thunderbolt 2 connectors. The new 13-inch model starts at $1299.

A 15-inch MacBook Pro model with a quad-core Intel processor, and up to 8 hours of battery life, among other benefits, starts at $1999.

Apple also revved up its Mac Pro line. While Mac Pros aren't exactly mainstream computers - certainly not at $2999 on up - they are the kind of muscular computers that geeks have been anticipating and drooling over. Mac Pros are due out before the end of the year.

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