Apple announces new iPads, a new Mac Mini model, and OS X Yosemite

Last Thursday, Apple made several announcements at a press conference about its new tablet and desktop offerings. My thoughts on the more noteworthy offerings follow.

iPads

The iPad Air 2 is an upgrade over the previous model, which is still being offered as the plain iPad Air for $100 less. Apple’s also announced the iPad Mini 3, replacing the previous model. Interestingly, said model is still being offered as the iPad Mini 2 for $100 less than the iPad Mini 3, while the original non-Retina iPad Mini is also still being sold for $50 less than the Mini 2.

While the Air 2 sees some significant upgrades to justify the $100 extra, the Mini 3 doesn’t. It has the same processors, storage capacity, screen resolution/dimensions, etc. as the Mini 2. The only differences are a gold color option, and Apple’s Touch ID technology. That’s it.

Unless one’s really attached to or wants Touch ID, the Mini 3’s a ripoff. Save $100 and buy the Mini 2, now starting at $299. While the original iPad Mini’s $50 less, I don’t think its now-aging tech is worth the savings.

Mac Mini

The Mac Mini’s finally gotten an upgrade after two years. Unfortunately, its upgrade has divided some. While it has current-generation processors and improved graphics support, the new Minis are somewhat compromised versus the 2012 models.

The newer processors are dual-core only, with no quad-core option available. While casual users won’t notice, power users will find it annoying; MacRumor reports the new Mini models definitely have decreased multi-core performance over the higher-end 2012 models.

Even more annoying even to potentially casual users is that the Mini no longer allows users to upgrade the RAM themselves, with the RAM on the 2014 models now soldered into the machine. The only user upgrade now possible is the hard drive (which’ll void the warranty). While the Mac Mini’s pretty much using the same parts as their MacBooks, the ability to upgrade RAM on one’s own was part of the Mini’s appeal. This leaves the 27-inch iMacs and Mac Pro as the only user-upgradeable Macs, which are obviously much more expensive; configuring the Mini for higher-than-default RAM needs will also be pricey.

The one good news about the new Minis is a lower starting price point, at $499 for the base model versus $599 for the previous model.

Overall, power users might want to consider budgeting more for the Mini or skipping it altogether and instead buy an iMac. (Apple released a Retina-model 27″ iMac, too.) Casual users should be OK with the new Minis. Both types of users might want to consider refurbished/discounted 2012 quad-core Minis.

OS X “Yosemite”

Apple’s released the newest version of OS X, 10.10 (“Yosemite”). While it has some new features, the most touted ones are tied to iOS devices, allowing for easier continuity between iPads, iPhones, and desktops/laptops. Since I don’t own any iOS devices, I can’t see that for myself, but do plan to upgrade my Mini to Yosemite at some point. (Adding Yosemite Sam wallpaper may or may not be a thing.)

Conclusion

I don’t plan on buying a new Mini anytime soon, but if I did, the new Minis sound disappointing. I am, however, interested in buying a new tablet to replace my first-generation Nexus 7 sometime within the next year. Google’s new Nexus 9 is more than I’d want to spend, and the Nexus 7 is now discontinued, leaving the Kindle or miscellaneous lower-end Android tablets as the only other options I’ve found. The iPad Mini 2 sounds appealing, should I ever want to jump ship from Android to iOS.

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