Apple debuts new iPad Pro alongside revamped MacBook Airs

... and also the return of the (mini) Mac.

  • Inside the new iPad Pros are the new A12x Bionic chip, which are apparently faster than 92% of the laptops out there.
  • MacBook Airs come with Retina display, first true update in 8 years.
  • The iPad Pro starts at $799 while the MacBook Air starts at $1,199.

Apple product launches are sort of like sports drafts in that there's a lot of pageantry and hullabaloo surrounding what is ostensibly just an introduction to a slightly updated lineup. 99.5% of the people out there are going to be doing roughly the same thing they're doing on these new machines as they are on their current ones, so it's not that big a deal—right?

Well... perhaps it is this time. Apple just launched not one but three updates to its lineup: new iPad Pros, updated MacBook Airs, and even a revamp of the Mac Mini.

Watch the full keynote event here.


The new iPad Pro 

(Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 30: Apple unveils a new iPad Pro with new Apple Pencil during a launch event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on October 30, 2018 in New York City. Apple also debuted a new MacBook Air and Mac Mini.

This is probably the biggest deal of the three. It not only looks futuristic, but it's... well... it's super cool. It has a processor that's faster than most desktop computers and as much graphics power as the latest XBox, in a package that's just a few millimeters thick and the size of a piece of paper. That's pretty incredible.

The keynote spent some time showing just how good this is as a gaming device, too, with a vaguely humorous demonstration of what 2K Games' NBA 2K looks like on the new iPad Pro. You can really see every bead of sweat on the players and movement in the stands, a far-cry from the crummy graphics of most mobile games.

It looks like last year's iPhone X, itself a big deal, and for good reason. Anyone who has used an iPhone X (or XS or XR) can attest to how quickly the gesture system starts to feel natural—there's no reason to go back to the home button after you use this thing. At risk of sounding too hyperbolic, this update turns the iPad from a "squashed / really big iPhone" into a laptop replacement. This is arguably what computers will look like in five years; the kind of design that actually looks like it's from the future.

  • Comes in both 11" and 12.9" sizes. The 11" is the same body size as the 10.5" previous generation of iPad Pros, just the screen is bigger. The 12.9" size is almost exactly the size, measured diagonally across, as an 8"x11" piece of paper.
  • The A12X Bionic chip is by all accounts one of the fastest mass market chips out there. It's faster than those in Apple's iPhone XS, and can handle "up to five trillion operations a second". Which is a lot, I'm told. The keynote addressed that the A12X Bionic is faster than 92% of current notebook computers out there.
  • The new iPad Pro is unlockable no matter how you hold it.
  • USB-C should alleviate charging problems, as they are much more energy efficient than lightning. Likewise, battery is advertised as "all day battery" — in the real world, though, that should amount to anywhere between 6 hours (heavy use) to 12 hours (simple use).
  • An updated Apple Pencil can now respond to 'tap' gestures. Which is great for illustrators who want to switch brushes on the fly. Or writers who want to erase things quickly. It also fits magnetically on the iPad and charges accordingly. This is a big deal for anyone who was thrown off by the previous Apple Pencil, which had to be charged by plugging into the iPad (and anyone like me who lost the top quickly).

To put some of those numbers into perspective, the A12X Bionic chip is 40% faster than the A11 chip, which was in the last iPad Pros. So you're looking at a dramatic increase in power, looks, and usability.

Updated MacBook Airs

(Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 30: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple unveils a new MacBook Air during a launch event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on October 30, 2018 in New York City. This is Apple's first full upgrade of the laptop in three years.

MacBook Airs got an update about three years ago, getting marginally bumped up specs so that they could continue to be used with Apple's ever-evolving operating system. These new puppies, the 2018 MacBook Airs, however, get way bigger updates that put the old machines out to pasture. But before you get too excited, remember that this is the MacBook Air and thus doesn't have nearly the top-notch technical specs as the MacBook Pro.

  • Touch ID! Now you can use your laptop just as you would your, um, iPhone 8!
  • Expectations were that there'd be quad-core CPUs, but instead we've got dual-core Intel Core Y-series CPUs. Don't ask me to explain what that means (I'm a writer, and if you need help describing what a cloud look likes I'm your guy), but from what I've researched it's about as fast as the top-of-the-line 2015 MacBook Pros. For most people who will be using this, this is all you really need to surf the web, check your emails, and do some light video-editing. But it's by no means the fastest Apple has.
  • Retina display, on a machine this light, is the biggest draw. That translates to 48% more colors in terms of range, and this is most likely what will be the 'wow' factor for buyers.
  • Smaller bezels mean more screen size, and an updated trackpad means more usability.
  • Speakers have been updated to be 25% louder with twice as much bass.

This could be the go-to option for most people looking for a new laptop. The Air line is Apple's most popular laptop line for a reason: they're light enough to throw into a backpack or bag without thinking twice and fast enough for almost everyone.

Ask yourself how much audio editing or video editing you're really going to be doing over the next 3 to 5 years. If the answer is less than one Drake album or one family vacation video, chances are the MacBook Air is going to be your next laptop.

Return of the Mac (Mini)

(Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple unveils a new Mac Mini during a special event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Howard Gilman Opera House October 30, 2018, in New York.

Sing it now... the return of the (mini) Mac! Mac Mini's are the caffeine-free-Diet-Coke of the Apple empire; if you love 'em, you're part of a small but die-hard fanbase. They get the job(s) done. Nobody is going to be wowed by one on your desk. But string a few of them together (really—during the keynote, Tim Cook briefly showed a picture of an entire server farm full of them) and you've got an insanely powerful productivity team. At $799 they are considerably cheaper and more powerful than the MacBook Air by some degree, but don't forget these roughly sandwich-sized computers don't come with a display.

But, it's worth mentioning, the last time these were updated was 2014. That was so long ago! There were midterm elections! An ebola outbreak in NYC! Pharrell wore a silly hat! Given that Apple has had four years to tinker with the Mini, what are you getting with the 2018 models?

  • Snark aside, these are 5x faster than the previous line of Mac Minis. That's a huge jump, making them twice as powerful as the 2018 MacBook Airs.
  • They're made with 100% recycled aluminum, apparently using leftover aluminum from the new iPad Pro line.
  • One of the best things about the Mac Mini is its ability to connect to pretty much anything you throw at it. An HDMI 2.0 port means you could theoretically connect it to any 4K TV (or other display) and have a giant workspace for a fraction of the price of a huge display. Meanwhile, two USB-A ports, an audio jack, and Gigabit Ethernet round out the connections.
  • A T2 security chip makes this the machine you want on your desk if you want to keep your files safe. It adds security, meaning that hackers won't be able to listen in on your microphone. And hacking overall should be way, way more difficult, according to TechCrunch.

Ideally, this is the kind of thing you'd buy 20 of if you were starting a start-up. They're workhorses, and can handle 4K video editing easily without slowing down the rest of your workflow too much.

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  • Domino's partnered with the Silicon Valley startup Nuro to have robot cars deliver pizza.
  • The trial run will begin in Houston later this year.
  • The robots will be half a regular car and will need to be unlocked by a PIN code.

Would you have to tip robots? You might be answering that question sooner than you think as Domino's is about to start using robots for delivering pizza. Later this year a fleet of self-driving robotic vehicles will be spreading the joy of pizza throughout the Houston area for the famous pizza manufacturer, using delivery cars made by the Silicon Valley startup Nuro.

The startup, founded by Google veterans, raised $940 million in February and has already been delivering groceries for Kroger around Houston. Partnering with the pizza juggernaut Domino's, which delivers close to 3 million pizzas a day, is another logical step for the expanding drone car business.

Kevin Vasconi of Domino's explained in a press release that they see these specially-designed robots as "a valuable partner in our autonomous vehicle journey," adding "The opportunity to bring our customers the choice of an unmanned delivery experience, and our operators an additional delivery solution during a busy store rush, is an important part of our autonomous vehicle testing."

How will they work exactly? Nuro explained in its own press release that this "opportunity to use Nuro's autonomous delivery" will be available for some of the customers who order online. Once they opt in, they'll be able to track the car via an app. When the vehicle gets to them, the customers will use a special PIN code to unlock the pizza compartment.

Nuro and its competitors Udelv and Robomart have been focusing specifically on developing such "last-mile product delivery" machines, reports Arstechnica. Their specially-made R1 vehicle is about half the size of a regular passenger car and doesn't offer any room for a driver. This makes it safer and lighter too, with less potential to cause harm in case of an accident. It also sticks to a fairly low speed of under 25 miles an hour and slams on the breaks at the first sign of trouble.

What also helps such robot cars is "geofencing" technology which confines them to a limited area surrounding the store.

For now, the cars are still tracked around the neighborhoods by human-driven vehicles, with monitors to make sure nothing goes haywire. But these "chase cars" should be phased out eventually, an important milestone in the evolution of your robot pizza drivers.

Check out how Nuro's vehicles work: