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Apple Unveils the iPad Mini

The highly anticipated pint-sized version of the iPad has arrived: It's smaller, lighter, faster--and cheaper.
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Apple just announced several huge new products and one very thin, 7.9-inch tablet.

At a media-only event in San Jose, the Cupertino-based tech company announced an ultra-thin iMac desktop, a new MacBook that's a bit cheaper than its predecessor, and a more powerful Mac Mini. Apple also updated the iPad with a faster processor and a new screen. But the big news is the iPad Mini, which measures just .28-inches thin and weighs only .68 pounds. The most important spec? For cash-strapped entrepreneurs trying to stay current with technology, the iPad Mini costs only $329.

The Other Notable Launches

First, the bigger computing products. The iMac is an ideal all-in-one computer for people who do not want to bother with a notebook they can lose or damage while away from work. The new model is 80% thinner than previous iMacs, or not that much wider than the iPhone 5. There's a 21.5-inch for $1300 (out in November) and a 27-inch model for $1800 (out in December).

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro comes in two versions, one with an Intel Core i5 processor for $1,699 and an Intel Core i7 version for $1,999. The cheaper model has 8GB of RAM and a 128GB drive. The big news is the retina display, which runs at a super-crisp 2560×1600. For businesses that do fine detail work editing photos and videos, or work in Adobe Illustrator and need precise artistic viewing, the new MacBook pro is a bit more affordable. I think the 13-inch MacBook Air for $1,199 is a better buy.

A new Mac Mini gets a refresh with the latest i5 and i7 processors as well, with the i5 starting at just $600 with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB drive. That's a good starting point for a corporate desktop unit you can dole out to employees, who will probably not complain too much about the speed. At the same time, I prefer the Google Chromebox at just $329 for lightning speed and low IT maintenance.

What Everyone Was Waiting For

The big news is for the new, small tablet. The iPad Mini costs just $329 for the 16GB model, which is about $170 cheaper than the iPad but still about $130 more than the Kindle Fire HD.

The new iPad Mini is decked out with all the features you'd expect from the bigger iPad: a 5-megapixel camera, an A6 processor, 10 hours of battery life, and arguably more portability. The tough part is making a decision about rolling out a tablet to employees. The new 7.9-inch model has a clear advantage in being so light and thin. Apple says it is thinner than a pencil, and weighs the same as a paper notepad. The issue for some could be handling. A small, thin tablet might be harder to grip. As technology advances, gadgets have become thinner and smaller, but they might also be easier to drop and more of a magnet for fingerprints, since there is more screen and less bezel.

Then there is a decision about the competition. The Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire are similar in size and speed, but they cost about $130 less. What you gain with the iPad Mini is an ecosystem: Many of the best apps debut on the iPad and iPhone first, following the market share. A few features on the iPad work more reliably than they do on Android tablets, which are a bit more crash-prone.

Will you buy an iPad Mini? Post in comments to let us know.

Last updated: Oct 23, 2012

JOHN BRANDON | Columnist

John Brandon is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine covering technology. He writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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