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WWDC Part 4: New iPad Pros

Although these days Apple is putting more emphasis on the Mac, particularly for professional use, the company certainly isn’t ignoring pro iPad users. If you’ve been holding off on an iPad Pro purchase, there’s no reason to wait any longer. Apple introduced a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro that’s just a hair taller and wider than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro it replaces, despite having a larger screen that’s 20% larger. The company also enhanced the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a variety of new hardware capabilities.

All motion on the screens of both iPad Pros will be smoother and more responsive, thanks to a previously unheard of 120 Hz refresh rate. It will make drawing with the Apple Pencil even more fluid. The screens are also brighter, can display more colors, and have low reflectivity. Both models get new cameras that match those in the iPhone 7: a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera with optical image stabilization and True Tone flash, plus a 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera on the front.

Since professionals care about performance, the new iPad Pros rely on Apple’s new processor, the A10X Fusion chip. Apple claims that the A10X is 30% faster than the A9X used by the previous generation of iPad Pros, and it also delivers 40% faster graphics rendering.

You can buy an iPad Pro with 64 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB of storage, significantly more than last year’s models. The 64 GB 10.5-inch iPad Pro with Wi-Fi costs $649; jumping to 256 GB increases the price to $749, and going to 512 GB raises it to $949. For the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, a 64 GB configuration starts at $799, with 256 GB at $899 and 512 GB at $1099. Add $130 to any configuration to get cellular connectivity as well.

Although the iPad Pros are available starting this month, you can look forward to them becoming significantly more useful when Apple releases iOS 11 in the fall. That’s because iOS 11 promises to bring a number of iPad-specific features, including:

  • A customizable Dock that holds more than six apps
  • A new App Switcher that includes split-screen app combinations
  • A new Files app for managing documents
  • Drag-and-drop capability for moving data between apps
  • Instant Notes, which opens the Notes app with an Apple Pencil tap on the Lock screen
  • Inline drawing with the Apple Pencil in Notes and Mail
  • Handwritten text recognition so you can search what you write

WWDC Part 3: iMacs and Notebooks

For those who have been waiting patiently to buy a new iMac or Mac notebook, now’s the time. Apple refreshed the entire iMac line with Intel’s latest processors, faster storage, higher performance graphics, and brighter, more colorful screens. They all provide a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports for driving external displays and connecting to speedy external storage.

The most-improved award goes to the 21.5-inch iMac with 4K Retina display, which should see the most performance gains from faster CPUs and high-performance Radeon Pro graphics processors. Plus, that model can now take up to 32 GB of RAM, up from 16 GB — it’s far more compelling than before, if you don’t need the larger screen and better performance of the 27-inch model.

You can buy a 21.5-inch non-Retina iMac starting at $1099, a 21.5-inch iMac with 4K Retina display starting at $1299, and a 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display starting at $1799.

Looking for more performance than even a tricked-out 27-inch Retina iMac can provide?. Wait for December, when Apple promises to release the new iMac Pro. It’s a workstation-class machine that retains the form factor of the 27-inch Retina iMac but swaps the brushed aluminum look for a space gray finish. It will be the fastest Mac ever, thanks to 8-core, 10-core, or 18-core Intel Xeon CPUs. Other performance enhancements include a next-generation Radeon Pro Vega graphics chip, up to 128 GB of RAM, a 1 TB SSD upgradeable to 4 TB, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and 10 Gbps Ethernet. It won’t come cheap, with prices starting at $4999 and rising quickly with build-to-order options.

On the portable front, Apple’s top-of-the-line MacBook Pro notebooks should run a bit more quickly thanks to the addition of Intel’s latest processors running at slightly higher clock speeds. These models also get new graphics processors that improve rendering performance. The 13-inch MacBook Pro still starts at $1299 or $1799 for a model with a Touch Bar and beefier specs. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar starts at $2399.

For those who value portability over all else, the MacBook has become more attractive due to improvements that address its previously underwhelming performance. Along with sprightlier CPUs, it has a new SSD that Apple claims is up to 50% faster, and you can now buy it with 16 GB of RAM, up from the previous limit of 8 GB. It’s still a bit pricey for its performance, with two models priced starting at $1299 and $1599.

If you don’t have much to spend, consider the $999 13-inch MacBook Air. Apple gave it a minor speed bump, replacing the stock 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5 processor with a 1.8 GHz version. It remains upgradeable to an Intel Core i7 running at 2.2 GHz.

By the way, if you’ve been jonesing for a full-size wireless keyboard, you’ll be pleased to learn that Apple also just released the new wireless Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad. It’s $129.