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Apple spruces up the iMac, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini

Consumer Reports News: October 23, 2012 05:38 PM

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In addition to entering the small-tablet market today with the iPad mini, Apple reasserted itself in the computer market as well, by introducing a slimmed-down, redesigned iMac all-in-one desktop; a smaller, lower-priced Retina-display MacBook Pro laptop; and a beefed-up Mac mini compact desktop. Here are some highlights of the announcements.

A slimmer iMac. The new version is just 5mm thick at its edge and, according to Apple, occupies 40 percent less volume than the previous generation of iMacs. The company also claims that its new display design, which eliminated the gap between the LCD and the glass that covers it, will improve image quality. Apple also laminated the front of the glass, which it claims will reduce reflectivity by 75 percent.

Other changes to the iMac include new, faster, quad-core and graphics processors and an optional "Fusion Drive." Apple says the Fusion Drive delivers much of the speed of Flash storage along with the high storage capacity of a hard drive without the higher cost that replacing the hard drive entirely with Flash would entail. The new iMac includes an SD memory card slot, but not a built-in optical drive, which was standard on earlier iMacs.

The 21.5-inch model, which starts at $1,300, will be available in November. The 27-inch version will be available in December.

Retina gets cheaper. In introducing a 13-inch MacBook Pro with the super-high-resolution Retina display, Apple lowered the entry cost for such high resolution (2560x1600) by $500. The new model starts at $1,700, compared with $2,200 for its 15-inch Retina display sibling.

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro is three quarters of an inch thick and weighs about 3.6 pounds. Storage is flash only, and you can configure it with anywhere from 128GB to 768GB, depending on your budget. Apple says that battery life is 7 hours. If you don't need that much resolution, the existing 13-inch non-Retina Macbook Pro starts at $1,200 and has a 500GB hard drive. In our tests, it weighed 4.5 pounds and had a battery life of 7.5 hours.

The new, 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro is available now.

Mac mini gains muscle. The newest edition of Apple's tiny, $599 mini-desktop includes a faster dual-core processor, a more powerful graphics processor, and several options for greater speed and storage. A version with a quad-core processor costs $799 and features a 1TB hard drive. You can beef up the higher-priced model even more by replacing the hard drive with either 256GB of flash storage for $300 more, or a 1TB "Fusion drive" for $250. The new Mac mini is available now.

We'll test all these new models as soon as we get them in our lab. Take a look at our desktop and laptop Ratings to see how other models stack up.

With iPad mini, Apple makes a big splash in small-tablet market

Jeffrey Fox

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