iPad Pro 2020, new Mac Mini

Complete trackpad support in iPadOS, a floating keyboard case for iPad, scissor keyboard for MacBook Air, better performance and cameras, LIDAR, there’s a lot to be discussed.

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Apple just unveiled several improved products, together with long-awaited complete trackpad support in iPadOS 13.4, rather than the half-baked trackpad support released last year. After replacing the troublesome butterfly keyboard in the MacBook Pro 16” last year, Apple has now announced its return to the much preferred scissor keyboard in the new MacBook Air 2020 too, so Apple is fortunately catching up after the butterfly keyboard fiasco and class-action lawsuit. The new magnetic Magic Keyboard/Case/Trackpad/Floater for certain generations of iPad Pro models/generations represents a quantum leap in ergonomics for extended mobile sessions with the iPad Pro’s internal screen, since it raises the iPad Pro much higher above our desk. However, this Magic Keyboard/Case/Trackpad/Floater is likely the most expensive keyboard/case for iPad in history to date. Let’s analyze all of this exciting information in detail for the new iPad Pro, Mac Mini and MacBook Air (directly compatible with Apple’s Pro Display XDR), together with three videos.

Apple’s new magnetic Magic Keyboard/Trackpad/Floater for certain iPad Pro models

As developer Sam of iUpdate clearly demonstrates in the video above, complete trackpad support has arrived to iPadOS 13.4 for nearly all trackpads of any brand (and even mice, which I personally dislike), rather than the haphazard support which arrived under accessibility settings with the first version of iOS 13 and iPadOS last year. This complete trackpad support is indeed welcome. Below, Craig Federighi, SVP of Apple’s Software Engineering demonstrates it another way (thanks to Six Colors):

Above is the image of the Spanish ISO version, the best keyboard layout even if you only type in English.

Apple’s new backlit Magic Keyboard/Trackpad/Case/Floater (shown above) elevates the screen up high for better ergonomics and should be available in May 2020. Like most other keyboards offered by Apple in the United States, the California company is fortunately offering us our choice of keyboards layout when purchasing in the US: Arabic, Danish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Pinyin (for Standard Mandarin, one of China’s important languages) Russian, Spanish ISO, US, UK, Zhuyin (the major Chinese transliteration system for Mandarin and other related languages and dialects which is nowadays most commonly used in Taiwanese Mandarin.). Two important physical keyboard layouts that Apple sadly doesn’t currently offer in the US: Greek and Hebrew, even though these two languages are indeed available via software in the virtual keyboard, for dictation and dictionary.

Apple is one of the very few computer or keyboard manufacturers which actually publish proper photographs of the non-US keyboards on its websites. After decades of personal experience browsing, purchasing (even importing them to the US when required) and using Spanish ISO keyboards from multiple manufacturers (including those from Apple, BTC, CTL, IBM ThinkPad, Lenovo ThinkPad and Logitech), I know that most keyboard manufacturers are lame in this respect by only publishing photos of the US keyboard on their websites in Spain, which does not reflect the actual product being offered. I applaud Apple for offering and publishing the proper image of the Spanish ISO layout on the website for Spain and the US, but I strongly criticize Apple for two other persistent related errors made by Apple:

The 2020 Magic Keyboard/Trackpad/Case/Floater also features USB-C pass-through charging, keeping the USB-C port on iPad Pro free for accessories including external drives and displays. Apple emphasizes that the built-in click-anywhere trackpad:

“…complements the touch-first design of iPad for easy navigation and precise adjustments, adding even more versatility and productivity to the iPad Pro experience.”

Compatibility and pricing of the 2020 Magic Keyboard/Trackpad/Case/Floater:

The 2020 Magic Keyboard/Trackpad/Case/Floater should be available in May 2020 and attaches to —and is compatible with— the following iPad Pro models with the following prices, which may be the most expensive computer keyboards in history.

The price is the same regardless of the choice of keyboard layout when ordered from Apple.com. iPadOS 13.4 with trackpad support will be available publicly on March 24 as a free software update for all iPad Pro models, iPad Air 2 and later, iPad 5th generation and later, and iPad mini 4 and later. Trackpad support will be available on any iPad running iPadOS 13.4, and work with Apple’s Magic Mouse 2, Magic Trackpad 2 and the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Third-party mice connected over Bluetooth or USB are also supported.

Improvements in the two iPad Pro 2020 models

Apple just announced its most advanced iPad Pro. Now with the A12Z Bionic chip, iPad Pro is faster and more powerful than most Windows laptops, according to Apple’s press release. The new iPad Pro adds an Ultra Wide camera, “studio-quality” mics and a breakthrough LiDAR Scanner that delivers cutting-edge depth-sensing capabilities, opening up more pro workflows and supporting pro photo and video apps. The LiDAR Scanner, along with pro cameras, motion sensors, pro performance, pro audio, the stunning Liquid Retina display and powerful apps, extends the lead of iPad Pro as the world’s best device for augmented reality (AR).

“Combining the most advanced mobile display with powerful performance, pro cameras, pro audio, the breakthrough LiDAR Scanner and new Magic Keyboard with Trackpad, this is another huge leap forward for iPad. There’s no other device in the world like the new iPad Pro and we think our customers are going to love it.”

The A12Z Bionic chip with the powerful Neural Engine offers incredible performance, enabling next-generation apps.

The edge-to-edge Liquid Retina display — in both 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes — is the world’s most advanced mobile display. Featuring P3 wide color support, it lets customers see photos, videos, apps and games in vivid, true-to-life detail. ProMotion technology automatically adjusts the display refresh rate up to 120 Hz (they probably mean ≈120 Hz) for ultra-smooth scrolling and responsiveness. And no matter where customers take iPad Pro or how they interact with it, True Tone, high brightness and an anti-reflective coating deliver the best viewing experience possible on any mobile device, per Apple. (I really hope it’s more matte than any iPad before now.)

The Pro camera system on iPad Pro features a 12MP Wide camera for capturing stunning photos and 4K video, and now includes a 10MP Ultra Wide camera that zooms out two times to capture a much wider field of view. Adding a second camera doubles the photo and video possibilities, enabling different perspectives and multi-camera use .

iPad Pro now includes a 10MP Ultra Wide camera.

Apple says that the new iPad Pro now features five “studio-quality” microphones for capturing super clean audio and the quietest details, and delivers an immersive sound experience with four-speaker audio that automatically adjusts to any orientation, no matter how it is held. Apple says that the combination of pro cameras, pro audio and the large display make iPad Pro a versatile mobile studio for creative pros including filmmakers, video professionals, podcasters and other content creators.

The LiDAR Scanner enables capabilities never before possible on any mobile device, per Apple. The LiDAR Scanner measures the distance to surrounding objects up to 5 meters away, works both indoors and outdoors, and operates at the photon level at nano-second speeds. New depth frameworks in iPadOS combine depth points measured by the LiDAR Scanner, data from both cameras and motion sensors, and is enhanced by computer vision algorithms on the A12Z Bionic for a more detailed understanding of a scene. The tight integration of these elements enables a whole new class of AR experiences on iPad Pro.

Every existing ARKit app automatically gets instant AR placement, improved motion capture and people occlusion. Using the latest update to ARKit with a new Scene Geometry API, developers can harness the power of the new LiDAR Scanner to unleash scenarios never before possible, per Apple.

The LiDAR Scanner improves the existing Measure app, making it faster and easier to automatically calculate someone’s height using metric or imperial standards, while helpful vertical and edge guides automatically appear to let users more quickly and accurately measure objects. The Measure app also now comes with Ruler View for more granular measurements and allows users to save a list of all measurements, complete with screenshots for future use.

Later this year, Shapr3D, a professional CAD system based on Siemens Parasolid technology, will use the LiDAR Scanner to automatically generate an accurate 2D floor plan and 3D model of a room which can then be used as the basis to design remodels or room additions like a bathroom or closet. New designs can then be previewed in real-world scale using AR right in the room you scanned.

The new iPad Pro is available to order starting now on Apple.com and in the Apple Store app in 30 countries and regions, including the US. The new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be available in silver and space gray finishes. A starting configuration of 128GB offers pro customers more room for their apps and content, along with 256GB, 512GB and 1TB configurations. The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at US$799 for the Wi-Fi model and US$949 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model, and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at US$999 for the Wi-Fi model and US$1149 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model from Apple.com.

Educational pricing is available to current and newly accepted college students and their parents, as well as faculty, staff and homeschool teachers of all grade levels. The new 11-inch iPad Pro starts at US$749 and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at US$899 . For more information visit: apple.com/us-hed/shop.

(See the prior section for Magic Keyboard/Trackpad/Case/Floater pricing and availability.)

My conclusions about the 2020 iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard/Trackpad/Case/Floater

After reading and comparing the new improvements in the 2020 iPad Pro earlier in this article, some readers (who can afford it) may purchase the 2020 iPad Pro and the new Magic Keyboard/Trackpad/Case/Floater. Others may prefer to save a substantial amount of cash by purchasing a compatible 2018 iPad Pro (new, refurbished or used) and use the savings to help cover one of the Magic Keyboard/Trackpad/Case/Floaters which I covered in the prior section. Yet another group may continue to use or purchase conventional laptops because they use a particular sophisticated app which is still not available for iPadOS, and find using remote access to their own computer or a service like MacInCloud.com to be too cumbersome for continuous use (as opposed to occasional use).

Fortunately Ulysses indeed exists for iPadOS. Ulysses is the wonderful writing tool I am using to prepare this article in macOS 10.14.6 Mojave using an internal backlit Spanish ISO keyboard on a ThinkPad x230 with a beautiful matte IPS display, shown above. (Sadly, Apple no longer offers matte displays in any of its laptops.) However, several other key apps I use do not yet exist for iPadOS, i.e. Hindenburg Journalist Pro (my favorite multitrack audio editor for storytelling—not for music production), ScreenFlow and Vellum (for professional book layout and publishing for my own electronic and print books and for many colleagues who contract my editorial services).

Mac Mini 2020

The standard configurations of Mac Mini now come with double the storage capacity. The US$799 configuration now comes standard with 256GB, while the US$1099 configuration features 512GB of storage, and every Mac Mini is made from 100 percent recycled aluminum.

MacBook Air 2020

The MacBook Air 2020 is the first Air to be directly compatible with Apple’s Pro Display XDR, joining the Mac Pro (2019) with MPX Module GPUs, 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018 or later), 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019), 21.5-inch, iMac (2019) and 27-inch iMac (2019). Other Mac models with Thunderbolt 3 ports can connect indirectly by purchasing a Blackmagic eGPU or Blackmagic eGPU Pro separately, according to Apple.

The Pro Display XDR (shown above on the right) is the only Apple display currently available with a matte option. Sadly, no mention of matte or antiglare improvements was included in Apple’s press release of the new MacBook Air 2020, although this was flaunted with the new iPad Pro 2020, and is still offered by all major business laptop manufacturers except for Apple.

Offering quad-core processors for the first time, MacBook Air now delivers even more speed across everyday activities, from organizing photos and creating presentations to editing videos. Featuring the latest 10th-generation Intel Core processors up to 1.2GHz quad-core Core i7 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.8GHz, MacBook Air delivers up to two times faster performance when compared to the previous generation. And with Intel Iris Plus Graphics, MacBook Air now delivers up to 80 percent faster graphics performance, so graphics-intensive activities like playing games and editing video are faster than ever.

MacBook Air now features the new Magic Keyboard (with scissor technology instead of butterfly, also available in the US with a Spanish ISO layout, which is better even if you only type in English), first introduced on the 16-inch MacBook Pro. A redesigned scissor mechanism delivers 1mm of key travel for a comfortable and stable key feel, while the new inverted-“T” arrangement for the arrow keys makes them easier to find without looking down. MacBook Air features a stunning unibody wedge design made from 100 percent recycled aluminum and comes in three finishes — gold, silver and space gray. The 13-inch Retina display delivers over 4 million pixels and millions of colors, so whether customers are reading an email, enjoying a movie or editing their photos, text is razor sharp and images are more true to life.

MacBook Air now starts with 256GB of storage, double that of the previous generation, so customers can store even more movies, photos and files. And for those who need even more storage capacity, MacBook Air offers up to a 2TB SSD, double the previous maximum storage.

MacBook Air comes with the Apple T2 Security Chip, Apple’s own custom-designed second-generation silicon, which checks that software loaded during the boot process has not been tampered with and provides on-the-fly data encryption for everything stored on the SSD. This allows MacBook Air and any Mac with the T2 chip to deliver the most secure boot process and storage of any notebook. The T2 also protects Touch ID information, so whether customers are unlocking their Mac, entering an online password or making online purchases, their information stays safe.

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Save US$20 on Google Fi, my favorite mobile telephony and data service

One of my favorite service for broadcasting live via is Google Fi. Click here to save US$20 on Google Fi, which now works on iPhone and Android. With Google Fi (covered previously in several articles), there is no extra charge for data-only SIM cards on the same account, for up to 10 devices. You only pay for the total data, and data is free after 6 GB per month. So you could be using one Google FI SIM card on your primary phone, another in a iPad Pro (with slot for a SIM card) or secondary phone (or third, of fourth…).

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