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What to Expect From Apple's October Mac Event

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To nobody’s great surprise, the previous Apple event, in September, was the traditional start-of-fall fest that was all about the phones, revealing the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max to the world. This time around, according to the most credible rumors, the Cupertino crew is ready to show off what could be music to your ears: new Macs and iPads.

Rather than hosting the press in California as it usually does, Apple is coming right to PCMag’s backyard here in New York City. On October 30 at 10 a.m. (ET), the tech giant will take the stage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. While nothing is confirmed yet, obviously, the rumor mill has been pretty consistent: It’s likely the turn of the iPad Pro and the desktop Macs to get refreshed.

First Up: A New iPad Pro?

A new iPad Pro is chief among the expectations, with multiple specifics floating around the web. According to 9to5mac, which cites “sources familiar with the development of the new 2018 iPad Pro,” the tablet will follow in the footsteps of the iPhones and do away with the Home button. It will also add Face ID, which would help make that transition seamless.

Size

Another key addition will reportedly be a USB Type-C port, which will be able to output 4K HDR video to external displays. If it happens, it’ll be nice to see this increasingly industry-standard connection on another Apple product, given that the iPhones are still sticking with Lightning connectors. It’s very possible there will be more than one model of this new iPad Pro, varying either in size or storage capacity (or both).

Second Up: Desktops Are Overdue (MacBooks, Too)

Less certain have been rumors of new Macs, but some seemingly concrete evidence has emerged this week. Apple Insider cites both Consomac and MySmartPrice as having spotted Eurasian regulatory filings that hint strongly at three new desktops and one new MacBook. This is based on filed model numbers, so while that’s no exact science, those model numbers have not been used before, which makes this clue a credible one.

So, what would we expect these computers to be? A revised MacBook, in whatever form it might come, would likely be a low-price option. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo projected this 13-inch unit will bear a Retina display and support for Touch ID, as well as slimmer bezels. The 13-inch screen size suggests a new version of the MacBook Air, which got a modest spec boost last year, to the then already-dated 5th Generation “Broadwell” family of mobile CPUs. (The smaller non-Air MacBook has a slightly smaller panel in its current incarnation.)

Indeed, we would think this is the tipping point for the Air, either forward or into the grave. The Air, as a whole, hasn’t been refined in three years, and in its current version has a display that’s way overdue for an upgrade, well lower in resolution than the 1080p norm. Alternatively, Apple could do away with the Air model entirely, and this new low-cost model could just be an entry-level evolution that’s part of the general non-Pro MacBook line. (After all, 13-inch-screened MacBook Pros do exist.)

If a new MacBook of any stripe does emerge, one thing it will have is a pick of new Intel CPUs, making up for chronically behind-the-curve MacBook processing of the past few years. This will be either an 8th Generation “Coffee Lake” chip or an even newer “Whiskey Lake” CPU.

As for the desktops, it would make the most sense if there was one new 21-inch iMac, a new 27-inch iMac, and a Mac Mini. There are no guarantees that’s what we’ll get, of course, but it would follow both tradition and current rumor.

iMac for Creatives

The iMacs would likely boast a screen update of some kind (maybe standardizing on 4K or 5K, or incorporating HDR; the screens are already up there in pixel count), as well as an internals boost—I wouldn’t expect anything major. Best guesses: PCI Express NVMe SSDs, 8th Generation CPUs.

Third Up: The Desktop Outliers

The Mac Mini is the least likely, at least if you believe the quantity of buzz around it. It has been mentioned only briefly in rumors, but there is clearly demand, and it hasn’t been updated since 2014. There are also no assurances Apple will reveal these desktops at this event despite the filings, but it would certainly make the most sense given the theme and the chip cadences involved.

In the end, Apple sent out dozens of invitations to press with differently styled Apple logos (our furry orange one is above), but with the same tagline: “There’s more in the making.” Going off of the obvious, a creator’s focus would seem to be the underlying message, which indicates to us the iMacs first and foremost, with the iPad Pros a close second. We’ll see what actually emerges, but given Intel’s chip releases over the last quarter, the time is ripe for a refresh for all of the desktops—possibly even the iMac Pro (which we looked at earlier this year) or revelations about the long-rumored modular Mac Pro; the latter is expected to roll out in 2019, not 2018.

Check back for our live coverage on Tuesday, Oct. 30th, as well as our hands-on experiences from the show floor.

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