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Apple Unveils 13-inch MacBook Pro With Retina Display, Next-Gen iMac

Online viewers and much of the tech press gathered in San Jose today to watch Apple unveil the iPad mini. But before revealing its much anticipated tablet, the company showed off a 13-inch Macbook Pro with a Retina display, refreshed Mac mini and next-generation iMac.

None of the products were a surprise, but they still drew oohs and ahhs from the audience, particularly the iMac.

The new iMac is the thinnest desktop computer Apple has made to date, measuring just 5mm at the edges — 80 percent thinner than the previous model, if you’re counting. It’s also eight pounds lighter than its predecessor and making the old iMac look like, as AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka aptly puts it, “a sad fatty hanging out with Louis C.K. at the Cinnabon.”

Inside the sleek all-in-one PC is a new Apple Fusion Drive, which combines 128 gigabytes of Flash with a one terabyte or 3TB hard-disk drive (HDD). Combining hard drives and flash storage isn’t a new concept; hybrid drives do the same thing. But what appears to be different about Fusion Drive is the software intelligence behind it.

Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller explained during the presentation that Fusion Drive figures out what stuff should go over to the Flash drive and what should be relegated to the HDD. The company claims that this system helps improve performance and requires no extra work on the part of the user. “You just use it, it works,” said Schiller.

The new iMac has also been upgraded with Intel’s Ivy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 processors. The computer will ship without an optical drive, but Schiller noted that it will offer a separate drive option for those who are “stuck in the past.”

Pricing for the entry-level, 21-inch iMac starts at $1,299, and ships in November; the 27-inch iMac costs $1,800, and will ship in December.

Next up is the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. It joins the 15-inch MacBook Pro version, which was introduced in June, and features a 13.3-inch screen with a 2,560 by 1,600 pixel resolution — four times the number of pixels than the previous generation.

It’s also 20 percent thinner than its predecessor at just 0.75-inch thick and includes Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 ports, dual microphones and a headphone jack on the left side, and a second USB 3.0 port, HDMI out and an SD card reader on the right side. It’s the lightest MacBook Pro ever, at 3.5 pounds — a full pound lighter than the previous MacBook Pro.

The notebook can be configured with Intel’s third-generation Core i5 or i7 processors, and ships with Mountain Lion, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Battery life is estimated at around seven hours.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display starts shipping today, with a starting price of $1,699.

The Mac mini, which Apple touts as the most energy-efficient desktop computer on the market, also got a refresh today. The small sandwich-sized device is now even smaller than the previous Mac mini model, last updated in July 2011.

It has HDMI, Firewire and four USB 3.0 ports, in addition to Thunderbolt and an SD card reader. It’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled, and is built with either dual- or quad-core Intel i5 or i7 Ivy Bridge processors. It has up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of hard-disk storage.

The 500GB model with 4GB of RAM costs $599. A more expensive $999 Mac mini comes with a 2.3GHz Core i7 Ivy Bridge processor, and more storage and memory.

At the beginning of the event, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that the Mac outgrew the PC market seven times in the past year and has outgrown the PC market for six years straight. And although Macs claim the No. 1 spot for desktops and laptops in the U.S, Apple is not resting on its laurels.

Today’s Mac announcements come just days before Microsoft is set to release its new Windows 8 operating system and Surface tablet on Oct. 26.

“We’re pleased with momentum of the Mac but we’re not standing still,” Cook said.

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