Technological World for April 21: Apple's new iPad Pro and iMac, Google's new Nest Hub, plant virtual trees for real ones, Xbox brings cloud gaming to iPads and iPhones

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Google’s new Nest Hub, Shaw’s tree planting promotion, and Xbox brings cloud gaming to iOS devices. But first, Apple’s new iPad Pros and iMacs.

Apple’s putting its new M1 silicon into new iPad Pros and iMacs

In yesterday’s online event, Apple revealed that updates to the iPad Pro and iMac product lines are equipped with the new M1 chip.

The M1, which is Apple’s proprietary silicon, is already in the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro (13-inch), and Mac Mini, and is being credited with tremendous increases in processing speed, battery life, and reductions in heat production and noise.

What this means for the iPad Pro (starting at $999 for the 11-inch and $1,399 for the 12.9-inch), which has been built with the A12Z Bionic chip, is up to 50 percent faster computer processing and up to 40 percent faster graphics processing.

With up to 2 TB of storage and a Thunderbolt connection, which allows for high bandwidth transfer to external storage and displays, the iPad Pro suddenly becomes an incredible workhorse for the creative industries, enabling photo and video processing unlike ever before.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro gets a display bump, too, to Liquid Retina XDR with brightness, contrast, and dynamic range that exceeds all other tablets.

The new 24-inch iMac (starting at $1,599), meanwhile, harkens back to the days of the colourful originals from 1998, the first computers that combined the processing components and the monitor in one package.

Available in a rainbow of colours, the design has a single sheet of glass on the front with muted colour which becomes vibrant and bold on the back of the computer.

The M1 chip has brings performance improvements, up to 85% faster computer processing depending on what you’re using now. It’s got a smaller, quieter cooling system, too. This all contributes to the computer taking up half as much volume. The main body is only 11.5 mm and the entire thing weighs just over 4 kg.

The power cable attaches to the back of the computer with a magnet connector, and if you use an ethernet cable, that plugs into the power brick now.

There are new Magic peripherals (Keyboards, Mice, and Trackpads) that are coloured to match the iMac, and one model of Magic Keyboard has a Touch ID sensor that also works with Fast User Switching, so you can change to a different profile on the system with a fingertip.

The new iPad Pro and iMac become available to order on April 30, and will ship in the second half of May.

Google’s updated Nest Hub designed for the bedroom

On the outside, the newest Nest Hub from Google looks much the same as the first one, which was released in 2018. It’s got a 7-inch touch screen and comes in four neutral colours so it blends into any decor.

The $129 smart speaker differs in a few ways, though. It delivers better overall sound thanks to a better speaker with more bass, and its got three microphones to more easily pick up your voice when you’re asking it for a weather report, or to set a timer, or to get the score of the game.

Even though the Nest Hub can play videos from your streaming services, it’s unlikely that you’re going to use one to watch the latest action film, even if you can do it from the comfort of your bed.

But as a digital photo frame and a clock, it’s great.

And you can control it using more than your voice by touching the screen. This Nest Hub can recognize gestures that you make in the air to play or pause audio and turn off timers and alarms.

Another thing that’s new is the switch on the back of the device that turns off all the microphones, which is smart, because Google thinks one of the best places for the new Nest Hub is your bedroom.

The Nest Hub automatically dims its display at night, and you can set an alarm that gradually increases the brightness of the display, mimicking a sunrise.

And you can opt to try Sleep Sensing, a new feature that uses the same technology that enables gestural controls: Motion Sense.

This sensor can detect motion and breathing, and when combined with other sensors like the microphones, light sensor, and temperature sensor, Google has found a way to analyze your sleep patterns and even suggest things you might change that could improve your sleep.

It’s a way to get a read on your sleep without needing to wear a gadget to bed. And after 14 days of tracking your overnight, the Sleep Sensing system will recommend a sleep-wake schedule.

You just might want to remember that microphone off switch on the back of the Nest Hub if you’re in bed, but not sleeping. Catch my drift?

Plant a virtual tree and Shaw will plant a real one

Just in time for Earth Day – which is tomorrow, in case you didn’t already know – you can cause a real tree to be planted in the real world by playing your favourite video game.

The Tree Spree challenge will see Tree Canada planting a real tree for every one planted in any game you play.

Animal Crossing, Minecraft, and Stardew Valley are among the games in which you can grow flora.

Screenshot the tree you planted and tag it with #ShawTreeSpree and the telco will match every in-game tree with one in the real world.

Xbox brings cloud gaming to iPads and iPhones and Windows computers

Here’s another reason to get a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: the ability to play more than 100 console games on your iPad or iPhone using an Xbox controller.

Xbox Cloud Gaming delivers these gaming experiences through a web browser without the need to install any app.

You’ll also be able to play these games through a browser on your Windows computer.

There’s nothing anyone needs to do to participate. If you’re a member of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you’ll get an email letting you know when you’ve got access to the service, which is in beta right now.

Supported browsers include Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Safari.

Imagine what it’s going to be like playing Skyrim or Gears of War on one of those slick new iPad Pros.

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