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Don't bother looking for hardware from today's Apple event, but here are the iPad, iMac and AirPod updates you missed last week

Apple stealth-launched a huge number of hardware updates last week, including the return of the iPad Air and iPad Mini.

With all the talk about Apple News Plus, Apple Card, Apple Arcade and Apple TV Plus, this was an unusual Apple event, as it skipped any new hardware in favor of services and software.

But before you lament the lack of hardware, know that Apple front-loaded all its new hardware into a series of stealth announcements the week before. If you weren't specifically paying attention for them, it was easy to miss these tablet, desktop and headphone updates. They were revealed only by press releases and the brief outages of the online Apple Store while product pages were revamped.

Here's what's new (as in, less than one week old) from Apple's hardware team:

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Angela Lang/CNET

iPad Air and iPad Mini

Two nearly forgotten iPad tablet lines, eclipsed by the less-expensive iPad and more-expensive iPad Pro, have been resurrected.  The new iPad Air has a 10.5-inch Retina display and an A12 Bionic processor (as used in the iPhone XS). The iPad Mini gets its first upgrade since 2015, also to an A12 processor, but keeps the same screen size and resolution.

The key point of both the $399 Mini and $499 Air is that they're more expensive than the plain old 9.7-inch iPad, which is $329 (and is often available for less). Of the new iPad Mini, Scott Stein says: "The new iPad Mini is an incremental product update, a spec bump to a tablet that otherwise looks the same as the model from 2015. Does that spark joy? After using it for a few days... it's fine. But it's not something you need."

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Sarah Tew/CNET

iMac 27-inch and 21.5-inch

The iMac line of all-in-one desktops also a series of internal upgrades, with more powerful CPUs and better graphics. Most of the iMacs are jumping from seventh-gen Intel processors to newer eighth-gen ones. For the 21.5-inch iMacs, that means either quad-core or, for the first time, six-core CPU options. 

For the 27-inch, CPUs start at eighth-gen six-core chips, and can go all the way up to the eight-core Intel Core i9, something usually only seen in high-end gaming systems or creative workstations. These two sizes start at $1,299 and $1,799 and go up from there.

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Angela Lang/CNET

New AirPods

The best way to round out a week of Apple hardware updates would be with the long-promised AirPower charging mat, but sadly, it was not to be. Instead, we got an updated version of the popular AirPods wireless headphones. Like the iMacs and iPad, these look the same but add a new H1 chip for faster connection to a device and better battery life, plus hands-free Siri on demand. Plus, a wireless Qi-compatible charging case. No noise canceling, no biometrics, no color options.

A clean slate for services and streaming

Putting out all this hardware the week before an Apple event means the company had a clean slate to approach its service and subscription announcements at the March 25 event. Amid Apple News Plus, Apple TV Plus and Apple Arcade, the closest thing to new hardware was the titanium physical version of the new Apple credit card.