iPods have become the set standard for what an MP3 player should be. They are small, sleek, have a top-notch design, hold enough for anyone, and has one of the best user interfaces around.

You may not know this, but Apple gets 70% of its profit from the iPod line alone. So wouldnít it make sense to expand this line, and make a more affordable, smaller unit for people to buy? Yes, it does. Apples answer to this is the iPod Mini, a smaller iPod that holds less, yet is just the size of a credit card. But how does it hold up in our testing?

Apple iPod MP3 Player


At first sight, the iPod Mini looks significantly smaller then its big brother, the iPod. This is because, well, it is smaller! Actually measured up, itís about 85% of the size of the iPod, which does not sound significant, but when it is actually in your hand, you clearly see the difference. Itís also slightly thinner then the iPod, measuring out at half-an-inch.

Apple iPod MP3 Player   Apple iPod MP3 Player

The biggest difference between the iPod and iPod Mini size-wise would have to be the weight. Even the newest iPods weigh 2 ounces more then the iPod Mini, and the older generationsí way even more. 2 ounces can be quite a lot when carrying a device like an MP3 player. The iPod Mini could easily be described as feather-light. I actually forgot I had it once and frantically looked in my backpack to make sure I had it, only to realize it was in my pocket. Itís really that light.

What is the biggest difference in looks between the iPod and iPod Mini? The colors, of course! The iPod Mini comes in five colors; silver, green, blue, pink, and gold. What was surprising to me was the fact that Apple did not release a white iPod Mini, despite the fact that the standard iPod only comes in white.

I chose the Silver color for my Mini. Truth be told, I did this because all the other colors were sold out. The demand for the Mini has been huge, and youíd actually be lucky to find one at all, much less in a color besides silver. When the iPods were sent to the Apple stores, the majority of the shipment contained Silver Miniís. Therefore, those are the most widely available.

Donít get me wrong, the Silver model looks great. Its nice shine matches well with either the Powermac G5 or the Powerbook, but looks great complimenting any system. Unlike the standard iPod, the Mini does not scratch very easily.

I have to give Apple credit, it changed the best thing about the previous iPods; the touch wheel. Instead of having the buttons separate from the wheel, it combined it all in one, making the Click Wheel. The buttons are actually on the wheel! The wheel still works just great, and moving up and down is fast and easy. Donít worry, although I thought this would happen, it is almost impossible to accidentally press a button while scrolling up or down. I didnít think the wheel could get any better, but it has.

Apple iPod MP3 Player

The screen has gotten smaller because of the decrease in overall size. Because of this, one line of text has been lost, and when playing a song, the Album is no longer shown. This isnít a big deal, and the screen does look clearer. The backlight is also a nice whitish-bluish, which looks very cool.

Using the iPod Mini

Luckily, with the release of iTunes for Windows, non-Mac users have it pretty easy, unlike the previous days when using MusicMatch Jukebox was a requirement to have an iPod. iTunes for Windows is virtually identical to iTunes for Mac, and provides an easy-to-use environment for loading songs to the iPod. For the sake of this review, the iPod Mini was tested on both a Mac and PC using both Firewire and USB 2.0.

Before being able to ďsyncĒ the iPod Mini with the PC, you need to install some software/drivers. Placing the CD in your drive loads the wizard, will first ask you for your iPod Mini serial #, and then continue with the installation. Once its complete, the computer will restart and you will be ready to load songs on your iPod Mini.

Loading songs is as simple as drag and drop. As long as you already have your music library in iTunes (which will not be explained here), you can start the transfer of all your music within a few seconds. You can transfer music to your iPod in one of two ways; automatic, or manual.

Manual mode has just been described to you, it basically lets you drag and drop specific songs and playlists to your iPod until it is full. If you have a larger collection of music (over 4GB, the capacity of the unit), Automatic mode may be best for your specific needs. First off, with Automatic mode, it will automatically transfer all your music considering you have less then 4GB of songs. Once you download more songs and go to sync your iPod once again, it will update just the new songs on the iPod, basically letting you automatically have your entire collection of music with you, without you personally needing to do anything.

If you have more then 4GB of music, things tend to get a little complicated. iTunes will transfer the songs that have the highest rating (you can set a rating for each song, out of five stars, from either iTunes or your iPod), as well as the songs that have been listened to the most first, and then transfer the remaining songs, considering there is additional space remaining. This is extremely smart of Apple, because many people have a music collection that is larger then 4GB, which this device cannot accommodate.

The speed of the unit is great. I had my partial collection of 198 songs transfer in about three minutes. It ends up being about a second a song, which is fast enough for virtually anyone.

If necessary, you can use the iPod Mini (as well as all of the iPods) as an external hard drive, as well as an MP3 player. When the drive is mounted, it will show up as a letter in My Computer (PC) or show up on the Desktop for access in the Finder (Mac). This way, you can drag and drop any kind of file to be later accessed on the same, or different PC. You cannot transfer music this way, however. I did find it to be a great backup resource, instead of burning a countless number of CDís.


The iPod is not only powerful; itís also quite easy to use. Turning it on will bring you to the main menu. Keep in mind that the iPod Mini uses the exact same software as the third-generation iPod, and is almost exactly alike to the iPod 1st/2nd generation.

The main menu consists of five options: Playlists, Browse, Extras, Clock, Settings, and Backlight. There are also various submenus under these menus:

  • Playlists
  • Browse
  • Extras
  • Settings
  • Backlight

    As you can see from above, not only can the iPod be used as a MP3 player and a hard drive, but it can be also used as a basic PDA. The calendar, notes, and contacts features make it a simple, yet effective system to keep track of your schedule, yet have one unit to do it all, as well as listen to music and hold important files. Both the calendar and contacts sync with Microsoft Outlook and you can view any text file by simply dragging it to the iPod in the Finder or Windows Explorer. Unfortunately, you cannot add or change anything on the unit once the information is on it, you can only change it on your computer.

    The games are nice, but remember, this is not a Gameboy! Brick is nice, but it can be a little difficult to move around with the touch wheel, I found it much easier on the scroll wheel that was on the 1st and 2nd generation iPods. Parachute is also nice, and reminds me of Subhunt on the Palm platform. Basically, you shoot down helicopters. Itís quite fun, actually. My personal favorite was Music Quiz. The game would play a few seconds of one of your songs, and then youíd have to choose the name of the song from four choices in a short amount of time. Very cool, Apple! Solitaire was confusing, to say the least. I had a hard time playing it on such a small screen with the ďcontrolsĒ on the iPod Mini, but it is possible, if you really want to play. Nevertheless, the games were a nice addition to the iPod Mini.

    Never fear, the iPod Mini has the exact same audio quality as the previous iPods, which means only one thing: excellent audio.

    In the Box and Accessories

    In the iPod Mini box, youíll find quite a few things:

  • iPod Mini
  • Belt Clip
  • Earphones
  • Firewire Cable
  • USB 2.0 Cable
  • AC Adapter
  • iTunes Software (Windows and Mac) CD

    Apple iPod MP3 Player

    What stands out is the USB 2.0 cable. In order to use USB 2.0 with previous iPods, it was necessary to buy a $19 cable. This is no longer the case. The iPod Mini comes with everything you need to connect it with either Firewire or USB 2.0.

    Also new is the belt clip, which is a cute little thing that lets you easily hold your Mini using a clip on your belt. While it is something a true geek would use, I can see it being quite useful for a good run or a fitness ďsession.Ē

    The earphones were Apple standard, by far not the best, but pretty nice for freebies. I would be careful using these, though. Thieves now know that the white headphones are iPod headphones, and can make you a easy target for their latest ďattack.Ē

    The AC adapter is nice, and looks like the previous iPods AC Adapter, a small white square that connects to your Firewire cable, which then connects to the iPod. Remember, the iPod Mini can charge while connected to your computer as well.

    The dock is not included with the iPod Mini, but it is a $39 accessory, which I picked up at my latest visit to the Apple store. I canít say that it is really worth $39, but it is nice. Itís a simple cradle that lets you slip your iPod on it, instead of plugging it in. It also has a nice line out jack to easily let the sound from your iPod go to a stereo or speaker system. If you have the money, go for it, but it is by all means not a necessity.

    Virtually all accessories for the iPod work with the iPod Mini, with the exception of the Voice Recorder and Media Reader. These, by all means, will not work. This is a disappointment for some, especially because of the lack of support for the Voice Recorder, which has become quite popular since its release.

    Battery Life

    After some good testing with the battery life on the iPod Mini, I can confidently say that the battery lasts about 7 and a half hours on a full charge while listening to music. This is not the best, but it is by no means bad. You have to keep in mind the small size of the battery because of the reduced unit size, and you must realize that shorter battery life is a trade-off of a smaller unit. Luckily, it recharges to 80% within an hour, and fully within three hours, which is pretty quick in my eyes.

    This brings us to the iPod battery controversy. I will admit it; the battery life will most likely start to diminish within two to three years. But, you must understand that this is true for all lithium ion batteries, not specifically the iPod or iPod Mini. No matter what device you buy, this will happen. Apple will replace your battery for $100, if necessary, if out of warranty, or you can buy an Applecare Extended Warranty for your iPod Mini for $59 at the time of purchase.


    If this is not impressive, Iím not sure what is. After extensive testing of the unit, I have to say that Iím impressed. The stylish design is sure to turn heads anywhere, and its small size feels great in your hands, and even better in your pocket (if you can even notice it!). The revolutionary Click Wheel is great, and the screen is small, yet clear and functional, and the audio quality is superb. The iPod Mini has been a complete success for Apple, generating over 100,000 pre-orders within one months time.

    The downside of the device is the smaller then normal hard drive, just 4GB. For many, if not most (like me), this is plenty. For others, it is not. If it isnít, you may seriously want to consider getting the 15, 20, or even 40GB standard iPod models. This way, you can have all your music in one place. This brings me to the next downside, the cost per megabyte. The iPod Mini comes out to costing about 6 cents per megabyte, while the 15GB iPod costs just 2 cents a megabyte. The 15GB iPod costs just $50 more then the iPod Mini, yet almost quadruples the size. However, the iPod Mini was not designed for sheer storage space. Itís really meant for design, and it shines. The 4GB should be fine for most, and if you need more, the Mini simply may not be the product for you. Youíll have to evaluate that by yourself.


  • Stylish Design
  • Click-Wheel
  • Great Screen
  • USB 2.0 and Firewire
  • iTunes is Great


  • Cost per megabyte is very high

    SLRating: 9 out of 10

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