Apple iPod Mini (4GB review: Apple iPod Mini (4GB

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.3
  • Design: 9.0
  • Features: 6.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Best-of-breed design and interface; comes in five colors; excellent playlist features; clean, configurable sound; smooth syncing; organizes contacts; includes games; functions as an external drive.

The Bad No FM radio or recording capabilities; battery not user-replaceable.

The Bottom Line Apple comes through again with a nearly perfect MP3 player.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

Intro

The iPod brand has become synonymous with excellent portable audio players, and the 4GB Apple iPod Mini carries on the tradition with its fashionable, intelligent design. Its hard drive holds about 74 hours' worth of music and shares the same impressive graphical interface and sound specs as its larger sibling, the white iPod. Meanwhile, the earlier device's strongest design point--the scrollwheel--has been improved to help you navigate menus and music with even greater one-handed ease. The only remaining question is whether this new breed of device can create a sweet spot between flash- and hard drive-based players. At $250, the iPod Mini (in multiple colors) is more expensive than some hard drive-based players with larger capacities, but bragging rights alone could make it worth the price.

Editors' note: We have changed the ratings in this review to reflect recent changes in our ratings scale. Find out more here. Although it scarcely seems possible, we think the Apple iPod Mini's design surpasses even that of its photogenic older sibling. Its stylish, anodized-aluminum shell is so tough that we felt as if we could stand on the device without consequence. Apple constructs the body by hollowing out Mini-shaped aluminum tubes so that there are no seams in the construction, then applies the color during the anodization process so that it can't scratch off.

/sc/30657036-2-200-DT1.gif" width="200" height="150" alt="" />
Snap the iPod Mini into the included belt clip, and you have tunes to go.
/sc/30657036-2-200-DT2.gif" width="200" height="150" alt="" />
The optional cradle holds the iPod Mini at an elegantly tilted angle.

At first glance, we thought the oblong (3.6 by 2.0 by 0.5 inches) iPod Mini was larger than the square Creative Nomad MuVo2 , but the new player takes up less volume than any other player that uses Hitachi's 4GB 1-inch hard drive. At 3.6 ounces, it's slightly heavier than the MuVo2, but it still feels quite light in the pocket. The iPod Mini's 1.7-inch-diagonal screen is smaller than the white iPod's, but the crispness afforded by the Mini's tighter dot pitch compensates for the reduced viewing area (although in Browse mode, files display song title and artist but not album information).

The tastiest design treat to our palate is the revamped scrollwheel. The play, menu/back, fast-forward, and rewind functions that the white iPod assigns to four touch-sensitive buttons are now located on the scrollwheel (or, rather, the Click Wheel). We prefer this approach because it offers physical feedback when a function has been activated. In addition to the new functionality, the touch-sensitive clickwheel still works perfectly for scrolling through lengthy song lists with speed and precision. As with the white iPod, the unlabelled button in the middle of the wheel functions as Select. The only other control on the player is the sliding Hold key on top, which locks all functions.

An exposed slot on the bottom of the iPod Mini attaches to either a FireWire or USB 1.1/2.0 cable (both included) or the optional cradle ($39), which connects to the AC adapter or a FireWire/USB port or directly to a stereo through the line-out jack. The Mini snaps into an included white belt clip for on-the-go listening. Apple also offers an optional armband ($29) for exercise, which uses the same, cool snap-in design, but like all hard drive-based MP3 players, the iPod Mini isn't the ideal choice for strenuous physical activity. The optional in-line remote ($39) is the same one included with some versions of the white iPod.

Other than the Belkin voice recorder and flash adapter, most third-party accessories designed for the latest round of white iPods also work with the Mini.

/sc/30657036-2-200-DT5.gif" width="200" height="150" alt="" />
The same in-line remote that works with other iPods works with the Mini but must be purchased separately.

The Apple iPod Mini's playback features are all accessible and programmable from the main menu. You can browse by song, artist, album, genre, playlist, or composer. With the On The Go function, you can create a new playlist without a computer. When you sync the player to iTunes 4.2 or later, the new playlist uploads to your PC or Mac and can download back to the Mini automatically for later listening. Another new function: In Autosync mode, iTunes sizes up your iPod Mini's available storage space and creates a playlist that fits the capacity perfectly, consisting of songs you've rated highly or listened to more frequently (in iTunes). This is crucial since the 4GB capacity (which Apple says can hold 1,000 songs) is smaller than most serious digital music collections. It also means that if you've already use iTunes to listen to music on your PC or Mac, the first time you connect the iPod Mini, all of your favorite songs automatically transfer to the player until it's full.

A playlist function lets you rate a song on a scale of 1 to 5 while it's playing; higher-rated songs play more frequently in Shuffle mode (you can also rate songs within the iTunes application). Library/device syncing is still as smart as ever. When you plug in the Mini or drop it in the optional cradle, iTunes starts up and automatically syncs your music collection or selected playlists. With iTunes, you can also create MP3 and AAC files from your CDs. The iPod Mini handles AAC files as it would MP3 files, but AAC sounds better at the same bit rate. The player also supports WAV/AIFF and spoken-word Audible files, which can now be purchased from the iTunes Music Store. The software can also resample songs to a certain bit rate, apply volume leveling (a.k.a. normalization), and digitally enhance songs while transferring them.

Other notable extras include an alarm clock that can beep or play the song of your choice through a home stereo; three games (Brick, Parachute, and Solitaire); Music Quiz, which tests you on how quickly you can recognize songs from your collection; a contacts list and a calendar that syncs with Outlook; an area where you can read text memos; and the ability to play tunes from the iPod's hard drive while it's connected to your computer.

You can use the iPod Mini to share music between multiple computers, but it's not easy, as the player syncs to only one version of iTunes. But there's an alternative. We were able to copy MP3 files from the Mini to a second computer's hard drive in Windows by turning on "View hidden files and folders" and browsing the Mini's internal directories in My Computer until we found the music. Mac OS X users can do the same thing if they install TinkerTool.

The iPod Mini has no compatibility problems transporting data files between computers (Macs or PCs) when you activate the Enable Disk Use function. In this approach, the Mini mounts as a data drive, but it hides music files unless you use the above-described workaround.

The electronics responsible for sound reproduction in the Apple iPod Mini are identical to those found on the iPod, so you get the same impressive sound quality and loud maximum output (30mW per channel). The included earbuds sound good, but our Shure E3c test headphones made the sonics shine even more.

/sc/30657036-2-200-DT4.gif" width="200" height="150" alt="" />
Apple includes Sennheiser earbuds that can be worn with or without padding.
/sc/30657036-2-200-DT3.gif" width="200" height="150" alt="" />
The optional armband lets your body act as shock absorption, but that might not be enough to protect the iPod Mini's hard drive from the long-term effects of jogging.

Apple claims the internal battery takes three hours to rejuice and lasts eight hours on a single charge. Our tests outperformed this rating, usually by about an hour. The battery is nonreplaceable, but if you're unhappy with its resiliency after a couple of years, Apple will swap in a new one for $99.

The Mini comes with both FireWire and USB 1.1/2.0 connections. Over FireWire, our songs transferred at 2.6MB per second; over USB 2.0, they synced at a brisker 3.18MB per second.

Apple claims an antiskip protection of 25 minutes, thanks to a 32MB flash buffer. We experienced no skipping during testing. But like all hard drive-based MP3 players, the iPod Mini is not as well suited for serious physical activity as flash-based players, which have no moving parts. That said, it would certainly work (and look) fine at the gym, especially with the optional armband.

File-transfer speed  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
MB per second  


Battery-drain tests  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Battery life in hours  

Editors' Top PicksSee All

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Where to Buy

Apple iPod Mini (4GB, Blue, 1st Generation)

Part Number: M9436LL/A Released: Feb 16, 2004

MSRP: $249.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Feb 16, 2004
  • Built-in Display LCD
  • Run Time (Up To) 8 hour(s)
  • Capacity 4 GB
  • Color blue
  • Weight 3.7 oz
  • Supported Digital Audio Standards MP3
    WAV
    Real 10
  • Installed Size No built-in memory
  • Diagonal Size 1.67" m
  • Type 1 year warranty
  • Sound Output Mode stereo
  • Type digital player