Apple iPod mini review

£139
Price when reviewed

It was the third-generation iPod that started it all. We all cooed over its minimalist design, unlimited cool and market-enhancing ad campaign. But then a whole host of other players appeared and highlighted some serious flaws. The touch navigation wasn’t responsive. iTunes would frequently hang on PCs. The iPod was FireWire-based and if you left it plugged into a PC via USB the battery would drain rapidly. If you left it off overnight it would drain some more, and even a fully charged battery offered poor performance. Then there was the price.

Apple iPod mini review

But quickly followed the first iPod mini and many ergonomic flaws were fixed. Soon after that came the fourth-generation iPod, with price being the only barrier. Next came the 60GB iPod photo, and we had a device as gorgeous as it was unaffordable.

Apple has addressed most of these problems. The range has just been rationalised, meaning there’s now only a 20GB iPod, a new 30GB iPod photo to join the 60GB version, and the iPod mini. The mini, now in its second generation, appears in both 4GB and 6GB flavours. Most notable, however, is that prices have dropped.

Indeed, while Apple has been very busy, most other manufacturers have done little. Even though iRiver has added minor updates to its flash players, its only significant new product is the H10. Manufacturers such as Cowon, MPIO and Frontier Labs have done little of note. Only Rio’s hard disk players offer genuine iPod alternatives. It hasn’t bothered replacing the superb Karma, which has since dropped in price by almost £100, while the Nitrus evolved into the amazing Carbon.

This means Apple is at the forefront of MP3-player technology. The fourth-generation iPod’s battery life has improved to a decent 16 hours, the iPod photo lasts 17 hours, while the iPod mini, with its brand-new power-saving features, lasted a staggering 23 hours in our tests.

The price decreases have brought with them a loss in accessories. The iPod dock is no longer included, neither is the remote, or the carry case. The only bundled accessories are the TV-out cable that accompanies the 60GB iPod photo, the carry clip that comes with the minis and the FireWire cable included with the fourth-generation iPod. Otherwise, all you’ll find in the box are the USB connection cable and charger (although note that all the iPods now charge via USB), and the earphones. They’re impressive earphones though, offering comparatively good sound quality.

All of the players sport the combination touch dial/directional button. Though some people struggle to get used to selecting with this method, it’s still the quickest way of scrolling through vast track lists – or thumbnail photos on the iPod photo. Our only quibble is that it’s difficult to nudge the volume when you’re not directly looking at it. If it’s in your pocket, then the Hold button needs to be on. You also need to be in ‘Now Playing’ mode for the touchpad to work as a volume dial. While it’s a harsh criticism, having people’s eyes regularly drawn to you every time you waft your iPod around on a train can be unsettling.

If money is no object then the 60GB iPod photo is fantastic. The colour screen greatly enhances usage and the hard disk size makes it a convenient backup for your digital photos. The slide shows are a little gimmicky but nice to have. It’s only a shame there’s no USB host for plugging in a flash drive, and that you can only view pictures imported through iTunes.

Fortunately, the previously enormous premium is now easier to swallow with the new 30GB version, which is as slim as the 20GB iPod. The £40 premium over the 20GB iPod is now well worth paying, thanks to the extra 10GB hard disk space and colour screen. Hence it gets the award.

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