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The iPod mini is enclosed in matt anodised aluminium, measures 5.1 cm x 1.3 cm x 9.1 cm and weighs just 103g. There is a dock connector port in the base, which allows the mini to be connected directly to an optional docking station or to a USB2 port using the lead supplied. On the top are ports for headphones and optional remote control, together with a Hold switch that, when showing a bright orange bar, disables the controls buttons and prevent accidental pressing.
The front of the mini holds the display and controls in the form of a 'Click Wheel'. The display is LCD, monochromatic and measures 1.67" (diagonal), with a screen resolution of 138 x 110, adjustable contrast and the ability to display menus in 14 languages. The backlight, when used, displays text as blue on a white background and a timed off facility. The backlight uses a lot of battery power so should be used sparingly.
The Click Wheel covers the controls and enables the stylish, minimalist appearance. With only 'Menu' at the top, rewind symbol to the left, fast forward symbol to the right and play/pause symbol at the bottom it is very deceptive. It is incredibly responsive, so having the 'clicker' set to 'on' helps when getting the hang of scrolling, and the reason for the 'hold' button becomes blindingly obvious. The various control actions that, at first, appear complicated are actually very simple and efficient in practise.
It has a 4GB internal HDD, which can be set to function as an external Hard Drive to store any file type, as well as supporting the various digital audio standards and variable bit-rates used by the media player.
It can only be used with the following:
PCs running on: Windows 2000 (with Service Pack 4); Windows XP Professional (with Service Pack 2) or Windows XP Home Edition (with Service Pack 2)
Macs running on: Apple MacOS X 10.2.8 and Apple MacOS X 10.3.4 or later.
The mini has a built-in clock, which has a sleep timer and alarm function, as well as a calendar with an event reminder facility and a To Do List. The Contacts List function is an address/phone book utilising the vCards format used by Outlook Express, which can be exported to the mini when it is set to function as an external HDD, and stored along side music. The auto-synchronisation facility for Contacts List only works with the Mac operating systems, as does the To Do List, but with the external HDD function set contacts can be transferred manually. This, unfortunately, does not apply to the To Do List.
As a media player, the mini can store up to 1000 songs, at a bit-rate quality of 128Kbps but less at a higher quality. It has stereo output and comes with the standard Apple earbuds, with an impedance of 32 Ohm and a response bandwidth of 20 - 20000 Hz, and two pairs of foam covers. Along with the three playback modes of Play once, Repeat all and Shuffle, there are twenty factory preset equalizers available. Shockproof memory stores up to 25 minutes of song data at any one time which is, one supposes, the equivalent of 'skip control' in portable CD players. A belt clip is also included with the mini and various methods of securing it to one's person are readily available to buy.
The sound quality of a 160Kbps mp3 with the earbuds is good but an audiophile would need to consider an upgrade to appreciate the truly amazing sound quality of the mini. Listening to the same song using the JBL OnStage dock and speaker system, which was on special offer in conjunction with the mini at time of purchase, it is safe to say this hardware punches well above it's weight.
The iPod mini in this review, uses a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, and is the newer version with improved battery life. The average run time is said to be eighteen hours, which does seem to be the case, but this is only achievable if excessive use of the backlight, fast forward and rewind is avoided. The recharge time is about four hours.
The iTunes software program, included with the mini, is easy to install and makes it easy to purchase music or audio books at the online store. It will also work with the Limewire peer to peer program and automatically create a Limewire folder. The greatest thing available via iTunes is the podcast, which has opened up a whole new realm of entertainment. For example, iTunes indicates when the latest episode of a podcast audio book or item from Radio Four's Today show is available to download.
Any songs, audio books or podcasts selected in iTunes will automatically be transferred to the mini when connected to the computer. The mini has replaced the Hi-Fi in the bedroom and including the JBL OnStage takes up the space of a tea plate.
On a personal note
I have long had an unrequited love affair with all things Apple and the iPod mini allowed me to financially justify entering its seductive world.
I placed my order, for a silver "iPod mini" 4GB costing £139.00 with free delivery, from Apple Store - UK online, on 11th July 2005. This included free laser engraving of two lines of text, with a maximum of 23 characters in each, which added five days to the delivery time but was worth waiting for. It was delivered eight days later and removal of the outer shipping material revealed 'the box' completely sealed in soft cellophane.
There is something rather special about receiving a personalised product that is sealed. The attention to detail in the design and presentation of this product is incredible. The packaging itself is a work of art, from co-ordination of colours with the product supplied to it's first presentation to the recipient inset and framed by high quality white card. It is how a fine piece of jewellery would be displayed and the whole effect is visually stunning.
While the initial outlay may have been a disadvantage the return is a very functional and stylish piece of hardware, which makes one feel special. My love affair with Apple has been consummated and will, I believe, last forever.
IPod tutorials are available at: http://www.apple.com/support/ipod/