Apple iPod Mini 4GB Review


  • Solid build quality
  • excellent sound quality
  • intuitive interface


Our Score 9
User Score 8


  • Ear buds are not very comfortable
  • does not include docking station
  • premium price
...the iPod mini easily outdoes all other portable audio players on the market in terms of style and quality.


“A thousand songs in your pocket”, smaller, lighter, more colorful, and with loads of extra features, the iPod mini easily outdoes all other portable audio players on the market in terms of style and quality. It is too hot to handle, too easy to play with, and too lovely to not obtain one. Apple has surely scored another homerun with this little sister to the original iPod.


“A thousand songs in your pocket!” screamed Apple’s ads for the original 5GB iPod when the company first introduced its revolutionary product into the consumer electronics market back in 2001. After more than two years of constant design improvements and a whirlwind marketing campaign, Apple has succeeded in making iPod the number one digital audio player on the market. In January 2004, Steve Jobs announced the impending release of a new little sister for the iPod – the iPod mini – a tiny device capable of storing that same thousand songs in your pocket, but smaller, lighter and more colorful than a regular iPod.

The biggest question, and perhaps also the biggest disappointment that people who watched Steve’s keynote have is the relatively high price point Apple has set for its new product. The iPod mini is currently priced at $249, $50 higher than what critics had rumored, and for another $50, you could get the 15GB 3rd generation iPod, which holds about four times as much music as the mini. Did Apple set the price right? Is the mini going to sell? The answer came in mid-February, when the company announced that more than 100,000 iPod minis had already been pre-ordered at its online store since Steve Jobs’ announcement. New orders placed in mid February are estimated to ship in mid to late March. Critics finally realized how hot the mini is. Apple makes no secret of the fact that the iPod mini is targeted toward those consumers who are considering buying a flash memory based MP3 player. While a potential customer can buy a 256MB or 512MB flash memory player for under $199, by spending $50 more, which is acceptable to most people willing to shell out $200 on an MP3 player, he or she could get the iPod mini with 4GB of storage space. Although another $50 would buy even more space to hold music, statistics show that most people are not willing to go that extra step, and many consumers simply don’t have enough music to entirely fill up their iPod. Putting all that aside, a business-card-size iPod that comes in five different styles, Silver, Gold, Blue, Pink, and Green, is probably the coolest thing on Earth.

We were lucky enough to get our hands on the relatively rare “green” iPod mini for this review. According to, during the Feb. 20 6:00pm iPod mini launch, each Apple Store received “approximately 70-100 of Silver, 20 each of Blue and Pink, and 4 units each of Gold and Green” available, and all sold out the same night. Keeping that in mind, let’s meet the iPod mini in person.

The Apple iPod mini compared to the Apple iPod


Arriving in a small white cubic box, the iPod mini says, “Hey, open my box and get me out!” Apple specializes in ensuring wonderful consumer experiences since the minute the product box is unsealed. The gorgeous little box unfolds into two parts: one contains the manual, installation CD, FireWire and USB 2.0 cables, and the belt clip; while the other holds the iPod mini and the power adapter. For Mac users, the AC power adapter is an extra bonus since the iPod mini can recharge itself from any Mac computer it is connected to.

The iPod mini

We can almost bet the first word that anyone who opens the box would say is “wow!” It is so much prettier when viewed in person that you realize none of the ad pictures do it justice. The iPod mini clearly lives up to its name: it is small – about the size of a business card and half an inch thick – and fits the palm perfectly like a glove. The metallic green aluminum tube-shaped casing feels extremely solid and comfortably cool in the hand. The 3.6-ounce iPod mini really makes third generation iPods look and feel bulky. About the size of a small cell phone, the iPod mini is so light you might forget you put it in your pocket. With the optional armband accessory Apple is selling, the mini is perfect for all those active people who like to do exercises or go jogging.

The Apple iPod mini package

iPod mini, iPod 40GB, and Sony Ericsson T616

There aren’t a lot of buttons or switches on the iPod mini. Below the bright display is an innovative new scroll control with four push buttons embedded inside. Unlike the third generation iPods, the iPod mini’s Click Wheel can not only be used to scroll through the menus with great accuracy, but it also doubles as the “menu”, “rewind”, “forward”, and “play/pause” buttons when you press down on the four sides of the wheel. It looks just like any standard iPod wheel with some simple labels, yet it performs the most complicated function of helping you browse through hundreds of songs with ease. We found the new Click Wheel on the iPod mini to be easier to use than the Touch Wheel with 4 separate buttons on third generation iPods. The display is smaller than those on 3G iPods, but it has a better contrast ratio and is sharper. The backlight lights up the display evenly and is about twice as bright as those on 3G iPods.

The Apple iPod mini and Sony Ericsson T616

On top of the mini is the hold switch, used to prevent accidental triggering of the other controls, and the headphone jack that is compatible with the iPod wire control. On the bottom is the dock port compatible with other iPod Dock port products. Unfortunately, Dock stations designed for third generation iPods have a different shape and do not perfectly fit the iPod mini. Nonetheless, if you have one of those, you can still use it.

The iPod mini plays both MP3 and AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) format audio files. Developed by the MPEG group that includes Dolby, Fraunhofer (FhG), AT&T, Sony, and Nokia, the AAC audio format features a better compression rate than MP3 and is used for songs downloaded from Apple’s iTunes Music Store, which currently holds 70% of the legal music download market share. The audio chip inside iPod mini also originally supported the WMA format developed by Microsoft but WMA support is disabled in the firmware. The sound quality of the iPod mini is as good as that of other iPods, which is among the best in all digital audio players. The included white ear buds produce above average sound quality, but they do not feel very comfortable if left in the ear for too long. When connected to a stereo system or better earphones, the iPod lives up to its full potential, producing rich, high quality sound.

Setup and Features

The setup process for the iPod mini is extremely simple. All you have to do is make sure you have Apple’s iTunes software installed and plug one end of the included cable into your computer and the other into the Dock port on the bottom of your iPod mini. iTunes will automatically detect your iPod mini and ask you to provide a name for your beloved portable audio device. Once you have named it and chosen whether you want the iPod mini to be automatically synchronized with your music library, you are ready to go. If you have less than 4GB of music and choose to auto update the iPod mini, your entire music library will be transferred to the iPod within minutes. If you choose to transfer your songs manually to the iPod, you’ll be able to start filling it up by dragging and dropping tracks from your music library.

Initial setup screen and iTunes play list

The iPod mini, like other iPods, not only works as an audio player, but also has other neat features built into its operating software. The extra features include a clock, an alarm clock, a sleep timer, contacts, a calendar, a to-do list, notes, and games. The sleep timer is especially useful when you want to listen to some soft music before going to sleep. The contact list keeps all your address book information with you on the go and is automatically synchronized with your Mac computer. Calendar and to-do list give you a monthly calendar view and from there you are able to browse to specific dates to view your schedules. The calendar is also synchronized with your iCal calendars. By placing text documents in the Notes folder of your iPod, you will be able to read notes with your iPod onthego. Best of all, Apple included four games for you to kill your free time with: Brick (similar to Breakout), Music Quiz (plays a random clip and lets you guess which song it is), Parachute (you get to shoot down choppers and parachutists), and Solitaire. As usual, the iPod mini also works as an external hard disk drive that you can use to backup important data or transfer files between computers. With all the built-in extra features, who needs a PDA anymore?

Apple iTunes Playlist


“A thousand songs in your pocket”, smaller, lighter, more colorful, and with loads of extra features, the iPod mini easily outdoes all other portable audio players on the market in terms of style and quality. It is too hot to handle, too easy to play with, and too lovely to not obtain one. Apple has surely scored another homerun with this little sister to the original iPod.

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