Now that I've had it for a few weeks, I'm ready to reveal my opinion of Apple's iPod Mini. In short, I love it.
I purchased the silver version a few weeks ago, after about a two week delay from the time of placing my order on Apple's Eduation Store. The education price is $229, but when I called them to say that I was debating getting one of the 15GB models instead, they knocked $10 off the price for me to keep my original order, and I did. Boy, am I glad I did.
I bought my wife a 20GB iPod for Christmas, and she loves it, and uses it literally every day, and so I'm pretty familiar with that hardware, and I assume most of my readers are, so this will focus on what's different about the iPod Mini. The Mini has the same great audio quality as the regular iPod, the same user interface, and the same headphones. So what's different?
First of all, it's smaller, and lighter. How small? Well, you can read the specs at Apple's site, but I'll just sum it up by saying it's the smallest and lightest of all of my techno-gadgets. Smaller and lighter than my cell phone, my pager, my Digital Elph camera, or my PocketPC. It's a great form-factor, and it's so light you quickly forget you're wearing it. The orginal iPod isn't exactly massive, but it's "substantial" whereas the iPod mini is svelte.
With the smaller size, however, comes reduced storage capacity. You're limited to 4GB of storage on the Mini, but I don't see that as such a limitation, now that I've used it extensively. Sure, you can't store every song you own on your Mini, but I'm betting you can fit all the "good ones" on there. We have every CD we own stuffed in the 20GB iPod, but I've picked a much smaller selection of tunes to store on my Mini, and I'm barely over half full. There are several full albums I loaded, but mostly I cherry-picked the good songs from amongst the filler in my 125+ album CD collection, and still had room to spare. This is where I see the Mini as almost serving a separate purpose than the full-sized iPod. If you want your entire music collection with you, choose the larger iPod. If you're willing to give up some of your obscure music for improved portability, choose the Mini. I've seen many people discount the mini, due to the similar price to the larger 15GB iPod, but I have to say, the Mini is worth every cent
The thing I like most about the Mini is how great it works when you're engaged in physical activity. Being a computer nerd, I often try to avoid it, but sometimes you just have to break a sweat, and the Mini will be there to help you through it. I have the Apple-branded armband, and I have to say, they did a great job with it. I mowed my lawn last weekend, with the iPod strapped on my left arm, and I quickly forgot it was there. It's so light-weight that it doesn't slow you down or annoy you, and I could truly wear it all day and never be bothered by it. The neoprene that Apple used to make that armband is top-notch, and isn't the least bit itchy.
The other thing I like about my Mini is that it makes a great audiobook device. I've downloaded a few audiobooks from iTunes, and you can store several days worth of books on the device, making it great for long drives or plane flights. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the Mini works with the same accessories that we have for my wife's iPod, such as the car and AC chargers.
I haven't had any problems with static from my headphone jack, though I've seen that reported as a potential problem. Only time will tell how widespread it is, but the unit comes with a one-year warranty from Apple, and you can purchase AppleCare coverage to extend that to two years. I have had my Mini lock up a couple of times, but holding down the Menu and Select buttons for 5 seconds or so will reboot the device, and has cleared all the problems I've had. I'm sure there's just some glitch that will be corrected in a future firmware update.
All together, the iPod Mini is a great portable music device, assuming you're willing to work within the 4GB limit of storage. If you're a two-iPod home, it's a great secondary device, especially for someone who likes to exercise. The armband is very comfortable, and routing the cord inside your t-shirt will keep it safely out of harm's way. The form-factor of the device is great, it fits well in your hand, and elicits a "wow" from almost everyone who sees it. It's lightweight, attractive, and easy to use with only one hand. If you can manage to find one in stock in the color of your choosing, I say buy it, you won't be disappointed.