My colleague over at MacCentral, Peter Cohen, recently reported that the iPod mini was going great guns on eBay, with sellers asking up to $400 for one of the little aluminized buggers.
While I don’t normally think in acronyms, a hearty WTF!? welled up from somewhere inside the gray matter. To regain some sense of reality, I ventured over to Amazon to see how minis fared there. Refurbs were going for $230 for the 4GB mini—$31 over the original retail price. One third-party seller had the chutzpah to demand $590 for a 4GB iPod mini. While I’d normally pass this off as an isolated incident of outlandish greed (P.T. Barnum would be proud of ye, lad), seeing the mini commanding these kinds of prices on both eBay and Amazon made me wonder if perhaps I was missing something. Is this simply a matter of the mini attaining some bizarre fetishistic status or is there some real value to the thing that compels people to buy one rather than the iPod nano?
In the hope of answering these questions I devote today’s entry to a comparison of the two. Grab some graph paper and follow along.
Capacity The low-end mini and high-end nano hold the same 4GB of data. Originally the mini offered that 4GB for less money than the nano, as the 4GB mini once cost $199 and the 4GB nano costs $249. Given the mini’s current asking price, price per megabyte means nothing.
Capacity matters, however, for those with music collections that fall in the range of 1,000 – 1,500 tracks. The 6GB mini is up to the task, the most expensive nano tops out at approximately 1,000 songs. As I mentioned earlier this week, many people don’t require the 30- and 60GB of space offered by full-sized iPods. For them, a 6GB mini is a good compromise.
Score 1 for the mini.
Display The nano could potentially lose ground here based on its tiny screen, but color means a lot. Small as the nano’s screen is, I find it cleaner and easier to read than the mini’s grayscale display.
Point for the nano.
Responsiveness One advantage of flash memory over a hard drive is that it doesn’t need to do something mechanical (spin up, in this case) before you can use it. Overall the nano is far more responsive than the mini—moving from screen to screen, scrolling, waking from sleep.
Another nano point.
Features Picture display: nano. Stopwatch: nano. Screen lock: nano.
Battery life In tests where you punch Play and walk away, the second-generation mini wipes the floor with the nano—offering 26 hours of constant playback versus the 14 hours managed by the nano.
mini gets its second point
Syncing support Like all current iPods, the nano supports synching over USB only. The mini supports synching over both USB and FireWire. Those with older Macs that lack a USB 2.0 port have already made their views known about the lack of FireWire support on new iPods. If you’re one of these people, the mini is for you.
Give the mini a point.
Durability There’s no doubt that the mini’s aluminum case can take more abuse than the plastic front and polished back of the nano without showing scratches. The mini is also far less likely to be destroyed than the nano if you put the iPod in your back pocket and sit down. A point for the mini. However, I’m far more confident that the no-moving-parts nano will survive a fall than will the mini with its spinning hard drive. Give that one to the nano.
Coolness This one’s bound to be a split. Some prefer the “retro” (if you can say such a thing about a device that only recently went out of print) and colorful look of the mini. Others find the mini downright clunky when placed next to the nano.
1 point each.
Desire So let’s see, I count 5 points for each iPod. The final factor is desire—how much you long for one iPod or the other, regardless of how irrational that longing may be. With the nano in ample supply there’s no need to panic—dig up the spare change to buy one, and it’s yours. The mini is going, going, gone and if you want yours in an unsullied state you can pay through the nose for it now or, perhaps, wait until the holiday furor dies down, settle for a used one, and pick it up on eBay for a hundred bucks.
Scoring? The nano gets nothing. If your desire can be satisfied only with a new mini, nothing I say in the nano’s favor is going to convince you. You’ve got a fever and the only cure is an iPod mini. For your sake, let’s give the mini a million points and have done with it. Enjoy your mini (or at least the shrink-wrapped box if obtaining it is nothing more than a collector’s obsession) and have a happy holiday.