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Five Apple products I actually like

Given all of David's criticisms of Apple over the years, he's often asked if there are any Apple products he actually likes. We were surprised to find out the answer is "yes." Here are five products he says he quite likes.
By David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
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1 of 6 David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Apple products I like

With the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) just around the corner, and in honor of CEO Tim Cook's hour-long grilling by WSJ's Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, I decided it was time to say something actually nice about the company.

Y'all (I spent an hour listening to Cook's Alabama drawl) know I've occasionally been a teensy bit hard on Apple over the years, but that's because it's part of my job as a technology columnist to hold the company to a high standard.

Now, I'll admit I prefer Windows over the Mac's OS X, but that doesn't mean I haven't bought Apple products. In fact, I have five Macs now (okay, so three of them run only Windows). My wife and I have iPhones and iPads, and we've got a bunch of other Apple products including a complete set of 4th generation iPod shuffles in every color.

Granted, the iPod shuffle collection wasn't my idea, but that doesn't mean I'm not an Apple user. Heck, I used to head up a team at Apple, way back in the day.

Given all my grousing, I'm often asked if there are any Apple products I actually like. The answer is yes. On the following pages are five Apple products I like quite a bit. I'll tell you my favorite product at the end of this piece.

For now, let's start with one of my most used.

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Apple Wireless Keyboard

I never thought I'd like so-called "Chiclet" keyboards, until I started using Apple's. My wife and I needed a small form-factor keyboard to use with our media center PC (yes, PC) and we found that the Apple Wireless Keyboard was reliable, convenient, and surprisingly easy to type on.

We now have four of these in Camp David, including one that is actually connected to a Mac, used in the studio. I'm starting to replace this keyboard with the Logitech K810, primarily because the K810 is both illuminated and supports three different Bluetooth devices simultaneously, but I don't like that I have to charge it, rather than just replace the batteries. Because you can simply swap batteries, the Apple keyboard is a win.

Even though I've added the Logitech to the mix, I'm actively using my Apple Wireless Keyboards every day, and probably will continue to do so until they die.

Product page: Apple Wireless Keyboard

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3 of 6 David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Apple TV

Let's count my Apple TV's, shall we? There are two in the gym (an original first-generation unit and a second-gen hockey puck). There's a third Apple TV attached to the entertainment center.

I hacked the first-gen unit and installed XBMC on it. We use it to watch video and play tunes from our media tank. I use it when on the treadmill, but I tend to like quiet when lifting. The second-gen unit in the gym is tuned to my wife's Netflix account, and she watches that when exercising.

I've been persuaded not to hack the current-gen Apple TV in the media center rack, especially since I have a nice XBMC-running Windows 8 machine already in the rack.

I don't watch much iTunes video on the media center Apple TV, but my wife and I use it constantly to watch Netflix. So far, the very best Netflix interface we've seen is on the Apple TV. For ninety-nine bucks and a Netflix subscription, it's a heck of a lot of entertainment that's hard to beat.

Product page: Apple TV

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Sixth generation iPod nano

While Apple started shipping the seventh-gen iPod nano back around November, it's the sixth generation unit that is truly a win. With all the discussion recently about wearable computing, it seems Apple has had a sweet little wearable computing device since 2010 — and has since discontinued it.

There were two big wins for the sixth generation nano. First, it was small and had a nice little color display, so you could see where you were and what you were playing. It was the same size as the old shuttles, but with a screen. But the truly big win of the nano was it had a clip. You could easily clip it to your clothes without needing to allocate a pocket.

My wife has one of these (and got me one for my birthday last year), and she wears it constantly. She hooks into Audible and has listened to a ton of books, all while getting things done around the house and office.

It's not a mistake that Apple innovated on the nano and came out with a new model. It's just a mistake that they removed the clip, while, bizarrely, keeping the far more dysfunctional shuttles in the lineup.

Product page: new generation nano (not the one I like)

Photo by: Bill Detwiler / TechRepublic

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5 of 6 David Gewirtz/ZDNET

iPad mini

I've talked a lot over the years about how to decide between full-sized tablets and reasons not to buy a new iPad.

Even though we have a first generation and third generation iPad, I don't really like the product. I don't use it all that often, and when I do, it's usually as a helper in the studio. I don't get nearly the productivity benefits out of it that some of my ZDNet colleagues do.

Even so, when the iPad mini came out, I bought one. I figured that if I was going to write about the darned thing, I ought to use it.

And, guess what? I like it. No one was more surprised than I was. People were complaining left and right about the iPad mini's lack of a Retina display, but it's never bothered me. Now, let me be clear here: my wife and I both have Nexus 7s (which we love) and Kindle Fires (she uses it, I don't). So adding the iPad to the mix seemed, frankly, overkill.

But the fact is, it works and it works well. It's all about the size. It's easy to use as a scrap of paper (I tied Penultimate to Evernote), it makes a great bed-reader, it's handy to bring into the studio, it doesn't take up too much space, it's light, and it doesn't require a separate briefcase to pack when going out. The full-sized iPad, by contrast, is like a small ultrabook once you add a cover or a keyboard.

The iPad mini is just exactly what a seven-inch tablet is meant to be: a replacement for the small, convenient notepads we've all had and loved. The nice thing is that all my iOS software also runs on the iPad mini, so it's pretty much grab and go.

There's an iOS device I actually quite like. I'm as shocked as you.

Product page: iPad mini

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Mac mini server

Sit down. This is gonna take some 'splaining. Here's the thing: my favorite Windows desktop computer is the Mac mini. I explained it briefly in my DIY-IT gift guide last December and back then, we owned two of them.

We've since bought two more, and I've installed Windows 8 on three of them. As I said in the gift guide, I've been hard pressed to find another box this small, this powerful, and this inexpensive. It takes far less desk space than even a laptop, it has a ton of ports, with SSDs it can be fast as all heck, and it's relatively inexpensive for a 16GB machine.

I buy the server version, which comes with two drives. The biggest issue is I have to set up Boot Camp and then install Windows 8, but that's not a whole lot of work.

With the exception of the studio machine, which runs Mac OS X Mountain Lion, I never boot the Mac minis into the Mac side. They've been rock-solid Windows machines and I don't have a single complaint about them.

In fact, I'm thinking of pulling the trigger on a fifth. I'm running an old Zotac in my private office, and I'd like something quite a bit faster and more capable.

Of all Apple's product, the Mac mini running Windows 8 is, by far, my favorite. Now, would I buy these if I had to run OS X on all of them instead of Windows 8? Probably not. I find OS X a tedious chore to use.

Product page: Mac mini

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