The 10 Best Apple Hardware designs.
These machines may not have always had the greatest specs, price, popularity or even achievements but they are indeed beautiful and wonderfully conceived. Until Apple’s resurgence with Steve Jobs in the mid-to-late 90’s, computers were nothing more than large grey boxes that while functional, the design language and evolution was pretty stagnant and no real innovations in the art of design were forthcoming. Of course Apple and Steve Jobs were about to change all that with their seamless merging of technology, user experience and stunning minimalist design. So without further ado, here are my ‘top 5 Apple hardware designs based on look and functionality’. No jokes, but is is heavy on the fan boy gushing …
#5: Mac Mini
Is it just me or is this mini giving us the tongue?
I was so impressed by the design of the Mac Mini that I bought it the very week it was released. Since then I have bought 4 Mac Mini’s and put them to a wide variety of uses from a desktop machine, to a home entertainment centre, to an arcade machine all the way to my very own ‘smart fireplace’ that displays the animated fire sprite from the original Legend of Zelda in lieu of an actual fire.
Thought I was making this up weren’t you? (Powered by a Mac Mini G4)
The compact design was so incredibly perfect. It was so small and so incredibly elegant with its glass top, aluminum sides, the revolutionary discrete CD/DVD drive and overall lack of distractions that I believe demonstrates the perfect blend of form and function. No other Apple product had been as perfectly conceived as this device as both an object d’art and as a flexible multi-functional machine. The Mini was not only incredibly versatile and beautiful, but due to the reduced price point when compared to other Apple products, the Mini was also a stealth gateway to bring new users into the world of Macintosh. Since its original release it has only gotten thinner and lighter, but the original design in my opinion is essentially perfect and deserves its spot on this list.
#4: iPod Nano 6th generation
Those that know me will not be surprised that my favourite is the pink one…
The iPod Nano was always small and functional, but the 6th generation version brought us a cute little square with nothing added other than the essential touch screen and a subtle belt clip. It was a triumph of minimalist design. It was available in a myriad of colours and storage sizes and was my personal iPod of choice for the longest time. It was so perfectly designed, elegant and compact that I, as well as other die-hard Apple fans attached the Nano to a bracelet and would use it as a wrist watch.
At least our moms thought we looked cool.
One of the things I loved the most about the design was the simple intuitive and uncluttered interface that didn’t demand an excessive amount attention to navigate. For us that would use these devices while walking or running or engaging in activities that needed our focus, a music player that can be manipulated without even pulling it out of your pocket is nothing short of perfection. Kudos to Apple for this design in terms of not only hardware and software but in overall user experience as well. No other music player was so perfect for this task. The design was sadly discontinued for the Nano 7th generation to apparently make way for the Apple Watch, and while I adore my Apple Watch, there are times I feel the Nano 6th generation did it better.
#3: MacBook air
No model or celeb has ever worn thin as sexy as the Macbook Air does.
Sure the 1st version was a pile of rubbish technology wise, but the computer in the envelope trick that Steve Jobs showed us at the unveiling was really cool and captured my attention immediately. It was impressively thin, somehow impossibly thin, and feels like it was milled out of a single piece of aluminum, even if that is not the case. It is without flaw, especially in later generations, where is it is sturdy yet delicate, beautiful yet un-pretentious, multi-functional yet simplistic. Prior to the MacBook air, laptops were thick, bulky and larger than they needed to be, and while there was a slow but progressing trend towards getting thinner, there was no real revolution in their design until the MacBook Air, which single-handedly gave rise to the ultra-book category. Since then, every single laptop has been a pale imitation, or at best, an ‘homage’ to the MacBook Air. Recently Apple released an even smaller MacBook, but much like the Mac Mini, some small compromises were made to do so and in my opinion were not at all necessary. Still until this day the MacBook Air is the perfect portable device for any need and is personally my favourite laptop design that there ever was. Did I mention the envelope thing? Incredible!
Take my money, I want it! I want the envelope too…
#2: iPhone 5/5S*
* I may change my verdict between the iPhone 4/5 and 6 on any given day. They are all amazing!
I adore the contrast of aluminum and glass. Add this to my wish list for the iPhone 7
This is the hardest device category for me to clearly state which version is ‘best’. Every iPhone has something wonderful that makes it the ‘best’ in terms of design: I love the 4/4S glass back, even if some functionality was impaired by it (fragile, antenna gate, …) but I also love the 5/5S design for the comfort in the hand, the boost in size and the aluminum back, but it really wasn’t all that much of a leap from the 4 was it? I am now rocking the 6 and adore the one again boosted screen size and curved aluminum back, but for the 1st time, I am glad to have a case as I cannot stand the look of the antenna lines on the back. It may sound like no iPhone is all that brilliantly designed, based on what I am saying, however I am only mentioning these complaints in relation to other iPhones. If I compare any iPhone to any other smart phone – the iPhone wins in terms of … well everything.
The most awesome, and expensive, lineup ever!
Good design encompasses looks and functionality, and while lacking in terms of functionality compared to the 6 or 5/5S series, based solely on looks alone, I must give it to the 4/4S series (I adore the glass back). On the other hand, the 5/5S and 6 editions balance looks with function better. Again though, the antenna lines of the 6 are hideous. The 5/5S line seems to strike the best balance of form and function and is the most beautifully elegant iPhone ever made. That being said, if you ask me tomorrow, I may give you a different answer. They are all incredibly designed it is no surprise that these devices made Apple the powerhouse it is today.
#1: Sunflower (aka ‘Flower Pot’) iMac
If there was a cup with “#1 Mac” written on it, I would buy it for this guy.
The first Macintosh I was ever attracted to, finally found a home in my collection only last year. Some may argue my decision to place it as number 1, but for me, this iMac represents the pinnacle of Apple design (especially at the time). This generation of iMac had a distinguished look with a circular base that housed all the components, and attached to it via a stainless steel arm was a glorious 15″ flat screen (in later generations Apple provided 17” and 20” versions as well.) It was the first flat screen on an iMac, which while already revolutionary at the time, was additionally decorated with a beautiful translucent bezel and offered incredible clarity. Due to the arm technology, the screen could be rotated at 180 degrees and moved into any vertical position you could imagine. No matter where you wanted to place this device, the screen could be moved into the perfect position. The remarkable thing with this arm is that it still holds up the screen until this day without any fatigue. That is some brilliant design. The hideous wires were all relegated to the back of the device to maintain its nice clean minimalist look and while it was made back in 2002, I still think it looks like the future. I remember seeing this iMac in a computer store when I was younger and based on its beauty alone, I considered buying a computer other than a Windows-based PC for the first time. I fell in love that day and while I remained faithful to the PC at that time, I thought about that iMac in secret when using the PC. The PC may have been comfortable to me, but the passion was gone. My fire was now being stoked by the iMac. Only a few years later I would divorce the PC and chase after my fantasy Mac and as the saying goes, “once you go Mac, you never go back.”
My fantasy has some serious junk in the trunk.
Honorable Mention: PowerMacG4 Cube
It’s Hip to be square!
The G4 cube was just barely edged out of my list by the mini. I had to mention this device though – look at it – It is so beautiful, perhaps even the MOST beautiful device Apple ever created. The reason I couldn’t include it in the list was due to the incredibly insane price tag at launch combined with the incredibly poor performance and limitations. It has all the form and none of the function and as I mentioned in my opening, this list is defines design as a union of style and function. However based on looks alone…wow! This one would be much more than an ’honorable mention’.
Of course none of these devices are perfect in every possible way, but as far as Apple designs are concerned, I believe these are the most influential, wonderful, and subjectively, my favourites. I assume your personal list will be different, so feel free to share what you feel are the best Apple hardware designs. Maybe you appreciate great design from other companies – Asus? HTC? Nintendo? Hasbro? Let the world know by leaving a comment below and don’t forget to like and share!