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I love browsing in the Refurbished section of Apple’s online store trolling for bargains. When the second generation 1GB iPod Shuffle dropped below $40 U.S., I couldn’t resist and ordered one in metallic green.

Just last year I had ordered a refurbished first-generation iPod shuffle, so I have the means to compare to the two first-hand. To start with, the first generation, looks crude compared to its high-tech second-generation cousin. Its plastic case, in particular looks chintzy and cheap, but the first generation had a couple of things going for it including a built-in USB connector (one less cord to lose) and a string to wear it around your neck. The first generation model I purchased was 512 MB.

The second generation started at a 1GB. The price of the refurbished 1GB model, dropped dramatically, not coincidentally, when the 2GB models became available. To be honest when the second generation Shuffles arrived on the scene I wasn’t impressed. I thought the size was too small and the separate docking station was a step backwards.

So I was surprised when I opened the package and saw that lovely little green, amazingly-small device staring up at me, and found myself impressed. Apple engineers as usual got it right. It feels great in your hand (something I’ve noted about iPods) and although the controls are small, they are simple and easy to operate. The built-in clip is designed to connect to your shirt or belt loop and it feels strong enough to take years of use.

And with a gig of storage, this diminutive device can hold approximately 240 songs. The Shuffle as the name implies, plays these songs at random. Your only control over the process is to hit the Next-song button. But I like Shuffle mode because the next song is always a surprise like your own private DJ playing songs just for you.

Of course, there is no screen, so you can’t see the artist/track name, but that’s the price you pay for the Shuffle. I’ve been using it a lot lately and I’ve grown quite fond of the little device. I’m still concerned that I’ll lose it or leave it in my pocket when I throw my pants or shirt in the wash with it still attached, or that it will simply get lost in the pile of bric-a-brac on my desk or night stand.

While there’s no guarantee against own carelessness, the unit does come with a one year limited warrant including 90 days of Apple Care, which is outstanding for a refurbished product. And if anything’s going to go wrong, you will probably know it before 90 days is up. You also have the option of buying extended Apple Care Protection, but for a device in this price range, it’s really not worth the extra money.

For a gadget guy like myself the miniaturization is in itself fun and perhaps that's why this petite player impresses me so much. What’s funny is that the head phones take up more space than the device itself. For $39 and free shipping, it’s hard to find a better Apple bargain out there and you may be surprised how attached you get to the little guy.

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