While the original iPod was a superb product that stood high above its competitors, Apple has gone an extra step with their newer models to improve upon small flaws and quirks with a facelift for this generation iPod. This section will outline these improvements; however, most will only be noticeable to owners of previous generation iPods.
The first things that you will notice are its new button layout and the thinner sizes. While the layout on the old model was both sleek and functional, the new layout improves on this by being a little easier to learn.
If you are worried that the buttons won't be as accessible as they were on the old iPod, you can be assured that your thumb will still be able to easily travel from the wheel to all of the buttons. Apple also freed the buttons of mechanical movement in the same fashion they did with the wheel in the older iPod, by making them touch sensitive. It seems that this may have been a reason for moving the buttons away from the wheel, where they may have been accidentally activated. While the new touch-sensitive buttons keep the iPod safe from dust and mechanical failure, they are a bit more troublesome to use. Occasionally-particularly if you have the audible "clicker" option off-you will press a button but not be sure it actually worked. This is especially noticeable when accessing a function that takes the iPod a while to load, such as accessing the notes or opening a folder that contains a large number of songs, because it's not immediately apparent that the iPod has missed your button press. Also, makes it impossible to navigate the buttons by touch: you need to look at it while you use it to make sure you don't press the wrong button.
The new iPod doesn't really have a "hard" shutdown feature anymore like the older model did when the play/pause button was held down for a few seconds. On the old model, this caused the program to lose the current song, which was frustrating. Now, when play/pause is held the iPod simply goes to sleep, and when it restarts, it does so instantly, remembering the current song.
The main menu can now be customized from the settings menu. This means that the root menu can now contain shortcuts to anywhere in the user interface you wish to go (i.e., Playlists, Extras, any sub-menus of those, Backlight, etc.) This is useful if you do not have any playlists on your iPod, in which case you can just remove that item from the home menu. Also, if you access your calendar or contacts frequently, you can just add it to the main menu.
Another nice feature added to the new iPod is the On-The-Go playlist, which is basically a playlist that can be customized on the iPod itself. This may not seem like anything very special, but the original iPod notably lacked this feature, and it's a nice addition. Now you can just scroll over songs or folders and hold down the select button, which will add that selection to the On-The-Go playlist.
Any veteran iPod user has had their iPod crash or freeze on them, because Apple's newer firmware versions are not entirely stable. When the old iPod was reset it would lose it's time and date settings, on the new version the time settings stay intact, which is nice because the player occasionally locks up. Some settings return to their defaults after a short rest, but they are easy to fix.
For Windows, Apple streamlined their software into one package. Instead of a separate iPod updater to upgrade the firmware, the updater is now located in the iPod Manager, which is accessible from the system tray. The new manager has customization options for which program (if any) to open when the iPod is detected, and some other small features. This makes the new package feel more professional than the old one.
In terms of accessories, everything is pretty similar (except the dock, mentioned in the components section). The only difference with the remote is the jack that plugs into the iPod. Instead of the concentric ring around the audio jack, the new plug is to the side of the mini-jack. This may seem like a minute detail, but a common problem on the old iPod was the remote plug not seating completely into the iPod, resulting in a loss of remote functionality with the audio still intact. The belt clip is the same as the old one, just a little smaller to accommodate the slimmer model. The headphones and AC adapter have not been changed, and are completely compatible with older iPods.
The new iPod is both Mac and Windows compatible right out of the box, which is a refreshing change from the first iPod which either required a firmware update or the purchase of a Mac or Windows specific unit.
Unfortunately, loading songs onto the iPod is not as simple as copying songs directly onto it as if it were another hard drive. The job of copying songs and making playlists rests in the hands of the venerable iTunes on the Mac or the unwieldy MusicMatch Jukebox on the PC.
While the iPod is expensive, well made and probably the best MP3 player to date, it is still a computer and therefore is susceptible to crashing. When I first tried to get my computer to see my iPod it crashed. This is not so bad as one might think, as it simply requires you to toggle the hold switch, then hold the menu and the play/pause buttons simultaneously until it restarts. None of your songs should be lost.
This review was conducted on a Windows computer so our accounts will be primarily based on our interaction with MusicMatch. While MusicMatch can be a bit intrusive at times, once you get it under control it is extremely helpful for organizing and cleaning up your song collection. I began by throwing all my MP3s directly into the MusicMatch playlist, and to my dismay a good 25% of them had bad ID3 tags. ID3 tags are labels in the song files that contain information about the artist, song title, album, track number and so on. The iPod uses these tags to display the information about a song while playing, so I personally like to have all my tags correct and uniform. Fortunately MusicMatch has the means to change the tags of numerous songs at once, either through manually editing them, or by attempting to gather track info directly from the file name. Once I cleaned up my song collection I was ready to "Sync" with the iPod.
The iPod has always come with a Firewire connection, which is capable of up to 400Mb/s transfer speeds. This alone could make the iPod worth getting over other MP3 players. Originally, most multi-gigabyte MP3 players came equipped with standard USB 1.1, capable of a measly 12Mb/s. This resulted in transfer times on the order of TENs of hours when copying many gigabytes. With Firewire however, copy times tend to be around 1 hour for a 10GB transfer. I personally copied my entire MP3 collection of 6GB in about 35 minutes, a vast improvement over letting it sit overnight to copy. In the future, a USB 2.0 cable will be available, allowing Windows users to connect to their iPod by means other than Firewire. Performance of the USB 2.0 connection should be about the same as the Firewire because with these connections the bottleneck is the hard drive's transfer speed and not the interface.
Even the early models could be used as external hard drives, appearing in your list of drives when mounted. While you can't copy songs this way (because the iPod uses a special file system to catalog all the songs on it), you can use it for carrying huge files and whatever else you use hard drives for. I have even heard that employees at Apple are known to use their iPods as backup boot disks.
The iPod is very straightforward to use: when it is powered on you are greeted with the last menu you saw when it turned off. Typically the main menu will appear, giving you the options:
In addition to playing music, the iPod has many of the same features of a simple PDA. Such extras include a Calendar, a List of Contacts, text Notes and of course Games. The Calendar and Contacts will sync with Microsoft Outlook, and text files can just be dragged onto the iPod for the Notes. On a side note, the notes can contain links to other notes or songs, and can do other interesting things: here's a link to an Apple reference PDF on the subject. The main drawback of these extras is that you can't change anything once it is already on the iPod. This means no adding to the calendar, no inserting a new contact, no jotting down notes and no keeping track of past scores in the games. This is acceptable though because the iPod really shines as an MP3 player. It isn't going to replace your PDA. Another side note: some iPod enthusiasts have found that you can record six seconds of audio with the left headphone in the debug menu. While this isn't very exciting yet, it will most likely be fully supported in future firmware updates. Here's a link with more information.
The Games are a nice afterthought, but they are just that, an afterthought: Brick is carried over from the original iPod and still has its charm, but I personally found it a bit hard to play with the touch pad. The two new games are Parachute and Solitaire. In parachute you enter a grim futuristic world of "Helicopter Paratrooper vs. Turret" combat in which you shoot a path to a brighter future for turret-kind to achieve a world without tyrannical Helicopter Paratroopers a world with peace Actually it's sort of a fun classic Missile Command-like game where accuracy and consistency get you higher points. And solitaire Until now I thought no one could infuse so much energy and raw fun-ness into a game, let alone a card game. After playing iPod Solitaire I still feel the same way. It is solitaire, and very slow solitaire at that. The controls are a bit cumbersome and the iPod screen is a little cramped when there are a lot of cards out, but all in all the Solitaire game is my personal favorite of the three.
The iPod comes with all the same components as the original iPod, with the exception of the slick new cradle. The cradle interfaces with the iPod through a new proprietary jack-no regular Firewire jack like the old iPod.
Because of this, the Firewire cable and the future USB 2.0 cable must have the necessary proprietary connection-you can't just use any old Firewire or USB cable. The cradle is handy for connecting the iPod to the computer for synching and charging, but while the iPod is mounted as a drive by the computer it is not possible to play songs, so you must unmount it before using the cradle audio out.. (As a side note you must have 6-pin Firewire ports in order for your iPod to charge from your computer, 4-pin Firewire will work for transferring, but not charging. Also, we are uncertain if USB will be able to charge the iPod, because there are other players that charge via USB, but on Apple's site it looks as though it will not be possible.) You may also notice that in addition to synching and charging the cradle also has a mini-jack audio out port to allow you to connect the cradle to any sound system.
Matt's Machinations: This is my first iPod and I was extremely excited to get it. I almost purchased one of the first ones several times but I held back. When the new ones came out and there was a student discount I jumped at the opportunity. I do not regret it one bit! I use my iPod around 5 to 6 hours a day walking between classes, while studying and even in class sometimes! I personally have no gripes with the buttons: sure they are a little easy to hit accidentally if you don't have hold on, but over all they are very elegant. I really like the cradle and the other components, except maybe the belt clip case-it's pretty much useless unless you are into belt accessories. The overall packaging and presentation is second to none, as is customary with Apple products. For those in the market for an MP3 hard drive player there is really no better option than the iPod, especially now that larger drives, smaller sizes, a super cool cradle and slightly lower prices have come together in Apple's latest offering (cheaper still if you are a student or teacher) I imagine there will be some good deals on the old iPods surfacing as more people buy the new one. This could be a good opportunity to get your hands on a great original iPod for a reasonable price. I give the iPod a 10 out of 10.
Brian's Babblings: I've owned many portable MP3 players over the years, starting
with a 1st-generation solid-state one four years ago, then the original SonicBlue
RioVolt MP3-CD player (SP-100), a SonicBlue
Rio Riot (20GB player), and a 20GB iPod. When these new iPods came out,
I promptly eBayed my iPod and bought a new 15GB. I mainly bought it for the
dock because cradles are cool, but I'm more than happy with the other improvements
in the player. I have some trouble using the new touch buttons, and I think
they are more of a gimmick than a practical feature. However, they are sleek,
and the new design looks great. I also believe the belt clip could be improved
upon, as it offers no view of the iPod's screen and no access to its buttons.
Perhaps a new remote with an LCD on it that displayed song information (akin
to SonicBlue's optional remote
for their SP-250 CD-MP3 player) would make the belt clip and remote a bit more
useful? One can only wish
Anyways, both the older generation iPods and
the new ones are great products, with the only sticking point being the price.
However, you get an excellent, sturdy, and highly polished product for the money.
If the new models seem to expensive, try finding an older generation iPod from
retailers closing them out, or even on eBay. I believe that the stability problems
will be fixed with future firmware updates, and that any other problems mentioned
were very minor - we only elaborated on them because there were so few. I give
the iPod a 10 out of 10.
P.S. you can engrave your iPod too!
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