Apple’s new iPod Nano has been released in greater capacities and colours. We’ve received the 8GB version, and we are as impressed as ever.
The hardware of the iPod Nano has undergone a few major changes. Aside from the increases in capacity and decreases in price, the design is a throwback to the superceded iPod Mini -- the edges of the iPod Nano are curved. It’s now a single piece of metal too, which means that the scratching problems of the old model should be a thing of the past.
Unlike the iPod Mini, the centre selection button is recessed, which gives you some tactile reference to where the inside of the scroll wheel ends. The new earphones do sound marginally better and feel far more comfortable, but the new iPod Nano is really just a shinier, cheaper and greater capacity iteration of the previous model.
Naturally, the protected, lossless and compressed variants of Apple’s AAC format are supported, as are MP3, WAV and AIFF files. Audio quality is better thanks to the updated headphones, but when you remove this variable there’s no discernable difference between the audio quality of the first and second generation iPod Nano. Sound quality varies depending on the format you are using, but overall it’s perfectly passable with standard earphones, and rich and full with a better pair of third party headphones.
The basic iPod user interface hasn’t been touched, because doing so would alienate a large percentage of Apple’s users. There have been a few minor tweaks throughout the firmware and a few major additions. Most noteworthy are the alphabetical scrolling system and the search feature, which are more useful on the higher capacity iPods, but are still useful additions to the 8GB iPod Nano.
The new alphabetical scrolling system is half way between gimmicky and useful depending on the size of your music collection. At first glance, it’s simply a letter displayed on top of a scrolling list, but when you examine it closely, you find it’s a different scrolling mode that kicks into gear after you’ve been moving through a list at pace. When it’s engaged, standard scrolling stops and the list starts jumping to points that begin with the displayed letters.
The search feature is a welcome improvement. You use it by scrolling through a list of characters on the bottom of the screen with the wheel, which will search through the ID3 tags of your collection for any results. Once you’ve found a track though, you can’t browse the directory that contains your search result -- you can only backtrack to the search menu, and then up to the main menu.
Everything else is still trademark Apple quality: whatever you’re listening to will be paused if the headphones are removed, you can set a volume limiter and it will find its place into the design handbooks, alongside previous iPod versions.