Every iPod launch comes with a world of brouhaha surrounding it: everyone wants one but, after testing it, we find there’s something better elsewhere. But things are different this time. The launch was relatively low key but the changes are big.
We received the new 7th gen iPod, now called the ‘classic’, and the new (3rd gen) ‘nano’. Both function identically but the flash memory-based nano now resembles a squat version of the hard disk-based classic. Both now sport anodised aluminium fascias but keep the shiny, stainless-steel rear. Both are available in silver or black and the nano comes in either 4GB or 8GB (the latter also comes in blue, green and red) variants while the classic comes in either an 80GB or a massive 160GB version.
We weren’t too enamoured with the looks of the new nano – the thinner second gen was easier to hold and use. You’ll also struggle to use the scroll wheel if it’s docked as it’s so close to the base. However, the change is necessary to fit on the larger, 2in, video-supporting screen. Both the nano’s and classic’s (2.5in) screen are clear and vibrant and get bright enough to watch video outside on sunny days. Viewing angles are excellent too. Previously we’ve dismissed video as a gimmick: it’s great in the US where you can download TV shows but until recently Australians were limited to music videos. Not anymore. Improvements to iTunes over the past year mean there’s now a wealth of quality video content – often free too. Synchronising programmes like The Chaser
and Good Game
with your iPods is a cinch and watching them on a long commute is genuinely enjoyable.
Add the fact that iTunes now sells some (high-priced) DRM-free music and it not only makes managing your local music library simple, but makes downloading both free and premium video and audio content easier than any other application. As MP3 player aficionados know, that’s half the fight: Sony’s otherwise-excellent players have been hamstrung thanks to appalling software management applications.
But it’s battery life where the biggest enhancements have occurred: in our tests the nano played shuffled audio for 31.5hrs and video for 6.5hrs while the classic lasted a staggering 45hrs for audio and 9hrs 45mins for video – enough video for an entire long-haul flight. Apple even reckons the 160GB classic will last longer than our 80GB test unit. Just remember that frequent track skipping will reduce these times.
The interface is now split screen which makes navigating even easier. Impressively, iTunes’ jukebox-style, cover-flow navigation is now available on both units too. There are also great new music quiz games and the usual clocks, contacts, calendar, alarm, screen lock and stop watch features. All that’s missing is WMA compatibility but, frankly, with the iPod package now so far ahead of competition, if you have lots of WMA (or other format) songs, it’s worth re-encoding them.