Few people were expecting an iPod like this to arrive so soon after the iPod Shuffle.Few people were expecting an iPod like this to arrive so soon after the iPod Shuffle. Indeed, iPod Shuffle buyers may be forgiven for feeling aggrieved that their recent investment has been suddenly been made to look rather old. Pity too the iPod Mini owners: the second generation Mini graced our shores only recently yet here’s a 4GB flash rival that fuses together the iPod Shuffle, Mini and Photo into one "impossibly" (TM Apple corporation) small package.
And you can’t help but be impressed, it really is stunning with its 7mm-thick chrome and resin body. Those who have problems with the regular Apple scroll dial can give up now, but we found it little different than normal. The screen is stunning and, though small, makes photographs viewed on it look gorgeous. There’s something almost surreal about watching a slideshow – the transitions are fast and smooth and seem to hover in the air such is the lack of material weight to the bezel. The menu is the usual iPod fare with a nice new combination lock application for locking the display like a safe.
A regular 3.5mm jack is squeezed into the base along with a standard Apple USB 2 converter – for charging and transfers.
The launch coincides with the fifth incarnation of iTunes. This is more-polished and adds some useful features like storing folders in your playlists and a Smart Shuffle feature which increases or decreases the likelihood of songs appearing by the same artist. Windows users will like how contacts and calendar now automatically synch with Outlook. But there’s still no WMA support. Sound is excellent and the usual Apple ear buds are more than adequate for most people. Despite being a flash player we clocked a transfer rate of 2.1MB/s – slower than Apple’s hard disk players but the fastest flash we’ve seen.
However, the kicker is battery life. iRiver’s iFP-900 (August 2005) lasted 35 hours, last month’s Sony’s NW-E107 lasted 55 hours. The Nano lasted its quoted 14 hours. Apple was making real headway in battery life with its last iPods but this is a step backwards. That said, if you’re prepared to charge it every day it’s a fantastic player. With Rio’s Carbon becoming temporarily unavailable due to an imminent redesign it’s the obvious A-List choice.