Top Ten Things Techies Wanted to Know About the 5G iPod
In our previous article, Top Ten Things You Wanted to Know About the 5G iPod, we looked at issues that were of concern to the “average” iPod owner. But as we’re keenly aware, iLounge also caters to a sizeable group of techies - audiophiles and videophiles - so we wanted to share some other details that are more of interest to such readers.
10. Noise Defect: Gone. In the first of three key audio improvements we’ve noted, the 4G iPod’s infamous hard drive and static noise audio defect is now gone in 5G. Initially obvious in black-and-white 4G iPods, the noise had become hard to notice in color 4G iPods unless using high-end headphones. Now, even using $900 Ultimate Ears UE-10 Pros, the noise isn’t there.
9. Bass Performance: Improved. The second of three key audio improvements is that the 5G’s bass response has definitely improved over the color 4G. Audiophiles have previously lamented a lack of “bass power” in earlier iPods, as well as readily apparent distortion when the iPod’s “Bass Booster” equalizer is turned on. In testing with a collection of lossless tracks and the UE-10 Pros, small but noticeable enhancements of the bass are definitely apparent, giving tracks an inoffensively warmer sound. With Bass Booster turned on, distortion is not absent in the 5G, but is definitely lower, and has a smoother, less mechanical edge.
8. Piano Solos: Clean. The third of three key audio improvements is what appears to be a complete fix for a “piano solo distortion” issue in 4G iPods recently identified by iLounge readers. Previously, in certain tracks, distortion (a light sizzling) could be heard around the silent edges of piano notes. Comparative testing with one of the sample identified piano tracks (“Bladiator”) shows that the distortion has been completely eliminated.
7. Video FPS: Over 30fps is Possible. Video playback appears not to be capped at 30fps (frames per second) as suggested by the new iPod’s technical specifications - rather, the iPod’s limitations appear to be bitrate and bandwidth. We were surprised to discover that QuickTime Pro 7 had taken a 50fps original video and created an “iPod ready” 46fps video from it. The video then played back on the iPod at something equal or close to 46fps - certainly higher than 30fps. How? It was formatted for 320x180 rather than the iPod’s 320x240, 30fps maximum, and QuickTime 7 Pro took advantage of its extra capacity for a higher frame rate.
6. 2 Hour Video Playback on 30GB iPod: Conservative Estimate, At Least Output to TV. We had our 30GB model play back loops of the movies Hero and House of Flying Daggers for 3 hours and 10 minutes before its battery died. We’ll see how the iPod does through on-screen playback, but so far, it’s doing better than it could have. Why is this? Quite possibly because there’s no need for backlighting during TV output. Regardless, it’s good news.
5. The iPod’s Screen: Comparatively More Detailed than Many Screens. Thanks to our own Jerrod Hofferth, we have a preliminary DPI table comparing the 5G iPod’s screen DPI (dots per inch) to that of other iPods and noteworthy devices. Why does this matter? It explains why the iPod’s screen looks so detailed by comparison with most other devices you’re accustomed to using. The higher the DPI number, the more detail is packed into every inch of screen size.
Apple Cinema Display 20”: 99.05dpi (20” screen)
Apple Cinema Display 30”: 101.6dpi (29.7” screen)
Original Black and White iPods (1G-4G): 102.4 dpi (2” screen)
Apple iPod mini: 105.7 (1.67” screen)
Sony PlayStation Portable: 128dpi (4.3” screen)
iPod photo/color/4G: 141 dpi (2” screen)
iPod nano: 147 dpi (1.5” screen)
iPod 5G: 160 dpi (2.5” screen)
Creative Zen Vision: 216dpi (3.7” screen)
Is detail really that important? Depends on your perspective, and other factors are important, too. For example, we feel pretty certain that the iPod’s smaller, lower-resolution screen will be liked by more people than the Zen’s bigger, higher-detail screen because of viewing angle alone.
4. 320 Is Better Than 480 - on iPod’s Screen. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, videos in 320-pixel MPEG-4 format are noticeably superior to ones created in 480-pixel MPEG-4 format when viewed on the iPod’s screen. Because the screen doesn’t have the pixels to display all the detail of the 480 version, the iPod scales it down, creating a slightly softer image in the process, and one that is not as smooth in frame rate, either. The 320-pixel versions look crisper because they have been optimized on a per-pixel basis for the iPod, and smoother because the iPod’s processor doesn’t have to waste power and time resizing every frame.
3. Brightness. The iPod’s lack of an adjustable screen brightness level has two consequences: it looks highly viewable at all times (except when the backlight is off) by comparison with other handheld devices, and it also drains more battery power whenever the light is on. Sony’s PSP, by comparison, can use 4 different brightness settings - the maximum only if the unit’s been plugged into wall power - and Creative’s Zen Vision can go through 10. In the video era, an adjustable brightness setting may be an appropriate addition to the iPod’s settings menu.
2. Hard Drive and Power Management. Even more than in the past, the iPod’s hard drive appears to be very aggressively trying to manage power consumption by turning on and off only as absolutely necessary. You’ll hear physical clicks when this happens, as with earlier iPods, but not in the headphones. It’s unknown what impact, if any, this will have on the drive’s longevity, or whether Apple worked with its hard drive supplier to anticipate this, as constant running of older iPods’ hard drives was said to be an easy way to burn them out. On a side note, video playback from the hard disk is not instantaneous: it takes around 5 seconds from the initial click of your button to start a clip playing.
1. Easter Eggs. Hidden at the bottom of the iPod’s Legal screen is a tiny icon of a snowman. Apple reps tell us that it’s an insider reference to one of the iPod development teams, which wanted to leave its mark someplace on the iPod. That’s where it is.
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