Review: Apple iPod photo Power Users’ Review
Pros: Apple’s best iPod yet, featuring a new color screen and user interface, photo display through itself and TV sets, and 17-hour battery life. Sixty-Gigabyte version sets new iPod capacity mark.
Cons: New features aren’t as fully realized or evolved as Power Users might expect; photo display functionality requires extended sync process, no instantaneous display of photos downloaded with peripheral accessories, expensive by comparison with other iPods that feature identical music playback capability.
Following recent tradition, iLounge now debuts the second of its iPod photo reviews: the first (which appears here and in the iLounge Buyers’ Guide 2004) was for new iPod users, and this one is for Power Users - those who are more familiar with Apple’s iPod hardware and want additional details beyond the scope of our first review. Thankfully, the iPod photo provides fertile ground for a Power Users’ review, as its target market consists of people with more money and greater demands than the average iPod user. And there’s plenty to say about all of its new features.
Wait: What’s the iPod photo?
If you’re asking that question, you should probably start by reading our New Users’ Review and checking out our first photo gallery. But in brief summary, the iPod photo is a color-screened version of the currently shipping fourth-generation (4G) iPod, with identical Click Wheel and hold switch controls, an acrylic-on-metal body, and entirely familiar ports for Dock Connector and top-mounting accessories. Two capacities (40GB, $499.00; 60GB, $599.00) are available, both identical in physical size and functionality, each possessing a higher-resolution screen than prior iPods and the ability to display digital photographs either on the iPod or on a television set using included video cables. Using Apple’s math, the 40GB version can hold 10,000 songs or nearly 17,000 digital photos, while the 60GB version can hold 15,000 songs or 25,000 photos. Apple now uses iTunes to synchronize the iPod photo with both music and photographs.
New Information Since Release
In recent months, each new iPod release has been fraught with post-launch marketing tweaks and changes: Apple removed Remote controls and Carrying Cases from the 4G iPod’s pack-in lists only hours after the product was announced, and similarly removed a promised Dock at the last minute from the list of the U2 iPod’s pack-ins. This new iPod is no different: weeks after release, Apple actually changed the name of the product, dropping the capitalization of the word “Photo” such that the name is now displayed as “iPod photo”. While consistent with the iPod mini’s lower case suffix, the new iPod photo name strikes us as a bit e.e. cummings and not quite as appropriate to the powerful new “photo” platform. Nevertheless, we now expect the lower case name style to continue across future iPod hardware releases, and it’s already beginning to appear on new iPod photo accessory packaging.
Thankfully, the iPod photo’s packaging represents a return to previous form for Apple: primarily white with clean photography and fontography, the 40GB and 60GB packages of the iPod photo discard the silhouette 4G box art we disliked in favor of the familiar, classy 3G and iPod mini packaging. Box sides subtly depict the new hardware’s same-as-4G body shape and controls along with its new color screen, as well as a close-up shot of the color screen displaying 25 thumbnail-sized pictures at once.
As with previous full-sized iPod boxes, the iPod photo’s box uses cubic origami art packaging, opening into two pieces and then dividing its central black cube into two halves with compartments full of goodies. While the software and manuals included in the box haven’t changed much, Apple now wisely includes two white Apple logo stickers with the iPod photo - suitable for placement on a car’s window or bumper - just as they’ve done with computers in recent years. Overall, we couldn’t be much happier with the iPod photo’s packaging; it’s clean, product-focused, and speaks to what we love about the brand.
That feeling extends to the iPod photo’s other pack-ins. We were startled and disappointed when the 4G iPod launched so bereft of goodies in its box, but Apple has mostly returned to form - so long as you’re willing to shell out the iPod photo’s $499 starting price. In addition to the 3G iPod’s familiar fabric and belt-clipped carrying case, the iPod photo includes a soft carry bag, USB and FireWire data cables, white earbuds, and a glossy white power supply. No iPod Remote control is in the box; Apple appears to have dropped it across the board from the iPod pack-in list. We’re hoping that’s because something better is on the way.
But to compensate, two new pack-ins come in every iPod photo box. First is the iPod photo Dock, which has all the features of Apple’s audio Dock (line-out audio port, Dock Connector port) but also contains a S-Video output port on its right rear side. Assuming that your TV includes an S-Video port, which most models sold over the past five years will, your TV will be able to display cleaner video than is possible with a standard yellow-tipped RCA “composite” video port, which has appeared on most TVs sold over the past ten or more years. (Both ports have been available on TVs dating back to the early 1990’s, but were not universally included; the older RCA ports have appeared on VCRs for two decades.) No S-Video cable is included in the package, however; you’ll have to use your own.
Instead of tossing in a S-Video cable, Apple opted to include a long white AV cable that plugs into the iPod photo’s headphone jack (!) and outputs both audio and RCA composite video to any television. The cable looks cool, and works well: because it uses the headphone jack, you can display photos and simultaneously play music through any television on the go without carrying around the iPod photo Dock. Users therefore have two options for audio/video output: lower-resolution but fully acceptable video and headphone-quality stereo audio with the cable, or cleaner video and audio through the photo Dock, Dock Connector port, and extra cables.