Review: Apple Computer iPod nano (Second-Generation) 2/4/8GB
Pros: Apple’s best flash-based music player yet, offering 2GB to 8GB storage capacities in six colored, super-slim aluminum enclosures, each at affordable prices. Far more scratch-resilient than prior model without compromising style. Lives up to Apple’s promised 24-hour battery life for audio playback, can record audio for over 8 hours with use of optional microphone accessories. Includes superior screen and modestly cleaner audio than prior iPod nanos, as well as new, better earbuds, and small but nice interface additions such as a search option. Continues to work with majority of prior Dock Connector iPod accessories.
Cons: Falls shorter of current-generation iPod on big features (video, games) than did prior nano at time of release. Color choices are limited by storage capacities and prices. Transfer times for data have doubled from prior nano. Users must download iTunes themselves prior to using iPod. Some old nano-specific accessories are physically incompatible.
When Apple Computer introduced the iPod nano (iLounge rating: A-/B+) one year ago, it displaced its most resilient, popular, colorful iPod - the iPod mini - with a technologically stunning but easily damaged and more expensive alternative. This week, Apple radically updated the iPod nano, fusing the DNA of its two best mid-range iPod designs into a single excellent package: the second-generation iPod nano ($149-249). Sold in three capacities - 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB - and five initial colors, the new nano eliminates several of the biggest complaints about its predecessor, and will leave iPod buyers with only one major question: which do I want more, a $249 8GB iPod nano or a $249 30GB iPod with video?
As suggested by the photographs above and below, our comprehensive review looks at each of the second-generation iPod nano's colors, capacities, and key performance characteristics in the pop-down sections below. Click on the "Click here for details" markers to see all of our test results, photographs, and opinions, or jump to the conclusions section at the bottom for our final thoughts. Updated: On October 13, 2006, we added a new section discussing the 4GB iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition, which is now found at the bottom of this review, and on November 3, 2006, we updated this section to reflect the subsequent release of the 8GB (PRODUCT) RED nano.
What's the Second-Generation iPod nano's History? (Click here for details.)
Colors, Packaging, and Pack-Ins (Click here for details.)
Second-Generation iPod nano: What's Outside (Click here for details.)
What's Inside: Transfer Speeds, Battery Life, and Other Tech Details (Click here for details.)
Interface and Menus: A Brief Overview (Click here for details.)
Interface and Menus: New Features (Click here for details.)
Audio Quality (Click here for details.)
New and Old Accessories (Click here for details.)
iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition (Click here for details.)
In essentially every way important to mainstream consumers, the second-generation iPod nano is an improvement upon the version that came before - it's more resilient, less expensive at given storage capacities, and available in more colors than last year's model. Cost- and fashion-conscious buyers will have more reason than ever to prefer the new sub-$200 nanos, and won't need to sweat as much about buying cases or protective film prior to unpacking them. Better screens, cleaner audio, added battery life and new recording abilities are all sweet additions to a package that could have sold well on looks and price alone. Our belief is that these new models will be Apple's best sellers ever, assuming they exist long enough to reach those numbers.
Moreover, Apple deserves special praise for finally offering an affordable 8GB unit as small as a bleeding-edge cell phone - the black or red $249 iPod nano holds enough music to satisfy virtually any typical buyer, and looks every bit as sharp as the 4GB model it replaces. We are absolutely certain that we will be using this new top-of-line nano far more, and with greater anti-scratch confidence, than we did its impressive predecessor.
These points aside, there's no question that the iPod nano - like the iPod mini at the one-year point in its short life - won't be Apple's most cutting-edge iPod for much longer. Though Apple can and hopefully will extend its appeal with additional colors and firmware tweaks, its inability to play either videos or downloadable games leaves it two strong and unbridgeable steps beneath the fifth-generation iPod. Similarly, though we're thrilled that it can now record audio with help from microphone accessories, and continue to receive FM radio with a separate accessory, there's no doubt that the next year will see even better multifunction competitors emerge as challengers.
For today, the iPod nano is a truly excellent, highly recommendable product to any type of potential iPod owner - certainly Apple's best flash player yet - and there will likely continue to be a place for nanos in Apple's lineup for the foreseeable future. But by 2007, we'd expect it to become the iPod shuffle of users' expectations - the bare minimum we'll want to use, nothing more.