Review: Apple iPod nano (Fifth-Generation) | iLounge


Review: Apple iPod nano (Fifth-Generation)


Company: Apple Computer


Model: iPod nano (fifth-generation)

Price: $149 (8GB), $179 (16GB)

Compatible: PC/Mac

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Jeremy Horwitz

Pros: An iterative update to the 2008 iPod nano, most notably adding a low-end video camera, very good FM radio tuner and microphone, and a fine pedometer as integrated hardware. New 2.2” wide, brighter TFT screen makes videos more viewable than on prior model, while preserving the rest of the prior nano’s interface and ability to play music and games. Continues to include font size options and optional voice prompting to aid those who would otherwise have trouble reading the small screen, as well as a less intrusive VoiceOver feature for those who just want occasional song title prompting. Maintains high audio quality from prior iPod nano, improves battery life for audio and video. Changes prior anodized aluminum texture to a new polished gloss, with updated colors that may appeal more to some users.

Cons: Video recording quality is mediocre, even by reference to simple camera found in iPhone 3GS, and consumes considerable battery life; lacks still photo capability. Game support for nano models has flatlined during growth of App Store, and appears unlikely to recover. New colors and glossy texture won’t thrill all users. Continues to have somewhat dull knife-like feel in the hand, albeit softened a little from prior version, and smaller Click Wheel is less than ideally sized. Lower-end version has little storage capacity for video recordings. Otherwise impressive radio tuner has slightly confusing “Live Pause” recording interface and mostly useless tagging feature. Build quality and longevity are concerns in light of a couple of tested units.

In 2005, Apple shocked the world with the original iPod nano—then the thinnest music player in the world—and it has spent the four subsequent years improving the device in a variety of big, medium, and small ways. Heading into the 2009 holiday season, the company has introduced the fifth-generation iPod nano (8GB/$149, 16GB/$179), which is without question the most capable version yet, adding a wider screen, video camera, microphone, speaker, FM radio, and pedometer to last year’s fourth-generation model. Yet apart from some significant changes to the color and texture of its casing, the fifth-generation nano manages to squeeze all of these new features into a body that looks and sounds a lot like its predecessor.


Some people will consider the aforementioned laundry list of new features to be enough to make a purchase without further elaboration: the fifth-generation iPod nano can be blithely summed up as a better fourth-generation model, and left at that. But that’s not entirely accurate. Changes to its screen, body, and battery performance—particularly when using its new features—should be understood up front, lest you find yourself surprised by what you don’t know about the new model.



iLounge’s comprehensive review of the fifth-generation iPod nano looks both at the device as a whole, and at what has changed from its predecessor—more critically, how—enabling you to make a more informed purchase, or pass on one if you don’t find the new model’s performance characteristics to be to your liking. There are quite a few surprises in the sections below, so we encourage you to read through as many as you want; our Conclusions section at the bottom explains our rating and overall opinions on what we’ve seen.



Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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