Review: Apple iPod nano (Fifth-Generation)
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 prior years, Apple has played with various prices, storage capacities, and levels of storage component quality in its budget iPod series; the fifth-generation iPod nano simultaneously continues and changes the pattern a little bit. Last year’s fourth-generation iPod nano sold for $149 in an 8-Gigabyte capacity or $199 in a 16-Gigabyte capacity, and as previously mentioned, this year’s models have the same storage and more on-board features. The 16-Gigabyte version drops to $179, making its purchase all but a no-brainer for those who anticipate wanting to store homemade video or audio recordings on the device. Combined with their Swiss Army Knife-like expanding feature sets, these prices continue to be the biggest selling points of the iPod nanos; we consider them to be extremely attractive relative to what you’re getting.
Though the capacities may have stayed the same, the fifth-generation nanos continue a positive trend we saw in the fourth-generation nano: they synchronize faster with iTunes. Using iTunes 9 for both models, we benchmarked the fifth-generation iPod nano against the fourth-generation nano in a 1GB file transfer test, which saw the newer model take 1 minute and 15 seconds versus the prior model’s 1 minute and 32 seconds for the same files. While this isn’t a profound difference, it’s worth noting that the nano continues to lead Apple’s flash device pack in terms of transfer speeds: the third-generation iPod touch required 1 minute and 35 seconds, and the third-generation iPod shuffle a comparatively terrible 5 minutes and 48 seconds. Only the 160GB iPod classic, which again required only 57 seconds to transfer the same 1GB list, will save you more time when you’re trying to run out of the house with a bunch of new music or videos.