Review: Apple iPod classic (80GB/160GB)
Pros: A superior update to Apple’s 2005 and 2006 hard-disk based iPods, featuring cleaner audio, crisper video, better storage capacity and greater than promised battery performance at last year’s prices. Available in silver or black versions, each featuring an enhanced user interface that’s visually more interesting than its predecessor, and with better built-in games. Offers industry-leading 80GB and 160GB hard disk technologies in enclosures that are slimmer than ever before.
Cons: No longer Apple’s “best iPod ever;” outdated 2.5” screen and interface are now steps behind Apple’s best devices in ease-of-use and quality of overall media playback experience, while new interface struggles to match iPhone/iPod touch features without approaching their elegance. For photo and video output, no longer compatible with majority of video-out accessories, including portable video displays, released for the color 4G and 5G iPods, requiring new and more expensive replacement accessories; past accessories with on-iPod display features will exhibit reduced functionality, as well. Past iPod games won’t play on iPod classic.
Somewhat surprisingly, the iPod classic Photos feature takes one step forward and two steps back from the fifth-generation iPod’s. Apple’s improvement to this feature comes straight from the iPhone: iPod classic now displays thumbnails against an attactive dark gray background rather than the prior iPod’s more boring white, and they show up on an easy-to-view 5 by 3 grid, plus a number tally and date bar, that’s consistent visually with the latest iPhoto interface. You get fewer photo thumbnails than on the 5G iPod’s screen, but they’re easier to preview from afar.
The photos themselves look no better on the iPod’s screen, though, and you still can’t zoom into them as you can on the iPhone or other devices. We don’t mind that. But we did mind the fact that Apple dropped a number of the 5G iPod’s 3-D transition effects, including Cube across and down, swirl, radial, and dissolve, along with others. Now you just get five effects (cross fade, fade to black, zoom out, wipe across, and wipe center), and the option to use them at random, or none at all.
They’re also not the same five effects as are found on an iPhone, suggesting either that something’s changed in the new iPod’s graphics hardware, or Apple’s crippling the classic to keep its features in line with the new iPod nano.
Another step backwards is the TV Out feature. iPod 5Gs, as well as their iPod photo and 4G iPod predecessors, could display photographs on a TV set with any $15-20 video cable. As is the case with iPod classic’s movie output feature, photos can no longer be displayed on a TV unless you buy a more expensive Apple-authorized cable or docking solution; this is discussed further under the Accessories section.