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Cons: No longer Apple’s “best iPod ever;” outdated 2.5” screen and interface are now steps behind Apple’s best devices in ease-of-use and quality of overall media playback experience, while new interface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.
There’s no doubt that your view of the iPod classic will depend entirely on the yardstick you measure it by: judged against the fifth-generation iPod it replaces, it’s certainly a better product for the dollar, and offers substantial improvements in both audio and video output—with the exception of its problematic accessory support. If you were one of the few people who saw last year’s 5G iPods and held off on a purchase not because of the screen or the Click Wheel but because of battery or hard disk concerns, the iPod classic is the right iPod for you. As before, it’s yet another nice iterative step ahead of the original 2001 iPod.
Unfortunately, Apple’s iPhone casts a very long shadow: the company has long proclaimed iPhone its “best iPod ever,” and all it takes is one look at the iPod classic’s face—or the fact that Apple gave it the “classic” name—to know that it doesn’t represent the best interface or display technology Apple has to offer. iPod classic’s new split-screen menus are nicer than last year’s iPod models, but from Cover Flow to the Now Playing screen to video playback, you can’t help but feel that classic is struggling to be something better.
In our view, iPod classic is most clearly an example of pragmatism slapping optimism in the face—this is not the device Apple fans have been dreaming about, but rather the device that Apple could sell for $249 or $349 while maintaining its classic profit margins. These facts don’t make it a bad iPod for new users; to the contrary, it is a good choice for those who don’t mind compromising on display and user interface technology to get an affordable digital media player with incredible storage capacity. However, we wouldn’t recommend it to everyone; our advice would be to hold out for a device that offers the screen, interface and storage capacity that satisfy your needs.