Review: Apple iPod nano Fourth-Generation (4GB/8GB/16GB)
Pros: Apple’s highest-capacity mid-range flash player to date, with an outstanding array of nine color options that for the first time are available at a $149 base price rather than as a premium option. Preserves most of the features of last year’s flat A-rated version, adding an accelerometer that adds modestly to photo, game, and audio functionality. Includes font size options and optional voice prompting to aid those who would otherwise have trouble reading the small screen. Streamlines prior features, including Cover Flow music browsing and Nike + iPod, while adding new ones such as Genius playlist creation. Doubles past year’s storage capacity for same price. Best audio quality yet in an iPod nano.
Cons: Battery life for video and game playing has dropped from prior version, though audio playback time is roughly the same. New tapered shape feels like a dull knife in the hand, versus the softer curves of prior iPods and nanos, and requires rotation for playing videos and most games. Audio recording functionality has changed from past version, losing settings control and now outputting in Apple Lossless rather than the more compatible WAV format. Curved glass screen cover is a little more fingerprint- and glare-attractive than the predecessor, though also likely to be more durable. Incompatible with past FireWire charging accessories; will not charge when placed in Bose’s SoundDock, Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi, or certain car kits.
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The single best physical change to the fourth-generation iPod nano is its selection of colors. Most likely because there isn’t anything else compellingly different about this model and its immediate predecessor, Apple now offers customers nine different options, each plainly named—silver, black, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, red, and pink. For the first time in nano history, you don’t need to spend $199 or $249 to get these choices; they’re all available in either $149 8GB or $199 16GB models. And none is precisely identical to the similar colors of past iPod minis or iPod nanos. Here are the differences.
Silver: The silver iPod nano 4G has made the biggest change from prior models. Unlike all past silver iPods, minis, and nanos, this model now sports black plastic top, bottom, and Click Wheel accents rather than white parts. Its metal color is basically unchanged. This is the only new iPod nano color combination that we really don’t like, but some people might enjoy the change.
Black: Apple now uses the word “black” to describe not just pure black, like the second-generation nano, but also a dark gray charcoal color that first appeared on last year’s third-generation model. Today’s black is almost identical to last year’s, perhaps a hint lighter, and features true black plastic accents like the ones on the silver nano. As much as we liked the jet black second-generation nano, we also like this color scheme a lot.
Blue: With the possible exception of black, none of the new nanos is markedly paler in color than the third-generation version, and most are similar to the second-generation colors. Blue is one of the most different: it’s now closer to blue jean blue than the second-gen’s slightly more aquamarine color.
Green: Green is a more intense version of the second-generation nano green, making both of the old colored nanos look a little dull by comparison.
Red: Apple went from a rich, saturated red in the second-generation nano to a darker, blue-infused tone in the third. The fourth-generation color is slightly stronger and closer to pure red than the second-generation version.
Pink: Apple’s pink changes have mirrored its red ones: the first nano color was intense, followed by a more subdued version, and now returns to intense. The new color is a slightly stronger pink than the second-generation nano’s, but it’s hard to see unless you hold them right next to each other.
Orange: Previously only available in the second-generation iPod shuffle, the fourth-generation nano’s orange looks virtually identical to the metal tone picked back then. The old shuffle looks a tiny bit brighter in color, but this could be attributable to the way light dances off of their different surfaces; in any case the difference is tiny.
Purple: Apple’s purple is a rich, saturated indigo rather than the pale version introduced last year in the iPod shuffle. The color leans almost towards royal blue under certain lights, and is right now one of our favorites in the bunch. It doesn’t always photograph accurately in color, but it is indeed more blue than red to our eyes.
Yellow: Only once has yellow made an appearance in the iPod family before, and that’s in the long-discontinued first-generation iPod mini, where it was called “gold.” It was the first and only color option that Apple discontinued when it updated the mini to the second-generation, and hasn’t appeared in an iPod of any sort since then, reportedly because the gold color was unpopular. The new tone is substantially unlike the old one—it’s a strong, saturated yellow, versus the original faded gold color; it’s as unmistakably its own tone as green, orange, and pink.
Choosing a fourth-generation iPod nano color should be pretty easy for most people: there’s something in this pack to appeal to every sort of user except for one looking for a sedate or vanilla option. We think that Apple’s selection of colors this time out is fantastic, and its choice to offer them all at the most aggressive price point yet is simply wonderful.
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