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.
Given Apple’s decisions to double the third-generation iPod nano’s 4GB and 8GB capacities this time out, expand the number of colors available at its lowest price point, and preserve all of the features we loved in the prior model, it would be easy to assume that the fourth-generation iPod nano was as deserving of a flat A rating as its predecessor. We seriously considered that possibility, as this nano is essentially as good today as the third-generation model was for its time last year; in fact, because of its enhanced audio performance and accelerometer features, some people may like it better.
However, there are a few things about the new nano that fall into the “not as great” category, two of which are attributable to Apple’s continued need to thin its devices: the device’s diminished video battery life, and its shape. While the fourth-generation nano is certainly thin, it just isn’t as comfortable to hold as the second-generation model it takes after. There’s also the mixed issue of voice recording, which benefits from the new headphone-based microphone feature but now uses Apple Lossless and fixed settings, which make some sense but also may cause issues for certain users.
These issues take away only a little from what is otherwise an excellent new mid-range media player—one that continues to lead its competitors, and suffers only by comparison with larger, more expensive devices. Even then, you’d be hard-pressed to find another player that’s as cool and versatile as this for the price. If you’re looking for something small, full of features, and colorful, the fourth-generation iPod nano is a superb value. It’s worthy of our A- rating and high recommendation.