Review: Apple iPod nano (with video, 4GB/8GB)
Pros: A massive upgrade to Apple’s smallest-screened media player, adding very good video- and game-playing capabilities to the previously music- and photo-only, popular iPod nano. Achieves better than promised battery performance, as well as nearly equivalent video and audio performance to the iPod classic, making better use of its smaller components. Though shape is different, and screen is bigger and more detailed, volume is not dramatically increased over prior nanos. Available in
six colors and two storage capacities at very reasonable prices.
Cons: Screen and flash memory sizes aren’t ideal for video. Prior iPod Games, and iPod video accessories, are generally not compatible with this model. Mirror-finished rear casing returns, ready to scratch and smudge.
During our iPod classic review, we noted that as iPod screens became bigger and more colorful, and their fonts less chunky, the minimalist designers at Apple didn’t seem to know what to do with them, and consequently each generation of full-sized iPod had more and more white space on the right of the screen. That wasn’t as much an issue for the iPod nano, which saw its screen shrink from the iPod mini, which itself shrunk from the full-sized iPods; as the screens got smaller, the white space disappeared.
A lot has changed in the third-generation iPod nano. In addition to gaining half an inch on the diagonal, the screen has roughly doubled its previous pixel count from 176 by 132 pixels to 320 by 240 pixels. Keeping font sizes equal, Apple would have again been faced with an abundance of white space. Instead, it has dropped the nano’s perceivable font size by the visual equivalent of one point, and like the iPod classic, cut the screen in half.
Apple has shifted all of the nano’s old first- and second-level menu options—and the 5G iPod’s, as well—over to the left half of the screen, using the right side for artwork. Use the Click Wheel to highlight Music, Videos, Photos, or Podcasts and you’ll see cover art or pictures floating on the right, and underneath the shadow of the left side’s menu. Dig down to the third level menu and the whole screen will become white, save for the blue highlighting cursor and black or gray text. Playlists now have small gray song tallies, Albums have small artists’ names and art icons, Songs have artists’ names, and Genres have artist and album tallies. Videos also have icons and summary information as appropriate.
Apple has put a little extra Mac OS X Leopard-style spin on the new interface, as well. Search gets a clean matte overlay bar, for instance, and old Aqua-influenced elements such as the volume level bar and scroll bars have been replaced with more solid, less glassy alternatives.
On the iPod classic, we felt that the new interface generally looked fine, if a bit odd, but on the nano, it feels like a bigger improvement from what came before, even though the most noteworthy features are rough approximations of earlier, more powerful Apple products. There’s a cut-down version of the iPhone’s Cover Flow, which works similarly but with more button pressing, less fluidity, and a white background. Somewhat better is the new Now Playing screen, which has perspective-angled album art inspired by Apple TV, again only in white rather than the Apple TV’s black. Additionally, after a minute or so of audio playback, a large clock will appear on a white screen-filling background along with a battery indicator and play icon. None of these screens looks amazing, but they surely look better on the nano’s smaller screen than on the classic’s bigger one.
The split-screen interface adds considerably to the iPod nano’s settings menu. Old commands such as “shuffle,” “repeat,” and “clicker” that may have confused some users in the past now have explanations on the right side of the screen, and new options such as “Music Menu” make their purposes clear.
Apple’s long-neglected equalizer (EQ) feature still isn’t adjustable by users, but at least the various presets now have bar-style visual indicators of how they work—assuming you know what the bars are supposed to represent.