Battery life and high-bitrate formats

Q: I bought a 30GB iPod Video a week ago. Right from start, I could not get more than 6 hours of audio playback time on it. Is there something worng with the battery? I’m hoping that this isn’t standard when using Apple Lossless. Is it harder for the processor to decode?

– Max

A: We’d expect the 6-hour mark to be on par with expectations when using an all-Apple Lossless library, although not because it’s harder for the processor to decode. Rather, since Apple Lossless files are much larger than AAC or MP3 encoded songs, the hard drive must spin up much more frequently (approximately every song) rather than for lossy-compressed audio, for which the iPod’s 32MB buffer can fit a handful of songs at a time. This significant increase in mechanical movement is surely to blame for your less-than-spec battery life.

With this explanation, one might expect that an iPod nano (without a mechanical hard drive) might see very little battery life reduction when playing Apple Lossless-encoded files. Does this make it the better hardware choice for such users? Probably not, since today’s largest nano could only fit, perhaps, 200 Apple Lossless tracks. In our opinion, the best iPod choice for Lossless is the current 60GB iPod, with its large hard drive and larger, 64MB buffer, improving battery life.

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