iPod Nano

iPod nano
Company: Apple Computer, Inc.

Price: $249

No day at the beach

The iPod nano. The name just oozes music technology. OK, so it doesn’t exactly inspire the image of a couple walking hand-in-hand along a sun-drenched beach with their iPod nano supplying music through the headset (each person has one headphone plug, isn’t that cute?) as the sun (with a stupid cartoon-like grin) slowly melts away. What it did give me however is severe techno lust.

I resisted buying an iPod for a long time. I just didn’t see the point of needing a digital music player. Therefore to prevent my lack of restraint when it comes to electronic gadget purchases, I avoided even picking one up like the plague. I managed almost two years before finally succumbing. It was that darn iPod shuffle that did me in. I went to a retail store to just look at one (yeah right), and after examining it, decided that I just had to have an iPod mini.

Huh? I realize that it’s the equivalent of going to the store to buy some bread and coming home with a steak sandwich (work with me here), but after looking at the shuffle, I realized that it just didn’t have enough storage and the lack of a display meant I couldn’t pick exactly what song or podcast I would listen to next. So I bought a mini and life was good. At least it was until the nano came out.

Curiosity kills my credit report

I went to the local Apple Store (Clarendon, Virginia) to look at the nano after it was announced. They didn’t have any and I was told that only the BIG Apple Stores had received a shipment prior to the product announcement. So after manufacturing a reason to go again the next week, they were in stock..sorta. No black ones (the one that seems the most popular) and only 4 GB white ones were available. I played with it for about 2 minutes before the aforementioned techno lust kicked in. Some $249.00 plus tax later, I was the proud owner of a white iPod nano.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about what came with the iPod nano besides the device itself. Inside the sleek black box, there’s a CD with some updates for iTunes 4.9 (if you already have version 5, you probably don’t need to use it). There of course are the headphones, and a USB cable with an Apple iPod connection port. No AC power adapter, no dock, and no FireWire cable (more on this later). The device charges itself via connecting to a computer with the USB cable. Hopefully whatever kind of computer you have has USB ports that can supply a charge or your iPod experience is going to last about 10 to 14 hours. So, USB 2 ports are an almost must have to use this iPod. I suppose you could use USB 1 ports, but only if you have a LOT of spare time on your hands.

Yes, yes very well, but what does it look and feel like?

Let’s get some of the technical specifications out of the way. The nano is 3.5 inches high, 1.6 inches wide, and an amazing 0.27 inches deep. This is one little bugger! It weighs in at 1.5 ounces, yes, that’s what I said. If I had to find a criticism about the physical nature of this device, it would be that it almost weighs too little. It feels almost insignificant in the palm of your hand.

Another oddity is the lack of FireWire support for the iPod nano. I had heard and read about this, but didn’t really believe it until I connected my mini’s FireWire connection cable and plugged it into my iBook. It chastised me onscreen for even trying. I realize that most iPods of any type today are sold to Windows users, and therefore they must all be USB compatible, but how hard would it have been to include FireWire support? I don’t want to read too much into it, but could this be the beginning of the end for FireWire?

The 1.5-inch color display is another thing I take issue with. Yes, it is color and it manages to get every color in your album or podcast logo displayed, but at the cost of clarity. Looking at the MyMac.com podcast logo on the nano I see an almost indistinguishable blob. While that might say more about my eyesight than I care to acknowledge, the screen itself might be too small for some logos or album covers. The text displayed for artist and song title is clear and readable.

The click wheel built into the nano is smaller than either the full-sized iPod or the iPod mini that it replaced. My iPod mini’s click wheel felt pretty good, with little give. The iPod nano’s click wheel feels fragile, but has so far stood up to my fumble-fingers (at 6’6”, you can guess that I have pretty big hands).

Battery life thus far has been exceptional. I took it on a six-hour bike ride that would have all but drained my mini, and the nano had juice to spare. Sound quality is pretty good; at least as good as the mini and since this is what’s going to replace it, that was important to me.

One thing that Apple did right was to use the same kind of dock connection port as all the other iPods for the nano. This means any accessories you currently own that use this port, should work as well for the nano. I connected it to my Belkin FM transmitter that I use in my car on a recent long trip to Ohio, and it worked flawlessly. The Belkin device wasn’t made for it, so the nano didn’t fit exactly right, but it worked. What’s more, since the nano weighs so much less than my mini, the FM transmitter didn’t keep falling over during any kind of hard steering I did like it did with my mini.

Of course the nano has all the built-in features that its full-sized brethren does, like support for your calendars and contacts. Any new features that have appeared in iTunes 5 are supported by the nano as well. It even has the same games, but I can’t see trying to play solitaire or brick on a screen this small. One thing the nano has that the mini does not is support of iPhoto and the ability to carry your pictures around with you. Well, at least as many that will fit into its 4 GB of flash memory. Like the mini, the nano does not support external recording that its big brother does.

Other than carrying cases and sleeves, there aren’t too many accessories currently available for the nano, but I expect that will change soon. In the meantime, many of the accessories that the mini or full-sized iPod can use, the nano can as well.

While the nano has its flaws, overall it’s a great little device and a more than worthy successor to the iPod mini. If I could change anything, I would give it FireWire support, a slightly bigger display, and I would beef up the outer case, even at the cost of a little weight or bulk. Also, “Hey Apple, put a dock in there for furshlugginer’s sake”. The darn thing doesn’t cost that much. I give the nano MyMac.com Rating of 4 out of 5. I expect the next generation to be even better.


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