After playing with a 512-Megabyte Apple iPod Shuffle, and a 1-Gb iPod Shuffle, I got myself a higher-capacity MP3 player: 2-Gb Philips HDD077. Unfortunately, the Philips had a couple of problems. It was slow in operation, slow in music transfer and could not play loud enough for good aftermarket headphones.
I started hearing rumors about Apple iPod Shuffle 2 GB and 4 GB being secretly developed. Supposedly, they were going to be released in Auguse/September and have a small screen. The product finally arrived, but it is named iPod Nano. It is compact, stylish, has a color screen and capacities of 2 or 4 GB. It is available in black or wite color. Unlike the iPod Mini, it is not hard-drive based but uses flash memory just like the iPod shuffle. The result is good battery life, compact size, faster operation and better expected reliability and durability.
I bought the iPod Nano about two weeks ago and can now report about my experience with it. This review is about Apple iPod Nano 2 GB in black color.
What is iPod Nano?
The iPod Nano is a miniature MP3 player that is compact, thin, has a color screen, a click wheel and stores songs in the MP3, AAC, protected AAC (from iTunes store or compressed with iTunes) or WAV format in the internal flash memory. There are 2-Gygabyte and 4-Gygabyte versions of it and both came in black or white color.
The Nano is compact, stylish and easy to use.
What's in the Box?
The box contains the iPod Nano, the small headphones (earbuds), a USB cable and a bracket for connecting your ipod to optional accessories. It also contains the CD with software (iTunes), the black pads that you can put over the earbuds and the manual.
Keep in mind that even with black iPod Nano you get white headphones. Unfortunately, this is not the only problem with the supplied headphones.
The manual is rather short, yet very descriptive. I started using the iPod without reading the manual first and was able to figure out how to use it. Mostly. The bottom line here is if you have used an iPod or another MP3 player, there will not be much to learn. And if you did not, you will learn in no time.
iPod Nano Controls
The iPod Nano has compact rectangular shape and is made of smooth black or white plastic (mine is black). The back panel is stylish metal. The player is very compact and lightweight without feeling cheap. The front panel houses bright color LCD screen in the upper part and a circular control cluster with Play/Pause button at the bottom, Skip Back and Skip Forward buttons left and right of it, Menu on top and the unnamed Center button in the middle.
The player is locked or unlocked by sliding the small HOLD switch on the top panel. The bottom panel houses the USB port and the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The player is so slim that the headphone jack takes up almost the entire width of the bottom panel. I find the fact that the headphone jack is at the bottom slightly inconvenient, but I am sure it would have been impossible to place it on the top panel like in Shuffle, since the LCD screen takes up all the internal space there.
The Skip Forward and Skip Back buttons skip to the next or previous song. When held, they fast forward or backward within the song.
The MENU button lets you go to the previous menu level. The PLAY/PAUSE button lets you start or resume playback, pause it or turn the player off if depressed for several seconds.
The payer also features so-called click wheel. You can place your finger on any area within the outer control circle and move it clockwise or counter-clockwise to scroll through the menu items, change the volume while the song is playing or jump to any point within the song. A very cool feature!
The CD with software auto-starts when inserted into the CD-ROM (or in my case, DVD-ROM) drive. After the software installation (the iTunes software), which only takes a couple of minutes, you can connect the iPod and start loading tunes.
The system requirements are as follows: Mac or PC with a USB 2.0 port, Mac OS X v10.3.4 or later, Windows 2000 SP4 or Windows XP SP2.
In my case (Windows 2000 SP4), the reboot was required after the software installation and I had to register with Apple and enter the iPod's serial number (found on the iPod itself as well as on the outer carton box). Overall, the software installation was uneventful, but after that I was offered to download an updated version of thereof from the Apple web site. Which I did.
The iPod Nano has an wide exposed connection port. The supplied USB cable plugs into the port with some effort and you have to squeeze the ends of it to take it out.
Battery and Charging
The iPod Nano has an internal battery that recharges while the iPod is connected to the powered USB port. When I connected to my computer, the LCD screen illuminated and the icon that indicates charging appeared. My Nano came charged about 80%. I still followed Apple's recommendation and fully charged it.
You can (according to Apple) have up to 14 hours of continuous playback time on one charge. I went hiking last weekend and had the Nano on for 5 hours non-stop and the battery indicator still showed more than half of the battery life remaining.
You can select an option in the iTunes software that makes the iTunes automatically start once the iPod is connected. The iTunes software looks cute and is easy to use. The iPod appears as one of the folders in the left pane of iTunes and you can drag and drop the songs you want from the Library folder that represents your music library. And unlike the earlier iTunes and the iPod Shuffle, you can drag MP3 files directly from your hard drive or any other drive onto your iPod in iTunes without placing them first into your music library.
As soon as you drag and drop the songs, the data processing and transfer to iPod starts. The message is also telling you that you cannot disconnect the iPod at this stage (for obvious reasons).
The LCD display on the iPod also tells you not to disconnect the Nano.
The iPod Nano supports USB 2.0 Hi-Speed and files are copied very fast. I copied almost 2 GB of music and discovered that the Nano has the transfer speed of about 5 Megabytes per second. This means that it takes about 12-15 seconds to transfer an average album of music.
The iPod 2GB version can fit a little less than 2 GB of music, since in addition to actual files, there are several folders created and files with information about each song are written. Depending on song length and the bit rate, you can fit anywhere from 500 songs (at 128 kbps bit rate) to 250 songs (if you want better sound quality and use, say 256 kbps VBR). You can select the default compression method and bit-rate in iTunes settings (for CD ripping).
The Nano supports Variable Bit Rate (VBR) for better sound quality at the same bit rate as CBR (Constant Bit Rate). It also supports AAC, Audible format 2-4, Apple lossless, protected AAC, AIFF and WAV.
The sound quality is very important to me. The iPod Nano did not disappoint. It is difficult to expect much from the compact device that comes with small earbuds and is used with MP3. But even with the supplied earbuds, the music sounded good. The earbuds definitely lacked bass and sounded bright overall with slight metallic treble, but the imaging was good, the clarity was very good as well.
Of course, the single most significant improvement to the sound of any MP3 player is replacing the stock headphones. You do not even have to spend a lot to get better sound. I replaced the stock Apple headphones with the Koss KSC75, which is a larger headphone that is attached to your ear with a clip that curves around it. I also tried the iPod with large enclosed Sennheiser HD202. Neither of these headphones costs more than $20, but both improve the sound dramatically. With both, the bass appeared along with warmer, more natural sound. The MP3 decoding quality was good and approached CD quality at higher bit rates, although at 128 kbps there was slight lack of treble. But that was expected because of the low bit rate and no player would be able to do much better.
The supplied earbuds look stylish (even though they do not match my Nano's color), but putting the supplied black felt pads on them was a pain. They are also quite big for earbuds. Overall, I am pleased with the Nano’s sound, especially paired with better headphones than the ones supplied. The imaging was great, the noise non-existent and the frequency response seems to be excellent. Furthermore, unlike my previous Philips player, the Nano can play very loud, even with aftermarket headphones, which is not always the case with other players. My Philips was lacking in volume department when the headphones other than stock were used.
The Nano has an equalizer with multiple effective presets, but I do not use it since the MP3s I have are usually of good quality (ripped from CDs or downloaded from a paid web site). The supplied headphones are decent enough to require no equalization and the aftermarket once are even better.
The iPod Nano needs no skip protection as it has no mechanical parts and will not skip.
The Nano has a bright colorful 1.5-inch LCD display. The screen has a bright backlight and features nice color scheme. It is visible in sunlight and fits a lot of information.
The Coolness of the Click Wheel
The click wheel functionality is really cool. Although there is no actual wheel of any kind, you place your finger on the outer circle of controls and move it clockwise or counterclockwise to scroll through the menu items. adjust the volume or move to any point within the song.
The tactile response of the controls is excellent, including the click wheel. And the Nano makes a short chirping sound when you push some buttons, which is a great confirmation as well.
I have not concerns with durability, aside from the fact that the front panel seem to scratch easily and those small scratches are visible on the black iPod Nano's body much better than on the white one. It is a concern to me, but as long as the rest of the player works, I am fine with that.
As of 03/2009, after 3.5 years of use, this iPod Nano still works as new.
Pros:Compact, stylish, no moving parts, excellent sound and volume, fast transfer, battery life
Cons:Price is a bit high, 2 GB capacity might not be enough for some, scratches
I like the iPod Nano a lot and will keep it. It is stylish, compact, does not skip, provides excellent volume, sound quality and battery life, needs no charger, has useful hold functionality, comes with good software and is easy to use. The things I did not like in iPod Shuffle were improved as well.
The Nano 2 GB has decent capacity, but it still cannot hold your entire music library but its compact size and low weight make up for it. It is also easy and pleasant to use.
I highly recommend the iPod Nano 2 GB. It is an excellent choice in the 2 GB portable music player category.