After playing my old 30 GB iPod into oblivion, to the point where it was so scratched up the screen was difficult to read and it had a battery life of under an hour, I began to look at upgrading my iPod. I didn't really consider other players because, to put it simply, I was very very happy with the performance and ease of use of my iPod and the other players I looked at were more difficult to use or were clunkier in size. The primary features that I wanted in my next portable music purchase were integration with the iTunes Music Store (as I had a decent number of singles that I had downloaded from it), the ability to store 500-600 songs (more on this in a bit), the ability to navigate through these songs with ease, and a small size. I investigated several options, including a large 60 GB iPod Photo as well as an iPod mini and an iPod shuffle, but each one had some problem that frustrated me, with only the iPod mini coming close to the features I was looking for.

That is, until early September 2005, when the iPod nano was announced. Apple must have been using a very similar thought process in the design of this thing, as it addresses every concern I've had with other models and simply stunned me. Since my old iPod was nearing its death throes and the early reviews of the nano were glowing, I decided to take the plunge.

The iPod nano that I'm looking at right now is essentially just a very tiny iPod with a color screen and photo storage capabilities. After using it extensively the last day or so, including updating my music library on it, I couldn't be more happy with my purchase. This has every feature I wanted in a portable music player and a few more to put a smile on my face. Let me count the ways...

The Good

Adequate music storage space After having my 30 GB iPod for a few years, I began to discover that I really only used a very small portion of the songs I stored on it. I had a "favorite songs" list that amounted to around 250 songs, plus I had about twenty or thirty albums that would change semi-regularly. The total number of songs at any given time that I'd listen to on my old iPod was about 600. Thus, for my own use, the immense storage capacity of the larger iPod was largely wasted.

The 4 GB iPod nano, on the other hand, stores all of these songs just fine, leaving about 1.5 GB for more music if I so choose or other things. Every song I listened to over the last six months of use of my old iPod (excepting the rotation of several albums) fits just fine on the nano.

Size The iPod nano is very small. That's really all that can be said about it. It fits into my shirt pocket, along with the bud headphones that come with it, without it even being visibly noticeable. This is largely due to the size of the object, primarily its thickness, which is a smidge over a quarter of an inch (a bit less than a centimeter); the height and width are also smaller than the original iPod. It weighs only an ounce and a half (roughly a tenth of a pound or, for you metric folks, about 0.04 kilograms), which makes it light enough to also go unnoticed in the pocket. Of course, this may yet to be a bad thing, as visions of a drenched iPod nano going through the laundry sprout up in my head.

Interface The interface is essentially identical to the original iPod. The continued evolution of the "clicker wheel" has pretty much reached a pinnacle with this design, reducing the wheel to its absolute bare essence. If you can manipulate a joystick while playing Pac Man, you can handle the interface. The fact that the music is stored on flash memory adds to this; with other iPods, there were often delays in the interface while the hard drive was accessed. These issues are completely gone with the nano; the interface is completely responsive.

The Usual Portable Music Player Goodness I admit to being addicted to several podcasts. There, I said it. NPR's All Music Considered and Story of the Day, a few samplings of both conservative and liberal political commentators, and a few other music and technology oriented podcasts have become a part of my daily routine. I listen to them through the audio system in my truck on my way to and from work and while driving about on any other errands I might have, relegating the music on my iPod to exercising or long car trips. If it's not already obvious, the iPod has integrated itself into my life.

I'm also ecstatic about the photo capacity on the iPod nano, which allows me to show off many of the better shots of my Flickr archives to relatives without internet access without much effort. The pictures show up well even on the tiny screen; they go through an optimization to appear as sharp as possible on the screen. I had previously used a good deal of storage space on my digital camera for this purpose, but now it will be free to take more new pictures while visiting family and friends.

The Bad

Size The iPod nano might be too small, if anything. I'm already worried about accidentally leaving it in my pocket for too long and having it go through the washing machine. The light weight and small form factor makes it go almost unnoticed; in fact, I thought I had lost my iPod earlier this morning when I realized I didn't feel that familiar weight on my hip. It was almost as if the nano wasn't even there.

The near-requirement of iTunes If you don't like iTunes, well... it'll be a rough road for integrating with your computer. I am a big fan of iTunes and I'm running it on both my Macintosh and my Windows machine. This makes moving music on and off the iPod very easy. On the other hand, I've observed friends having great difficulty updating their iPod using various other media players. It can be done, but iTunes makes it much easier and to me it was worth switching to it, but this may not be the case for you.

Price This is usually the deal-breaker for most people. iPods are expensive. The 4 GB iPod nano cost me $219 due to a special discount I was eligible for, but the suggested retail price for the model is $249. The 2 GB iPod nano (which would be small enough to bother me) is sold for $199. There are other players with much more storage space available for these prices.

Overall

I am extremely happy with my iPod nano purchase and I'd recommend it to anyone considering a portable music player purchase. It simply has every feature that I want in a very tidy package and the caveats listed above are not much of an issue for me.

Specifications

Models: 2 GB or 4 GB, white or black color
Storage Capacity: 2 GB stores roughly 500 songs; 4 GB stores roughly 1000
Battery Life: 14 hours of music, 4 hours of photo playback
Display: 1.5 inch diagonal color LCD screen with backlight
Ports: USB connector (also works with iPod dock), stereo/headphone jack
Connectivity: USB 1.1/2.0
Charge Time: About 3 hours
Audio Formats: mp3, AAC, Audible, Apple Lossless, wav, aiff
Photos: Can view photos stored in JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, PSD, and PNG
Size: 3.5 x 1.6 x 0.27 inches / 8.9 x 4.1 x 0.7 centimeters
Included Software: iTunes for Mac and Windows
Accessories: Earbud headphones, USB cable, "universal" adapter (as far as I can tell, the adapter is useless)
Documentation: Getting started guide, electronic documentation

A Note

If you owned a previous iPod, install the new software anyway. The nano will connect just fine, but it has a lot of issues with disconnecting if you don't do this. Installing the software first makes everything smooth as velvet.

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