Three more treats remain untouched: an alarm clock that can beep or play the song of your choice through a home stereo; games (in the form of Brick, Parachute, and Solitaire); and the ability to play tunes from the iPod's hard drive while it's connected to your computer (so that you can delete your music collection from your computer's drive to free up space).
While the updated list of features impressed us, we're still waiting for useful innovations such as a built-in MP3 encoder or, better yet, a wireless component to tie in with the recently announced AirPort Express.
Perhaps the biggest performance claim by Apple is the improved battery life of up to 12 hours. That's 50 percent--or 4 hours--longer than the previous iPod's.
In our tests we were able to hit nearly 14 hours in its standardized drain procedure. This is a major improvement, thanks to the combination of a larger-capacity battery, upgraded internal electronics, and more efficient power-saving features in the software. Apple wouldn't get specific, but the new iPods boast entirely new chipsets, which is why third-generation models can't utilize the fourth-generation firmware.
According to Apple's Web site, the battery charges in about 4 hours (about
80 minutes longer than the last iPod), and after 2 hours, the cell will be at
80 percent. An Apple spokesperson clarified this, saying that recharge time
is only 3 hours when using FireWire, though the process over USB will take longer.
Our tests split the difference, with a full FireWire charge taking 3.5 hours
New chipset and all, the iPod's sound quality remains great. Apple won't release the signal-to-noise ratio, but the player sounds quite clean to our ears, and it's better through the dock's line-out jack, which bypasses the device's volume circuitry. It's also more than loud enough, even through our test headphones, outputting 30mW per channel.
Although slightly slower than the previous generation's transfer rate of 6.9MB per second, the new iPod's numbers came in at a brisk 5.2MB per second over FireWire (equivalent to about one song each second) from Macs and Windows machines. At this point, we attribute the slower transfer speed to the iPod's new chipset.
Edited by: John Morris
Additional editing by: Chris Stevens