Pay close attention to the new Apple iPod when you first hold one in your hands. Most of you will notice a design that's thinner, lighter and sexier than its predecessor's, as well as a new screen that dwarfs the Click Wheel. A few of you will notice subtler differences, such as the absence of the smart headphone jack, a smaller Click Wheel and the iPod's superflat face. Experienced iPod users may complain that essentials such as a power adaptor and A/V cables aren't bundled with the device. But despite the fact that it is an audio player first and foremost, all of you will remember the fifth-generation iPod as the video iPod.
Those who follow gadgets know that Apple didn't invent portable digital video; companies such as Archos, Creative and iRiver have produced good if not stellar products that play back video -- and on larger screens with better battery life. But if Apple can do for video what it has done for audio -- that is, deliver a hardware/software ecosystem that offers a decent choice of content and makes it easy to get video on to the iPod -- then this device, like it or not, will be remembered as the one that started the portable digital video revolution.
The fifth-gen iPod, which is available in white or nano black and comes in 30GB and 60GB capacities for £219 and £299 respectively, is the best one we've used to date. Yet because it has added a major extra feature -- video playback -- to its solid, audiocentric foundation, there's room for improvement.
In this era of seemingly unstoppable technological progress, the Apple iPod was due for an update both physically and featurewise. And the fifth-gen iPod is much more than a simple update. As with the nano before it, you have to see and touch the iPod in person to appreciate it. The 30GB body, which measures 62 by 104 by 11mm and weighs only 136g (add 3mm depth and 21g for the 60GB), is baby-soft to the touch, and while design elements such as the Click Wheel and a polished silver backside are familiar, this iPod has an added sexiness, thanks to the larger screen that dominates its upper half.
Apple somehow shrunk the width of the iPod body so drastically that the 30GB version is 31 per cent thinner than the 20GB iPod. The 60GB version measures only 14mm, meaning it too is thinner than the 20GB iPod. Personally, we think the older model, with its softer edges and added thickness, is a tad more hand-friendly. The Click Wheel, which utilises in-house technology (Apple has abandoned Synaptics tech, starting with the nano), is actually smaller -- by about 8mm in diameter -- than the fourth-gen iPod, which means you won't get as much scrolling action with each stroke of the thumb. The select button, which was slightly raised before, is now flat. The headphone jack has moved to the far right, and the smart jack, which was used by a host of accessories, such as the Apple in-line remote, has disappeared. The hold switch has moved from right to left, while the dock connector remains on the bottom, in the middle. Overall, the physical design is simpler and more refined, though slightly less ergonomic. Basically, you'll definitely get tired of holding the iPod in the 28th minute of viewing video.