Aside from the iPod touch and iPhone, the iPod classic is one of our favourite devices on which to watch high-quality video. It supports the MPEG-4 and the H.264 codec -- as used on HD Blu-ray discs -- in standard definition, up to 640x480-pixels in resolution, with bit rates up to 2.5Mbps. This allows for extremely high-quality videos, and the potential for watching full-length movies at close to DVD-quality.
You'll need to use iTunes 8 to transfer content to the iPod, and in many ways it remains unchanged from iTunes 7. It requires some getting used to, but iTunes is one of the easiest ways to manage music and movies. It offers Smart Playlists on top of Genius, allowing you to create dynamically updating playlists based on variables you assign, such as building a playlist of 20 songs, not played within the last two weeks, from pop and country genres, that you've listened to at least five times before. And everything -- play counts, playlists, song ratings and Smart Playlists -- are all transfered to the iPod classic, so you can take your desktop jukebox on the road.
As well as being an enormous music store, iTunes sells TV programmes from heaps of television and movie studios. They're only compatible with iTunes and iPods, but if you're using an iPod classic you can buy or rent major films such as Harry Potter, Spiderman and High School Musical, and either watch them on your computer or simply sync them to your iPod and watch them on the way to work, college, or on the plane.
Combine this with the classic's huge hard disk and the potential to output this content to any TV via a separate docking station and the iPod classic becomes an insanely capable music and movie device -- and we love it.
We tested the iPod classic with Apple Lossless audio files, going through a £100 Arcam rDock, into a £650 Woo Audio 2 valve-driven headphone amplifer, and into £800 Denon AH-D7000 headphones. Portable audio doesn't come more high-end than this. Yet we heard no sonic differences between the new classic and the previous model. Volume limit is the same and its musical voice remained identical to us.
For almost everyone, the iPod classic will be an admirable performer. Audibly it remains entirely unchanged from the previous model, which offered a frequency response deviation of -1.56dB, a total harmonic distortion (plus noise) rating of -69.26dB and an signal-to-noise ratio of -84.42dB, as rated by our colleagues over at CNET.com. This proves the iPod classic to be a stellar performer in terms of audio accuracy, regardless of the shouting from Apple-haters claiming the opposite.
Listening to Ingrid Michaelson's Girls And Boys, ripped in Apple Lossless format, we heard a terrific, clear performance with deep, seismic bass, a clean, powerful mid-range and a clear treble in the high-end. This, overall, delivers believable instrumental presence and a well-balanced sound quality.