The classic retains the supported codecs of the fifth-gen video iPod -- it plays MP3s, AACs, Apple Lossless, WAV, AIFF music files and audiobooks from Audible. It'll also handle high-quality video in H.264 MPEG-4 format, plus QuickTime movies and your photo libraries. No longer can you output video via the headphone socket though. Apple now forces you to buy another proprietary video cable for playing content on your TV. So much for investing in Apple accessories.
Some fun games are included, including a game show-esque title called iPod Quiz, which asks a plethora of questions about your music collection. Any games you've already bought from the iTunes Store won't work, or indeed any you go ahead and buy now. Rumour has it that a firmware update is coming to rectify this issue, but hasn't been confirmed at the time of writing.
A handy search feature lets you tap out words to search for in your library. Again, this instantaneous search mimics the lightning-fast system in iTunes. Podcasts no longer reside inside the 'music' sub-menu; they now sit as an option within the main menu. Still sitting in the 'extras' menu, however, are the stopwatch, calendar, alarm clocks, notes, contacts and so on. No new additions here.
Sound quality is mostly unchanged and if you don't use decent headphones, you won't notice anything. Significantly, Apple has changed its supplier of audio-decoding chips. These are responsible for sound quality, and until now Apple has used chips from Wolfson Microelectronics. The new chips from Cirrus Audio produce a moderately 'cleaner' sound, with a marginal increase in treble. Maximum volume is also slightly lower, though playing an iPod through headphones at maximum volume has never been a good idea.
We pumped a lossless rip of Electric Uncle Sam by Primus through our classic, using our Denon AH-D5000 headphones. Highs were neatly defined and exceptionally clear, and mids were punchy and powerfully well-reproduced. The unfathomably deep and explosive bass of Pendulum's Tarantula was nothing short of galactic in its warmth and power. Whether you're calmly enjoying KT Tunstall or revelling in the sound of a thousand suns imploding, you'll be happy with the sound the classic produces.
Navigating through the main menu, however, can quickly become tedious. When you return to the main menu, album art is loaded from the hard disk. This requires the iPod to find the art on a spinning disk. This takes up to three seconds, during which you might find yourself getting frustrated. This can almost certainly be fixed with a firmware update from Apple. Cover Flow works well, though. The classic loads a great deal of art in one go, but if you have a boat-load of music, fast scrolling results in some generic covers as the 'Pod catches up with itself.