Thanks to a much lower price and a new, photographer-friendly feature, the latest version of the iPod Photo should get more than its share of looks. Offering a full-colour, 16-bit screen as well as 30GB and 60GB capacities, the iPod Photo displays photos and album art in an interface that's undeniably Apple. From the ease with which one loads photos on to the device to the browsing of thumbnails and images on the iPod itself, the overall experience is positive and warm. Plus, the mammoth 60GB iPod can hold as many as 15,000 songs or 25,000 photos.
The original premium price tags dismayed many prospective buyers but now at £245, the 30GB version costs only £45 more than the 20GB iPod, while the 60GB version costs £310. Add a firmware update that, with the help of an optional Camera Connector, will enable users to transfer and view digital images directly from cameras to the iPod, and you clearly have a better value. Just note that you'll have to pay extra for a dock and an A/V cable, accessories that were included with the original version.
From afar, the Apple iPod Photo looks no different than the popular fourth-generation version: same Click Wheel interface, polished white body, gleaming silver back panel, hold switch, dock connector and headphone inputs. It's not until you hold one that you sense a difference. At 104 by 61 by 16mm and 167g, the 30GB iPod Photo is slightly thicker and heavier than its 20GB audio-only counterpart and the 60GB version is even bulkier (19mm thick and 181g). While the Photo is still considered sleek, the extra weight is noticeable. The high-capacity hard drive and a larger battery contribute to this iPod-on-steroids feel. And when you power it up and see the colour screen light up, you know you're dealing with entirely different beast.
The 51mm (2-inch) backlit LCD can display 65,536 colours at a resolution of 220x176 pixels. Unlike the screen on the iRiver H320, another MP3 player that displays photos, the iPod Photo's transflective face is visible with the backlight turned off. This is particularly useful outdoors during the day, as the backlight sucks serious battery juice from the player. The monochrome LCD of the audio-only iPod looks downright drab when compared to the Photo's bright, vivid screen. As far as photo viewing goes, the experience certainly adds to the value of what is already an outstanding audio player.
However, the small screen size will have some users squinting and others complaining that the device doesn't do the photos justice. But most will be impressed by the iPod's ability to instantly load pictures, which can be browsed using the Click Wheel in a fashion that takes less thought than that of browsing music, since your choices are based on imagery instead of text.
Colour adds a lot more than just photo pleasure. The familiar iPod interface now has a white background, a blue selector bar, black text and a green battery indicator that changes to yellow and red when it's dying. Built-in extras such as the calendar and games look entirely different and more approachable on the iPod Photo, and you get full-colour album art on the Now Playing screen if you've purchased music from iTunes Music Store or if your ripped CD and jukebox software support the feature.