Falling like apples from trees
Apples PMPs are known the world over and need no formal introduction. We have with us the latest iterations of their four product lines; the iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, iPod Classic, (called Classic 6G), and the iPod Touch 2G.
The iPod Touch 2G is noticeably slimmer than its predecessor and has a curved back; this contour adds sleekness but some may not like the way it feels. Apple added a loudspeaker; a feature that was sorely needed. Volume buttons are also a much needed addition, although they feel tacky and seem cheaply built. Overall, we were disappointed with the look of the new device — it seems to lack the class that the original had, and the glaring black volume buttons are hard to use. The volume of the loudspeaker is woefully inadequate for even silent environments. The screen size and characteristics remain unchanged. The new Touch feels a little lighter also, and we found out that this might be due to Apple using a slightly smaller capacity battery. While some will praise the new slim shape and reduced weight others will curse the reduced battery life — we noticed a reduction in playtime of a couple of hours.
On the application front, small applets like Stocks, Weather and Google Maps have been added, which were available as paid software downloads with version 2.0 of the Touch firmware. The new Touch is available in eight and 16 GB versions; there is no 32 GB version as of now.
The Touch interface remains its splendid self, as does its wonderful PMP abilities. Music quality remains the same, and we tested the Touch with our audiophile grade headphones and tube amp — wonderful! Video playback is the same as the previous Touch — superb — although we figure a bigger screen would really spice up video playback.
The iPod Classic has always been desired for its enormous storage. The new Classic drops in a 120 GB HDD in lieu of the 80 GB version on the earlier Classic. However, there’s no replacement for the colossal 160 GB version; 200 GB anyone? The 2.5-inch display is largely unchanged and is sharp enough for movies. The Classic is available in two colours — silver and black. Build quality remains the same and the new Classic retains its tank-like dimensions and in-hand feel. In terms of add-on features there isn’t much more than the pervious version. Sound quality is superb, although the Classic has very slightly rounded off highs — something which is revealed in the Touch. Note that most users won’t even notice this, unless you use audiophile grade headphones like Sennheisers HD 650 or Grados RS-1 and a good headphone amplifier.
The new Nano is dubbed as the Nano Chromatic. This is because it’s now available in many more colours including new ones like yellow, orange and violet in addition to the classic ones. The new Nano is more like the Nanos of old rather than the previous model which was nearly square and is being called the Nano Widescreen now. This Nano is oblong; and the body is curved ditto the glass screen, which fits flush into this curve. By far this seems the funkiest change in terms of shape from amongst the new models. The Nano has got a 2-inch display that looks ultra crisp, and the inbuilt accelerometer allows the screen to orient sideways. This also allows you to shake the Nano to skip a track; although this is nothing novel yet the inclusion of this feature is welcome. In terms of sound quality the Nano impresses; although it’s a hairsbreadth behind the Classic and the Touch in terms of detailing at the top-end of the sound spectrum.
The new Shuffle is downright cute. Available in five colours and a neat looking clasp that fastens anywhere be it your belt, shorts or pocket. There’s a bundled dock which allows connecting the Shuffle to your PC for syncing. The LED battery indicator has three status levels green, which means there’s lots of juice, amber which means low battery and red which indicates the show is nearly over. The buttons on the Shuffle are top class in terms of build quality. Available in 1 GB and 2 GB versions the Shuffle is for those who want to take their groove with them anywhere. Sound quality is surprisingly good — those who think the Shuffle is any less for its diminutive size, think again. Although people looking to use the Shuffle will almost never need audiophile grade sound, you will not be disappointed as a casual user.
At Rs 13,000 the iPod Classic gives the word Goliath a whole new meaning. It’s a great deal for someone looking to cart around a huge MP3 collection. If you do not need to lug around 50 odd GB of music you may want to look at the iPod Touch 2G. At Rs 12,800 it’s got a large screen, unbeatable touch and finger swipe interface and lovely music playback. For the young and funky, or those looking to spend less, the new Nanos will excite. The eight GB version costs Rs 8,200. The 2 GB Shuffle costs Rs 3,200; this is about right for an entry level MP3 player. People may be tempted to look at cheap options that have screens, but the Shuffle will have better sound quality. Period.