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Apple iPod Classic 80 GB Review

 iPod_straighton

The iPod line was launched on October of 2001.  Apple focused its efforts on developing a simple to use, yet capable user interface.  The portable music players of the time were considered “big and clunky or small and useless” with user interfaces that were “unbelievably awful”, according to Steve Jobs.  So Apple set about the task of developing a product with a 5 GB hard drive that put “1000 songs in your pocket.”  As of now, over 120 million units have been sold worldwide, making it the best selling digital audio player (dap) in history.

How does the new Classic stack up?  Read on after the break.

The name iPod comes from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which the phrase, “Open the pod bay door, Hal!” was uttered.

In the Box

BoxContentsx TheBoxx

The box contains the iPod, a white sync cord that connects to the computer via USB, and to the iPod with a proprietary connector, the ubiquitous iPod headphones, a universal dock adapter, and a very short user’s guide.

Physical Characteristics

The 80 GB Classic is surprisingly svelte, measuring 4.1″ x 2.4″ wide x .41″ deep, and weighs a mere 4.9 oz.  Last year’s 5th gen 80 GB iPod was .55″ deep and weighed 4.8 oz, so they are very similar.  But the new version offers far more storage at lower prices.

3Profilex

The picture above shows left to right, a second gen 20 GB iPod, the 5th gen 80 GB iPod, and the new iPod 80 GB Classic.  Incidentally, the 2nd gen iPod cost me about $400 when it was new in 2002.  Moore’s Law is alive and well in mp3 land.

The iPod retains last year’s 2.5″, 320 x 240 screen and matching click wheel.  It comes in silver or black.  It seems that black is the new white at Apple.  Witness the iPhone, and iPod Touch.  Black is IN.  The face is made of non-smudging aluminum, while the rear is shiny, mirror finished metal that definitely shows finger prints.

rearx

Below is the bottom view:

Bottom3x

And the top:

Top3x

The sides contain no buttons.  The top houses the 3.5 mm headphone adapter and the hold switch.

topx

Taking a cue from the supermodel craze, “thin is in.”  For a tremendously large capacity, this model is quite small.  But the mirror finish has to go.

3FaceUp

Storage and Power

Last year’s 30 GB model was $249, and the 80 GB was $349.  For those same prices you now get 80 GB or 160 GB respectively.  And you also get thinner housings.  Many people are under the impression that when you buy an iPod you are paying for the name.  However, if you shop for external hard drives you will see that $249 for an 80 GB  hard drive plus all the music and video capability is quite a sweet deal.

I was able to run the iPod for over 35 hours playing music, and about 6.5 hours playing video.  That is far more than its nearest competitor.  According to Apple, the claimed run time for playing video is 30 hours, and 5 hours for audio.   Apple underestimated the run-time.

User Interface

Apple’s user interfaces have always been quite intuitive and easy to use.  Now they offer more information as well.  Apple introduced the split screen to this year’s iPod line.

SplitScreenx 

Whatever you choose on the left, offers more information on the right.  Additionally, there are many ways to access your music.   Press music, then you are offered a menu with 10 options including searching with Cover Flow, playlists, artists, albums, genres, songs, or search, which gives you a keyboard to type in the letters of whatever you are searching for.

screen_search

Above: Screen Search

I mentioned Cover Flow above.  Here it is:

CoverFlowx

Cover Flow lets you scroll through album covers to find the music you want.  I found that Cover Flow is a bit slow in drawing the photos.  To see them you must scroll slowly.  This is a cool feature to show friends, but not a feature I would actually use.  To scroll, you just move your thumb in a circle around the Click Wheel.  Simple.

EQ

Although the built-in equalizer is not user adjustable, you can choose from various preset EQ’s.  The split screen above shows the bar chart on the right.

Audio Visual

The iPod supports the following audio:

Audio formats supported: AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, and 4), Apple Lossless, WAV, and AIFF

And Video:

H.264 video, up to 1.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Low-Complexity version of the H.264 Baseline Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; H.264 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Baseline Profile up to Level 3.0 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats

I found the audio to be excellent.  It is far better than the 2nd gen iPod, superior to the Sandisk View and e260, and has slightly less noise than the 5th gen iPod.  Similarly, the video played beautifully, though I hope future models have larger screens.  While playing a movie, the top and bottom get cut off if you choose not to use the “Fit to Screen” option – letterboxed wide-screen.  But if you do choose that option, then the player cuts off a slight bit of the sides.

Getting video is simple.  You can buy movies, videos and TV shows from iTunes, or you can download tons of free media from Google Video.  Not every video I downloaded worked, however.  But I did manage to find lots of cool stuff.  You can also use 3rd party software to rip movies, which was simple, yet time consuming, but worth the effort.

I downloaded some music from iTunes.  This is a very simple way to get music.  And now iTunes offers DRM free music as well.  I have purchased music from many sources.  As long as it’s DRM free there is no problem playing it.

Photos

photos

They are easy to load onto iTunes.  You can see that they are displayed in a 5 x 3 grid.  You scroll through them and can click on one to make it full size.  You can also play a slide show with music and transitions.  I have tons of photos on mine and they don’t take up much space.  With a special cable from Apple you can play your photos and movies on a TV.

Click Wheel

iPod_Clickwheel

This simple design is what makes the iPod so modernly simple.  It combines a Touch Interface with buttons.  Each of the 4 icons on the wheel can be clicked, in addition to the center button.  Pressing Menu backs you up to the previous screen.  Press the center button to choose.  By moving your thumb in a circle around the wheel you can scroll or adjust the volume while playing a song.  It doesn’t get any easier.  

iTunes

I remember when I bought my 2nd gen iPod that iTunes didn’t exist.  I used Music Match to sync music.  That was actually a fine solution.  But times have changed and Music Match is now part of Yahoo’s Music Store.  Yet iTunes is wonderfully capable and easy to use.

ScreenShot012

iTunes lets you sort your music by whichever heading you click on.  You can add a multitude of headings, such as the popular Rating heading.  Apple’s rating goes from 1 star to 5 stars.  If you right click on a song you get the information dialog box.

Summary

Info

The Info screen above is filled in automatically when you import music.  But you can put comments in or make your own adjustments.

Lyrics  

Karaoke fans will like the Lyrics tab.

You can import artwork if it didn’t come with the song:
Artwork

Do you have a song that is part of a gapless album?  Do you want to adjust the volume on a song?  Do it in the options tab:
Options

When you connect your iPod it shows up on the left side of the iTunes screen:
Connected

It then syncs your iPod.

Synching

When you click on Music it shows music, click on Movies or TV shows and they also show up on the right side of the screen.  I have 6 playlists numbered PL1 to PL6.  I’m not very creative:)

While you play music the mini-iTunes store at the bottom of the screen gives you suggestions for more music:

iTunesSuggestions

In the above photo I’m playing “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home” by Grand Funk Railroad.  At the bottom, in the mini iTunes Store, you’ll see more songs by them, and a “Listeners also bought” section.  I love this feature because I’m always looking for more content.  I wonder if they have more of this artist:
SteveLaserEx

Extras

The iPod comes with extra applications including Calendar, Contacts, Clock, Alarms, Notes and Stopwatch.  You can even purchase games from iTunes.  The games look pretty cool but I haven’t tried one yet.  Unfortunately if you bought a game for the 5th gen, it won’t work on this new version.  That’s Apple’s way of building revenue.

screen_extras 

Some competitors offer such niceties as a voice recorder and FM radio.  FM is lo-fi and I don’t care for it, though I would like an AM radio for listening to some sports talk.  There is no voice recorder either, but after having a pocket pc with that functionality for many years and never using it, I don’t miss it.  The truth is, I bought this unit for listening to high quality music and videos, and all the extraneous stuff is never used.

A very nice feature of this iPod, with its gargantuan hard drive, is that it can be used as a mass storage device.  Just plug it in and it shows up in Windows Explorer.  You can save data and transfer it.  Nice.

Accessories

During the brief time I had a Sandisk Sansa View, I had a difficult time finding accessories such as cases, screen protectors, and external speakers.  Not so with the iPod.  This is big business and there is no shortage of accessories.  It seems like everyone and their mother is making something for the iPod line.  The first accessory I bought was a quality pair of in-ear headphones.  The included headphones are surprisingly decent, but if you want great sound spend $100 or more on some quality headphones.  The nice thing is they don’t have to be iPod specific.  Thankfully, Apple used a standard 3.5mm jack for headphones.

Help

There are a plethora of help sites including our own Aximsite, to get you up and running with your iPod.  Especially helpful are those posts that show how to convert video for your iPod.  In addition, another great site is iLounge.  They offer non-biased reviews on nearly everything iPod, and they are loaded with useful tutorials as well.   When you go ipod, you are not on an island.

Conclusion

The iPod Classic 80 GB is surprisingly small, yet robust.   This picture illustrates the size well:

Fasciax

When I had the Sansa View, I found myself becoming an expert in fields I had no interest in, specifically MSC v. MTP modes, just so I could load music.  It shouldn’t take hours of research to use an mp3 player, and with the iPod everything is quite intuitive.  Further, although the View is a flash player, it is not much smaller than the iPod at 4.3″ x 1.95″ x .4 versus the iPod’s 4.1 x 2.4 x .41.  The difference between the two is less than a half inch in width.  Heck, the iPod is even shorter!

All the functions work as advertised, if not better.  It has excellent battery life, huge capacity and ease of use.  It does what it sets out to do.  In fact, it is so well thought out that competitors constantly try to emulate its features.  The Zune 80 GB and its flash based brothers merely attempt to equal the features of the iPods, but fall short in terms of usability and size.  Other companies try to mimic the Touch features, but fall short as well.  Apple is an innovator and clearly its competitors are just trying to keep up.

Don’t spin your wheels.  If you are looking for an mp3 player, Apple has one for your needs.

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December 20, 2007 - Posted by | Apple

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