GADGETS

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

APPLE IPOD NANO (4GB BLACK)







The Apple iPod Nano is one of the faster players we've used in terms of navigation speed. Generally, MP3 players, especially hard drive-based players, pause for buffering every few songs; it's the norm, even on iPods. Selecting or forwarding through songs or browsing the music library is mostly instantaneous. Photo thumbnails can take a second to load, but again, browsing through photos is quick and painless. Data transfers to the USB 2.0-enabled Nano are swift, at about 5.3MB per second. In general, the sync relationship with iTunes on both the Mac and Windows side has been flawless; our experience with Windows hasn't always been good, but so far, our Nano-iTunes pairing is seamless.

As far as sound is concerned, the Nano gets loud but not overly so when using the included decent-sounding earbuds. The overall sound quality is excellent, with imperceptible hiss, though we've heard a bit better in terms of brightness and bass from the likes of Cowon and Sony. Surprisingly, the iPod's multitude of equalizer settings can make a difference for the positive, whereas we've characterized the EQs as being weak in the past. Reportedly, the Nano uses the same sound chip as the Mini.

It would have been difficult to guess the battery life of the iPod Nano before it was stated by Steve Jobs. It's a flash-based player, so it consumes less power than a hard drive-based model, and we initially figured it was good for 18 hours; it has a color screen, so maybe lower that to 16. Apple rates the iPod Nano for 14 hours, on the lower side for flash-based players, though the iPod Shuffle lasted only 12 hours in CNET Labs' tests. We regularly see flash models with rechargeable cells last into the late teens or early 20s, whereas alkaline-powered players can last more than 40 hours. CNET Labs was able to get 15 hours, 21 minutes in our standard drain test, an unspectacular but solid number. A note about recharging: Out of the box, the Nano charges over USB, and it takes 1.5 hours to charge 80 percent of the battery's capacity or 3 hours for full charge, which is considerably faster than the iPod Shuffle or the standard iPod.

Apple's done it again. By virtue of a sweet design backed by forward-thinking tech (the first 4GB flash player; a photo-friendly color screen), Apple will keep its ball rolling swiftly into the holiday season. The Nano's capacity will turn off many experienced MP3 fans, but we have a feeling that newbies will flock to the next big thing and help maintain Apple's 74 percent U.S. market share for all digital audio players.

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