Apple iPod Nano


4 Oct 2005

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Product: Portable music player
Price: €209/€259
Right, let’s get the size issue out of the way early: Apple’s new iPod Nano really is that small. The out-of-box experience for this music player, in a word, is awe. Unwrapping the package and seeing this tiny thing nestled in its cardboard home, I had to do a double-take. Even the advertising billboards don’t fully do justice to how small the Nano is. (For the record, it’s 3.5×1.6×0.27 inches and weighs … how light is a feather, anyway?)

But it’s still recognisably an iPod. The only obvious change on first inspection is that the telltale white headphones plug in to the bottom of the unit rather than the top. The dock is the same, so that many other iPod accessories work fine with the Nano.

The clickwheel (yes, it’s smaller) is easy to master for anyone used to the iPod and only marginally less so for those who aren’t. Apple has made the Nano’s clickwheel more tactile and it shows.

Sound quality is very good, both through the earphones and when tested through a car speaker system. Song transfer is a breeze; it took just four minutes to transfer some 280 songs on to the Nano from a pre-prepared iTunes library. Our test model was the 4GB Nano, which holds 1,000 songs and retails at €259 incl Vat; there’s also a 2GB 500-song version for €209 incl Vat. Both come in black or white.

Apple says the Nano’s battery lasts for 14 hours between charges; I tested this and the claim holds up – provided the player’s set to permanent shuffle. Clicking between songs or viewing photos runs down the battery quicker.

The colour screen is compact and brighter than many mobile phones; the picture’s sharp and clear for text or images. Of course, we can’t mention the screen without referring to the recent consumer backlash because the display’s apparently prone to scratching. Now, as near as I can tell, the Nano’s screen is exactly the same as the Mini or the standard iPod.

Maybe the Nano’s size makes it even more likely to be dropped unthinkingly into a trouser pocket: do that and the chances of getting dust clogged behind the screen or picking up scratches from keys and coins are definitely higher. My advice is, avoid the temptation to put it in a pocket and forget about it – invest in a belt clip, a jogger armband or a lanyard.

Apple has taken the unusual step of discontinuing the iPod Mini in favour of the Nano, making the model I own a bit of a dinosaur. But I’m forced to admit that next to the Nano my own Mini – which is not unattractive – looks almost ugly.

I also think the Nano’s want-me factor will outshine concerns about screens. Take good care of it and it will be the subject of oohs and ahs from jealous friends and colleagues for some time to come.

By Gordon Smith