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Old Nov 9, 2004, 11:07 AM   #1
johnnyjibbs
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Mac user of one year finally gets an iPod: review of 4G 20GB iPod

As some of you will know, I switched to Macs last year with the purchase of my 12" PowerBook. Now I've finally got myself an iPod. It's a regular 4G iPod which was purchased before the iPod Photo was introduced, but I'm not bitter because I could never afford one of those beauties anyway.

Apart from a creaky old tape walkman that I had 10 years ago and hardly ever used, this is my first portable music player. I never really got with the whole MP3 thing until I decided to import all my music onto iTunes when I got my first Mac last year. I'm very pleased with the AAC format and now regular buy music from the iTunes Music Store too.

Now, my brother got a 3G 20GB iPod last year but I confess I never really spent much time with it (probably because I was too excited about my Mac and knew that I'd only want one for myself if I used it!). And now, in a sort of reciprocal promotion agreement with my brother (which this time sees him getting an iBook: my first person switched ), I finally got my iPod.

Packaging
Good old Apple quality with lovely tilting box approach. The box is essentially the same as my brother's 3G iPod box, other than it now has the brightly coloured shilouetted images of that iPod ad campaign all over the outer sleeve. Nice, and instantly recognisable as iPod.

Contents
Ok, so I knew that I wouldn't be getting the dock with my model, but, as far as I know, the inclusion of the dock is the only difference between the 20 and 40GB models (other than the obvious price, capacity and slight size differences). It's a bit disappointing that I have to pay 30 to get the remote that came with my brother's 3G version. Mine now includes a USB cable as well as a FireWire one, which is good for the PC users I suppose. There is no 4-6pin FireWire adaptor or little plastic clip to protect the dock connector port any more though. And the lack of any basic case is near criminal. I guess these are some cost-cutting measures and I guess I shouldn't complain that this iPod was a lot cheaper than my brother's 3G 20GB model last year.

First impressions
It always surprises me how small the iPod is when you see it. The 4G model looks neater than the older model in my opinion, with a clean easy-access wheel instead of the four button line arrangement. The screen also looks a lot nicer and sharper than shots shown on the Apple iPod website.

Setting up
Since all my music is already on my Mac, filling the iPod up was simple - just plug in using the FireWire cable and it all automatically syncs (after product registration). iSync was a breeze too - and I have never had to use this program until now. Once it was ready, I just had to eject the iPod and then plug in the headphones.

Using the iPod
Well, I can say that I have never heard such a good sound out of any headphones ever, especially little in-ear types. All my music is encoded in 128kbps AAC and it sounds immaculate. I won't ever bother with Apple Lossless. So, the sound is brilliant and the controls are very easy too. The menus are easy to navigate, but it would be nice if the LCD display had a slightly better response time - scrolling menus causes a slight shimmering effect, but it's nothing really to worry about. Also, with a mass of artists and songs like I have got, it can become quite tiresome when you have to scroll your thumb through about 200 rotations to navigate huge lists.

I noticed that occassionally there are small pauses when you try to skip through lots of songs quickly, but I'll just put this down to technological limitations as it has to access the hard drive. It's not a problem. What is a bit annoying though is the slight pause between tracks which is not great on albums that are designed to flow continuously. The iTunes crossfade option is not available on the iPod, or I have yet to find it.

The extra options, such as calender and contacts, are useful, although you can only view all your data. Maybe, they could release a little mini keyboard add-on that would allow you to type your own notes. (I could see it now: "World's first novel written on an iPod"). I tried out the notes feature by converting my CV into a text file and placing it on there to view. It's good, other than the fact it seems to get chopped off (i.e. iPod can only view the first so many words of a file). The games are ok, but unlikely to rival my GameBoy Color. The Music Quiz is a nice little option though.

Verdict
Overall, I'm very pleased with the iPod and can begin to see why it's so popular. Put simply, it works. It plays music very very well, and this is important because it's the main purpose of the device. It's easy to use and battery life is pretty good. I'm still on my first charge. I've had none of those problems I've heard about - no crashes and no interference or static noises. The best thing about the iPod is that is does exactly what it says it's supposed to do, and in a neat, stylish and small package. Nice.
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