Apple iPod review
Originally posted on June
A Pocketfull of Tunes!
Years from now, the talksshows will lament about the fall of
the local record stores like the stories of the dust bowls of
the 1930s... all because bi-ped's like you and me carried around
an iPod. Ahhh... progress!
This is NOT the iPod Classic,
but the new, slimmer, sexier, 2.0 version of the Apple iPod sporting
more goodies like USB 2.0 support, Microsoft Windows compatibility,
a lighter smaller case, and a host of other stuff. It's really
a well thought out and designed piece of hardware.
Here are some highlights:
Larger capacity - There new iPods come in 10, 15 and
30 gigabyte models. That's 2500 for the 10GB, 3700 for the 15GB
and DJ love for the 30GB model which can hold up to 7500 tunes!
Momma Mia! The old ones are 5, 10 and 20.
Dock - These new iPods sport a cool little (artificially
weighted) docking port. Great for hooking up to a powered speaker
set. It'll also charge while it's downloading or playing songs.
Solid state buttons - All it takes is a very lite touch.
For you guitar players out there with calliouses on your fingers,
you'll need to use your pinky my freind tells me. Look ma! No
parts! That's right. No switches behind these buttons. Really
high tech here kids.
Backlighting - Press any key but the touch wheel
to turn it on. To turn off, press and hold the Play button.
Lighter and thinner form factor - At 5.6oz for the 10 and 15GB, this
is just about right. They are also the smallest in the bunch
at .62 inches thick. The 30GB model is 6.2oz and about .73 inches
AAC decoding - These new Ipod support AAC decoding.
Like MP3 in a way, but much better sound quality according to
the experts of sound. Here's a link
on Apple's site that explains in a bit more detail...
On-The-Go playlists - On the fly playlists are just a few
clicks away. Just highlight a playlist, song then press and hold
the Select button (in the middle of the touch wheel) to add that
to the On-The-Go playlist. Neat feature.
Alarm clock with games - Need a travel alarm? The new iPod
can be set to turn on to your favorite Playlist, and if you need
to waste time on the next flight you have three new games, Solitaire,
Brick and Parachute.
The iPod is basically a little
hard drive that stores your songs and/or data for later playback
thru headphones or a powered speaker set. The sound quality isn't
a Bose Acoustimass
system, but for us commoners it's pretty darn good. It's primarily
a MP3 player but the little iPod can be a storage device for
documents, pictures or whatever else you want to move around
from computer to computer.
For you techno's out there, this
iPod houses a Toshiba 1.8 inch hard drive. When it plays music,
it turns on the hard drive and copies/caches a few songs (up
to 20mb i think) into it's memory cache chip from the hard drive
giving you the music lover, an unencumbered listening experience.
Setting It Up
I had a difficult time getting the iPod to talk to my Sony Vaio
(PCG-GRV680) laptop using
the Apple installation CD. The manual isn't very helpful. I loaded
the Apple software CD which installs the iPod Manager software,
then it loaded MusicMatch Jukebox software. MusicMatch is the
software Apple selected for PC users to use for synching your
songs to and from the PC and the iPod. On the Mac, you'll use
iTunes... Apple doesn't give you a list of other software companies
that provide software for the Mac like Microsoft does... [jump
I don't like MusicMatch. I use
Windows Media Player for all my audio and video playing and I
didn't want to re-learn a new player. I did mess around with
MM for a night at home, but it takes to long to load, and the
interface isn't very intuitive. MM also reset all my audio file
associations and that didn't sit well with me. I don't have the
time to invest so hey MusicMatch, if you want to call me and
setup a training seminar for me, I'll buy lunch! My phone number
So, right now there is no way
to use WMP to work directly with the iPod. There are some rumors
that Apple is getting ready to release iTunes for Windows in
early 2004. I hope Apple does this because I think iTunes and
WMP v9 are neck and neck when it comes to functionality. I use
iTunes on my G4 at home and I think it's a class A product thou
I think it could steal some of the features of WMP to round it
off. Here's a story on PC World's website about the new iTunes
for Windows >>> http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,111168,00.asp
The iPod Manager software loaded
okay, but I just couldn't get the iPod to link to my Windows
XP Pro machine. (I figured this out later...
see notes below...) I have the 4 pin firewire connector on
my Sony PCG-GRV680 laptop, required by Apple to link the iPod
up to my Vaio and it found the iPod okay but it kept wanting
me to do an update everytime I unplugged and then replugged the
firewire cord to my computer. It was very confusing. The same
thing happened when I took the iPod back to the office and connected
it to my PC tower with a 4 port 6 pin firewire card from Adaptec.
I know this firewire card works fine because I've connected other
firewire devices to it and have had no problems. So, I did a
Restore using the iPod Manager which erases everything on the
iPod and still didn't work. I was ready to head back to the store
to get another iPod and thought I would do a soft reset... you
perform a soft reset by holding down the MENU and Play/Pause
keys until you see the Apple logo. That did the trick. The iPod
was now working as I think Apple intended it... man... what a
hassle that was.
So does that put me? No iTunes
for my PC yet (drat) so I thought I'd do a search on the net
to see if their wasn't anything else I could use. I found XPlay by
MediaFour at MediaFour.com.
XPlay has a trial version you can download right here to try
for nothing. I did and it works just fine. I was dragg'in and
dropp'in like a madman. Before I knew it I had 1500 songs on
my little iPod. Nice! Thanks MediaFour. Nice interface and menus.
Mikey likes it.
Okay, now the Apple version of
the above diatribe... I took the iPod over to my Apple G4 tower
(at home) and loaded up the Apple iPod CD. In a few short minutes
I was synching songs back and forth. Apple obviously wants people
"to think" that it's harder to use the PC than the
Apple right? Yeah, right...
Something I didn't like about
MusicMatch and the iTunes (on the Mac) was it assumes that you
want to sync ALL your music files to and from your Mac/PC and
the iPod. I think most people wouldn't. Like me I don't ALL my
songs on the PC to sync over to my iPod.
Once you have the software loaded and you start using your iPod,
the world opens up to you. You can listen to music, audio books,
recorded radio talk shows just about anything that's recorded.
It's obvious to use. My iPod
came charged with 1 bar out of 4 showing, so I thought I would
play around with it. I pulled off all the stickers (one right
on the front says, DON'T STEAL MUSIC. Wow, before I even start
using it, I'm a thief. Thanks Steve'o). I hit the Menu button
and the Apple logo shows up. After a second or two there's the
menu. I start playing around with buttons and I'm a expert in
about 2 minutes. Nice. Way to go Apple.
The iPod stores all your files
(songs) on a little hard drive (a very little Toshiba 1.8 inch
hard drive). When you power up the iPod it waits for you to select
a Playlist or a song from the Browse menus. When you do, is turns
on the little hard drive and starts coping the songs to a memory
chip. The memory chip is about 20mb so thats about 5 songs/files.
When it fills up the cache memory chip, it turns off the hard
drive, parks the heads and saves battery power. The iPod then
starts to play the songs from the cache memory.
This is a smart design. By caching
the files this way, two major things are achieved.
it saves precious battery power. By coping the songs from the
hard drive to the cache memory chip and playing the songs from
there, it save lots of battery power because hard drives are
little mechanical power hungry monsters, even when they are this
small. If the hard drive was always in motion, the battery would
go down quicker than the gas gauge in a 1971 Plymouth Roadrunner
when you floored it...
if the hard drive were to remain in motion at all times, there
is a greater risk of damage to the unit. I don't know if you've
ever seen the inside of a hard drive, but imagine it like a very
tiny old style record player. There's a record (hard drive platter)
near the middle of the case and a needle that rides on the record
to play the songs. Remember in the old days kids (you 20 somethings
can skip this) when you had to walk a bit more softly to avoid
the record from skipping when you were walking a little too near
the record player? Well, you can do the same thing to a hard
drive. By turning the hard drive in the iPod on then off in this
way, it saves not only battery power but the drive itself from.
There might be a small bug you need to know about; the iPod
has a 32mb memory chip inside that it plays your songs from.
Lets say you have a audio book or large music file and it's about
50mb. The iPod will cache 32 megs of the file and then make the
hard drive run continuously draining your battery at a much higher
rate because the file doesn't fit onto the memory cache chip
completely. You'll be lucky to finish half the book before your
battery dies. Apple needs to figure this one out because I know
there are a lot of book people that will be a little disappointed.
iPod oddity: re-charging when the batteries get low. Apple says,
you need to use the 6 pin firewire cable (supplied) connected
to a running computer for the charging to take place. You must
leave the computer (Apple or PC) running for the duration of
the charge. Enviro's aren't gonna like that... leave a power
hungry Apple G4 running all night just to charge the little iPod...
don't forget to turn off the sleep timer on your G4 like I did
or you'll wake in the morning only to find that your little iPod
is still hungry like a little bird with it's mouth open for more...
The iPod won't charge from a PC or Mac that isn't turned on.
The other option is to simply
plug in the travel/wall charger (supplied) to a outlet. That's
what I do.
you're wondering, HP/Compaq
iPaq handheld PDAs, which can also be used as MP3 players
have a smarter technique for charging and synching data. They
use a separate USB & AC adapter cable for synching and charging.
This way when you want to travel, you just unplug the separate
AC Adapter and off you go. HP/Compaq also sell a cable that charges
and syncs like the Apple iPod setup. This setup also enables
you to charge the ipaq when the PC is off and this is something
Apple should adopt.
almost forgot, you can't use the little converter that changes
a 6 pin firewire connection to a 4 pin connector for charging.
The extra two wires in the 6 pin are for power (duh). My Sony
Vaio laptop has one of these 4 pin connectors. Good for synching,
no good for charging... bummer.
Battery usage; Apple's website
says you'll get 8 hours of use out the iPod. You might disagree
with this the first two times you charge it. My experience is
that it took 2 cycles of use and recharging before I saw 8 hours
of battery life out of my iPod.
Anything that uses a rechargeable
battery loses its ability to hold a charge over time. My experience
with my cellphones, Blackberry and other devices suggest that
you'll be calling Apple for suggestions in about a year. I hope
I'm wrong about this.
Long term battery warning; anyone
who has a cell phone will tell you that over time the rechargeable
battery eventually goes bad. The iPod isn't immune this. Mention
that to the salesman at the Apple store. Hopefully if enough
people repeat it, it might filter up the channels, maybe even
You'll will be happy to know
that the guys over at PDASmart.com link to a product
that was made for the older iPod, a battery upgrade. Before you
send me an email to ask, Apple's stand on fixing your battery
when it does fail to hold a charge is, they want you to buy or
trade in for a new iPod... man... I guess Apple thinks we are
all just rolling in money. Don't worry, I'm sure there will be
a small industry out there offering third party upgrades to keep
your iPod battery going.
Okay, all the negatives aside,
the iPod is really really cool and easy to use device. Most especially
if you have a Apple computer. I found the buttons a little too
easy to accidentally touch, making it turn on the iPod or pausing
a song when you didnt intend it to happen. The remedy for this
is to make sure you use the Hold Switch religiously. You'll be
better for it.
I have had my little iPod crash a few times. What I mean is,
I'll pick it up and try to navigate the menu list to browse for
a Playlist and it just sits there. It did turn on when I touch
one of the menu buttons or the touch wheel but after that, it
didn't do anything. So, I have to do a two-fingered salute to
reset it by performing the Press and hold of the MENU+Play/Pause
keys... Apple guys love to harass PC guys about Windows always
locking up and having to perform a three-fingered salute, lemme
tell ya, my Macs have always locked up as much as my PCs.
Dropping the iPod
Ouch! I must report that dropping the iPod isn't recommended.
While exercising on my True
400HRC treadmill, I accidentally pull on the headphone wire
giving my iPod a sudden burst of momentum directly back onto
the floor. It must have traveled about 6 feet at about 20 mile
per hour. Crap! I yelled. I picked it up expecting to see a cracked
screen or worse and I was amazed that there was nothing wrong
at all! One hell of a trooper in my opinion. I don't recommend
testing yours to see if it can withstand an idiot misusing it
in this way. I had mine sitting one of the pockets on the dash
of the treadmill when I should have had it in the carrying case
that came with the iPod.
The BEST MP3 player out there bar none. No kidding.
Charging and battery life over the long term.
The manual could be a bit better. Hey Steve, why not be one jump
ahead and next time include a cool DVD movie instructional like
for my Audi.
It isn't. One nicely
done piece of hardware.
I think Apple will sell millions of these in spite of the hefty
price. It's the best MP3 player out there. There a few bugs that
can be worked out without a lot of fuss, but all things electronic
and computer related do these days.
06.25.03 - Called Apple tech support to validate
some of the information in our review above but the tech support
person was just a humanHyperLink. All he would do is say, go
to this site... https://depot.info.apple.com/ipod... At $49 per
incident, that's one expensive hyperlink! Nothing hyper about
06.17.03 - I figured out what my problem was
to get my iPod to see the PC... you have to format the iPod using
the iPod software util that came on the CD using the iPod utility
for the PC. The iPod comes from Apple formatted for use on a
Apple computer, not a PC. That's why I was getting a error. Here's
what you do; you load the iPod utility on the CD for the PC,
then you need to perform a Restore on the iPod to initialize
it. That makes it PC compatible (I know, nice thinking Apple.
Thanks for telling us.). It's like they went out of their way
to make it SEEM difficult to use it with a PC, making the Apple
version of the software seem seamless...