Why iHate the iPod Nano... or not.

, posted: 5-Oct-2007 18:36

I've said before that I don't like the iPod nano. About how I don't like the proportions, about how I don't like its tubbyness, about how I don't like the colours, the UI and its general look.


But I think I've changed my mind. I saw the new Nano in person at Noel Leeming the other day and it's honestly not that bad.

Firstly, I still don't like the Nano's proportions. I still think that there's something a little bit off there, but it's certainly not as bad as Apple's PR shots make it look.

And I still don't like the colours. The new colours seem too muted (the second generation Nano's were too bright and saturated, on the other hand). I think that some kind of halfway point between the new over-muted colours and the old over-saturated colours would be nice.

But, I do kind of like the new split-screen UI (user interface). I think it's a very nifty idea, and for someone who cares about album art or who bothers with it (I don't, because alot of my stuff doesn't have the album art and I think I'd rather have the precious few megabytes that album art would use for podcasts or something) the whole split-screen, see the menu on one half and something pretty on the other is quite nice.

Still on the topic of the new UI, it's extremely laggy. The difference in speed between my first gen Nano and the new Nanos is astounding. It takes an extra second or so to get from the main menu to playing a song. 4 seconds or so for the original and about 6 for the new (if you wait for all the glitzy animation to finish). Just mashing the center button like I normally do is pretty much the same.

The new Nano does have one great new feature: video. The Nano now plays video, and while it's not as gorgeous as the iPod Touch's video supposedly is, I've heard that it's pretty good. I can see watching such a small screen for so long perhaps hurting your eyes, but the resolution and PPI seems all good to me. I think that this is the Nano's one major convincing feature, and if I get a Nano, this is the one thing that will sway me to yes (I think it almost outweighs all the negatives).

Unfortunately, Apple's been experiencing growing pains recently. The booming success of the iPod and the ever-climbing market share of the Mac platform has put Apple's manufacturing into overdrive. This means that quality control has slipped a little - overheating MacBooks and MacBook Pros, for example. And the new Nano is sadly no exception: pictures and reports show that the new Nano's screen is slightly tilted in a counter-clockwise direction, meaning that the top-right corner of the screen doesn't sit in the correct place and is slightly tilted.

There is also an unsightly black border surrounding the screen that emphasises the screen issue, and makes my OCD go crazy (it's not the same thickness all around, and it shouldn't even be there).

So, a few weeks on I'm feeling a lot more psitive with regards to the iPod Nano. While I still don't think it's perfect, my earlier criticism was somewhat unjustified.

The new iPod Nano has some refinements to make before it becomes perfect hardware-wise and a couple of software/firmware updates before it becomes perfect UI-wise, but it's an excellent player with fantastic specs with a pretty good price (which suffers from the typical 'New Zealand tax', where we pay more than we should).

Although I only looked at a demo unit, inside a store, I still had a decent 15 minutes with the iPod Nano. Overall, I think the new Nano deserves 7 out of 10, maybe 7 1/2.

The Good
Plays video
Very small, light and thin
Fantastic screen
Very well-constructed, solid and durable

The Bad
Over-muted, strange colours
Some UI bugs and laggyness
Form factor a tad weird
iPod-style metal back will mark, scratch and scuff badly and quickly

The Bottom Line
An excellent, small, video-capable personal media player. A great buy, despite a few oddities and imperfections.


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Anthony Harris