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My 5G iPod review

I received my fifth-generation or “video-enabled” iPod on November 11, 2005 and I have made a review. I’m going to post the pictures I’ve taken soon. Without further ado, here’s my review.

Brief history of the iPod

Apple introduced the first-generation iPod on October 2001 and started selling it a month after. But it did not sell very well since this was right after September 11, 2001, and people had other things on their minds then. It was not until the release of the third-generation iPod on May 2003 that Apple started selling iPods by the millions. One of the things that probably made the third-generation iPod become a top-seller was that it was the first iPod that worked on both Macs and Windows. Back then the iPods had monochrome screens.

On 2004, Apple released the iPod mini on January, the fourth-generation (4G) iPod on July, and the iPod U2 and iPod photo on October. At around this time, 6 million iPods have been sold since it was first introduced, and Apple controlled around 80% of the harddisk drive music player market. Apple then decided to take on the flash-based player market. So on January 2005, the iPod shuffle was introduced, and by May 2005, Apple had 58% of the flash player market. The 4G iPod with the black and white screen was soon discontinued and is replaced by the iPod photo which later becomes the coloured 4G iPod.

Then on September 2005, Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, announced that the “most popular iPod”, the iPod mini, was going to be discontinued. He then whips out the smallest iPod with a coloured screen, the iPod nano. It is sold in 2GB and 4GB capacities and came in white and black. The black 4GB iPod nano proved to popular choice. Black became the new white, and the nano were soon in short supply. The supply could barely keep up with the demand.

The iPod nano, as the name implies, is small. It is thinner than a number 2 pencil. Pictures of the nano do not do it justice. Looking at it won’t help either. You have to hold it in your hand to appreciate how small and how light it is.

In just about five weeks after the release of the nano, Steve Jobs again had another special event entitled “One More Thing,” a reference to Jobs’ popular phrase for a special announcement at the end of his keynote speeches. He announced that 17 days after the iPod nano was shipped, one million units have been sold. Steve Jobs’ “one more thing” turned out to be the fifth-generation (5G) iPod.

Preview of the 5G iPod

The fifth-generation, or 5G, iPod comes in two capacities: 30 gigabytes (GB) and 60GB, and like the iPod nano, the 5G iPod comes in white and black. The 30GB version measures 10.4 x 6.1 x 1.1 centimeters and weighs 36 grams. To help imagine how thick the 30GB 5G iPod is, stack six one peso coins on top of each other. The height of that stack is the thickness of the 30GB 5G iPod. The 60GB version has the same dimensions except it is thicker by 0.3 cm and heavier by 20 grams. But compared to the first-generation iPod, the 30GB 5G is 45% smaller, and the 60GB version is 10% smaller as compared to the 4G 20GB iPod. But the 5G iPod boasts more improvements other than being thinner and lighter. Even at first glance, there’s something definitely different when compared to previous iPod models: it has a bigger screen.

The screen size measures 2.5 inches diagonally, displays up 65,536 colors, and has a 320 x 240 pixel resolution. And what did Apple have in mind for an iPod with a bigger screen? To play videos, of course. Now, some people are calling the new iPod as the ‘video iPod’ or ‘viPod.’ But Apple calls it as the ‘video-enabled iPod.’ It may not seem much but it is a very important distinction. The 5G iPod is not a digital video playing device but rather, Apple still markets it as a portable digital music player but one that can play videos.

Another improvement is battery life. The 30GB version can play music for up to 14 hours, and the 60GB, 20 hours. But when used to play videos, Apple says that the 30GB can play for up to 2 hours, while the 60GB can play up to 3 hours. Rather dismal but you have to remember that this iPod was not meant for watching full length movies. You’re really going to get an eye-strain and a big headache to match if you do this. Rather, the latest iPod is to play short videos like music videos, short films, and TV shows. I’ll go more into that later.

I own an iPod mini and an iPod shuffle but I have never owned or used the original iPod before. In a way, this will be a new users review for the 5G iPod.

My review

The box is as aesthetically pleasing to look at as the iPod itself. It has a matte black finish with a picture of the black iPod on both the front and back. The color of the iPods on the box is the same as the one inside the package. On the screens of the pictures of the iPod are U2’s Bono is on one side and the Gorillaz on the other. The size of the iPod boxes have shrunk since Apple decided not to include a charger and a Firewire cable in the package. The size of the box is about one-third the size of the box of the first-generation iPod mini.

Inside, aside from the 5G iPod, the box includes earphones, an USB 2.0 cable to be used for charging and syncing, a dock connector, a neoprene case (I’ll get to this later on why Apple are including these with the iPod), a set of manuals, and an installation CD. You have to install the iTunes software from the CD before using the iPod.

It is advisable to initally charge the iPod for 4 hours on first use. You charge the iPod by plugging it into an USB 2.0 port of your computer. I am not sure if the iPod will charge when plugged into a USB 1.1 port but it will not charge when plugged into a USB hub. You can buy an iPod USB Power Adapter if you want to be able to charge without a PC.

The top of the iPod shows the headphone jack and the hold switch. The dock connector is at the bottom, used for syncing and charging, and in connecting to peripherals. At the front are the bigger 2.5-inch screen and the Apple Click Wheel.

The 5G iPod has the same, easy-to-use menu system that all the other iPods with screens use. You can customize the main menu to display whichever short cut you want to be shown. Since I’ve only used the iPod mini, I’m used to just seeing just the ‘Music’ menu among other choices on the main menu. But with this one, the choices include ‘Photos’ and ‘Videos’. These, of course, can be removed from the main menu if you wish.

You can choose to whether upload all your music collection into the iPod or manually select the ones the you like. You can create a playlist of your favorite songs in iTunes and it gets uploaded to your iPod automatically. You can make also make an “On the go” playlist on the iPod. Just choose a song or album, press the center button for about 3 seconds and your choice gets added to the “On the go” playlist. With regards to audio quality, I am not an audiophile but the sound coming from the iPod are pretty good. There’s an equilizer with presets like “Acoustic,” “Bass Booster,” “Dance,” and “Rock.” You can also shuffle your collection so it will randomly select through your collection as it is playing. The iPod can also play podcasts and audiobooks.

Other extra features include games, a stopwatch, multiple customizable world clocks, and screen lock that prevents unauthorized access. Games include There’s also a fun feature that shows lyrics to a song while its playing, letting you sing along to your favorite tunes.

Video and photos

The bigger screen allows the user to view more information and see bigger album arts. I’m used to looking into small LCD screens such as the ones on digital cameras or on mobile phones, and the quality or the details on these screens aren’t that good. So I expected the quality of the screen on the 5G iPod to be better. I was blown away. The quality is much, much better. I was pleasantly surprised on how clear and crisp the pictures and photos were, and how much detail I can see. It is so much fun looking at the album art of my songs for the first time on an iPod. I downloaded a music video from iTunes Music Store and was again blown away with how good the video looked. But the quality of the video would depend on the source of the video.

But how do you get video on your iPod? The internet has lots of tutorials and tips. Apple is pushing their Quicktime Pro software to be used for converting video to a format compatible with the 5G iPod. But you have to shell out $29.95 for the software. There are several applications, for Macs and Windows, that are free that will pretty much do the same thing as Quicktime Pro. Not as fast or easy but it still will get you there. People have been converting their DVDs into an iPod-compatible format and loading them up.

Another way to fill up your iPod with videos is to buy them from the iTunes Music Store or iTMS. The iTMS now has over 2,000 music videos, six short clips from Pixar, two shows from Disney, and the top two rated shows in the US,’Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Lost.’ The new TV show, ‘Nightstalker,’ is also available. Last but not the least, you can always opt to download video podcasts from the net, such as Tiki Bar TV, Photoshop TV, and commandN, to name a few.

You can also view photos on the 5G iPod. Thumbnails are used to help you navigate through your collection, and the 2.5-inch screens lets you view 30 thumbnails at a time. You can view a slideshow of your photos by using 11 transition effects.

Issues

An issue has cropped up with the new design Apple has implemented on the 5G iPod and iPod nano. Some are saying that the plastic covering the front of these devices are more prone to scratches than that previous iPods. Apple has been quick to dismiss this and said that it uses the same plastic on the new iPods as they have used on the older ones. Apple has, however, included a neoprene case with every 5G iPod, and just last week, they have started bundling a neoprene case for the iPod nano, too. I suggest that you buy a silicon case or a clear film as additional protection for your iPod.

Recommendation

Some internet reviews are reluctant to recommend the iPod to those who already own the fourth-generation iPod or the iPod photo. They think that the video playing capability is not enough of a draw for existing iPod color owners to get the 5G iPod. But for those who have never owned an iPod or any other digital music playing device before, the latest fifth-generation iPod is highly recommended.

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