Apple iPod Nano Review (2010) 
Home Theater Audio Sources MP3 Players
Written by Mike Flacy   
Thursday, 09 September 2010

Since 2005, the iPod Nano has been the mid range portable audio player for Apple.  It’s always been targeted at consumers looking for more control and versatility over the Shuffle, but with increased portability over the iPod Touch.  Over the last five years, its classic design has included a full color screen and a click wheel to navigate through songs.  Apple went in a completely different direction with the release of the new Nano; ditching the click wheel and opting for a small touchscreen instead.

It looks radically different than previous models, closer to a Shuffle in size.  This is a player that could easily get lost if you aren’t keeping up with it.  It’s also more appropriate for people into fitness or simply want to attach it to their clothing for their daily commute.   The player is about .35” thin and measures just 1.5” in length and width.  It also weighs nearly half of what the previous model weighed.

iPod Nano Angled View

The majority of the audio player is a 240 by 240 resolution LCD screen that has 220 pixels per inch (covered in glass).  It feels just as bright as the new iPod Touch display, just in a tighter package.   If you have ever used an iPhone, you will notice how responsive the touchscreen can be.  It’s incredibly simple to flick through the screens and the animation is superbly fluid.  Along the sides of the casing, you will find volume buttons as well as a button to turn the screen off, basically into a sleep mode.   There’s also the headphones jack and the 30-pin dock post for Apple’s proprietary connection cord.

Volume buttons on the side of the player are really fantastic compared to the previous Nano.  Having direct tactile feedback buttons beats altering the volume with the click wheel after unlocking the player.  There are some actions that are more time consuming though, namely having to look at the screen to change the song rather than moving a click wheel.  Also, the menu can be confusing for people how have been used to several generations of the Nano.   There’s no Home button obviously and getting back to the main screen requires a couple screen swipes with the finger.

Features:

The core functionality of the Nano is a music player, ideal for all your lossless format tunes.  It comes with a built in FM radio that has the ability to pause / rewind up to 15 minutes of a live broadcast and you can use the same genius mixes that you create in iTunes.  You can also use it to listen to your daily podcasts or audio books as well.  There’s also a built in clock (likely to spawn wristband cases to emulate a wristwatch), stopwatch, voice recorder, the aforementioned pedometer and a photo gallery function for browsing photos.  I really don’t see the point in browsing photos on such a tiny screen when there are plenty of mobile devices around, but Apple thought it was important enough to include.  The Nano sports a 24 hour battery life for audio and that mark definitely held up.  I didn’t charge it for a few days and it always seems to have battery life.

Top View


Interestingly, Apply removed tons of features that were building up over the years, specifically the ability to play / record video.  I can see why the form factor of the device is too small to include a camera, but it seems ridiculous that the Nano doesn’t come with the native ability to play video.  Granted, the screen would be tiny to watch video on, but they invested lots of time / manpower in adding video functions to the Nano in previous years. Other features that didn’t make the cut were gaming support (likely due to the tiny screen), the alarm clock, calendar, contacts and notes.  I never used many of those latter features on the old Nano as their usefulness was limited at best.


Performance:

I took the Nano out on a couple 5 mile runs this week and I’m pretty impressed how I forgot that player was even clipped to my clothing.  I also loved the ability to rotate the screen to a position that was the right side up, regardless of where the player was clipped to my shirt.  The pedometer also came in handy, but I really do prefer the Nike / iPod Sport functionality.  You can also sync the pedometer results to your Nike+ account via iTunes to track the amount of steps you’ve taken during the day.  Shuffling your music by shaking the Nano is also a feature that came in handy while on a run.

I paired with up with a variety of earbuds that we have been testing out recently.  While nearly all the headphones eliminated background hiss, my favorite paired with the Nano were the Ultimate Ears 700 earbuds with the foam expanding, noise reducing covers.  Everything from Louis Armstrong to Weezer came in crystal clear and was extremely well defined.  Pairing the Nano with a different set of headphones / earbuds rather than the included white earbuds really speaks to the poor quality of Apple’s headphones.  Frankly, I’m amazed that those earbuds continue to be packaged with new players, even the higher end players like the iPod Touch and iPhone.  It’s the equivalent of purchasing a HDTV and smearing grease all over the screen before watching a movie.

Album Cover

I vastly prefer the menu interface over the previous Nano, likely because I’ve become so used to the touchscreen interface already on my iPhone.  It also feels like I can get to my music faster than the old Nano.  I also love the customization options on the screen.  I‘ve replaced a home screen icons with my favorite podcast.  It’s nice to have something useful on the screen rather than something I rarely use, like the genius feature.  Altering their position is identical to the other iOS devices, simply hold your finger down on the icon and it will start to wiggle.  Once in “Wiggle mode”, you can slide the icons to different screens on the Nano.

Conclusion:

The new iPod Nano is a solid choice for anyone that’s looking for a step up from the Shuffle, but not quite to the feature heavy, more expensive iPod Touch.  The menu interface is more streamlined than the previous model and it’s definitely a better player for music on the go as well as during exercising.  Some previous Nano lovers may bemoan the lack of video or gaming functionality, but will be delighted with the smaller size and quick touchscreen interface.  I recommend pairing the new Nano with a much higher quality pair of earbuds to get the best quality of sound out of the player.  The iPod Nano comes in 7 different colors (red, silver, blue, green, pink, gray and yellow) and is priced at $149.99 for the 8GB and $179.99 for the 16GB.





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