Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Full iPod Review

I've now owned my iPod (4th generation, 20Gb) for a few months, and think it's time to give my personal opinion on this device. This might be of use to people looking for a review that they know is not from an Apple employee (I would say a review that is reputable, but that would mean I was reputable) - I know personally that my decision to buy the iTrip radio transmitter for the iPod was influenced by Matt's posts regarding it.

First off are the good points: The sound quality when using earphones (my own, not the white iPod ones - I prefer anti-theft over style) is high quality. Using the ClickWheel to speed through all my artists is very quick, if a little tricky for fast access to the J-T range (the speed of cycling increases over time, so you often fly past this section and end up at the end before you know it, unless you go slow or use short, sharp bursts).

Carrying 4568 songs in your pocket is undeniably fantastic - during my first 2 years of uni I would listen to my MD walkman going to and from uni, and in the second 2 years at any time I was walking around on my own for a while (like in town). Before leaving my flat I would stare at my MD collection for a while, then decide what to listen to based on my mood and predicted background noise (slow songs don't work well on the SPT's Underground).

Now I can sidestep the choice stage with the Shuffle Songs option, which is almost guaranteed to please since the song range is my personal collection (I say almost please because I still need to do clean out some poorer songs). Once a song comes on that catches my ear I can choose to listen to the album its from, or all songs from the artist on random.

As a Music Management System, iTunes is very easy to use. After 2 hours with it I had effectively dropped Windows Media Player and Winamp as my players of choice. The search facility in iTunes (which I am reliably informed is based on the search system in Mac OS-X) is impressively quick and more usable than the browse facility (where you're given a list of all artists and albums). Even the built-in visualisation is impressive.

Apple deserve high praise for integrating CD ripping into iTunes, and equally high levels of scorn for not allowing you to take songs back off the iPod. When I first learned this restriction I began burning CDs of MP3s as a backup of my iPod should anything happen to it (which it almost did - see below). I continued this until I realised the number of CDs I'd need for a full backup, the time it would take and the fact that I wouldn't be able to find the album I wanted amongst the CDs with any ease.

I am nearing my iPod's full capacity, and wish I had sprung for the 40Gb version (which I wouldn't fill, but would be more likely to deal with the amount of music I buy).

I am still curious to know the algorithm used to randomise the songs on the iPod. I initially assumed that it was genuine randomness, but it seems to have certain songs that are very often chosen for early play. Also, the randomiser seems to favour newly-added songs over older, frequently played songs.

One of the most annoying quirks of the iPod is that the Clicker option (which causes the iPod to emit a click whenever you scroll between options) setting is forgotten whenever the iPod is reset. This is the only setting I have found that is reset - my equaliser preset and other options all survive a reset. Clicker was one of the first things I disabled on the iPod, as it holds almost no use at all and is simply annoying. If only I didn't have to specify this every other day!

Regarding the settings on the iPod, I still feel that the ability to upload your own equaliser presets would be useful. I am currenty using the Rock setting, which is close to what I want as I can get, but still makes vocals too loud compared to bass and treble. iTunes lets you fix this easily, but the iPod's own presets for use outwith iTunes are fixed.

With winter closing in, the days are darker and I find myself trying to use the iPod in my car with low light. A nice feature would be a Backlight button to quickly switch this on or off without using the menus that you can't see if the light is off!

Now that I drive to uni every day, I have to use iTrip to listen to music in the mornings (my ma's car only has a CD player, so my tape-walkman converter is no longer any use to me). The iTrip sound quality is very good (not as full as straight-from-CD in the car, but still good), except when I reach the Lang Stracht where suddenly gear changes, drumming a beat on the steering wheel or even the position of my arm are all causes of interference in the signal. If only the hissing was more like a heavy snare drum hit - I could remix 70's songs into industrial versions in the comfort of my car!

And now the stinger - the iPod's battery life is not as strong as I'd like it to be. I've had portable music players with battery life measured in days, not hours. Last weekend I played the iPod+iTrip at 3/4 volume from Glasgow to Aberdeen, starting with a full battery. Once I got to Aberdeen, the battery was down to about 10%.

After this I considered buying an adapter to allow the iPod to charge from my car's cigarrette lighter, but since the Gla-Abz trip is as far as I ever travel, I doubt I'll need it. It is just annoying that I have to get into a habit of charging it every night.


Blogger Matt said...

Re the backlight, can't you hold the Menu button for a few moments to toggle the backlight? Works on my 3G 20Gb here.

10:42 am  

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