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Monday, September 15, 2008, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)

Review: Apple's fourth-generation iPod nano


Power action figures

Apple tells users to expect up to 24 hours of music playback or four hours of video playback; we had no problem listening to music for 30 hours. How much you skip songs, how often you turn the backlight (and how brightly), and how loud you have it set to play back music will all obviously have an impact on real world playback times.

As for video playback, the unit lasted through two hour and a half movies and then another hour and 45 minutes, when set to about half brightness. That's again more than Apple promises, but appears to be an hour less than the previous 3G nano, which stated five hours of playback and typically exceeded that by about 45 minutes as well. Being able to watch two full length movies from this tiny device seems pretty exceptional. When playing video games, the battery is taxed significantly harder, and it lasts roughly half as long, a bit over two hours.

Product Review Rundown

With the latest 4G iPod nano, Apple has delivered a more versatile, ultra thin form factor that should appeal to a broader audience than last year's square 3G nano. It has also polished and enhanced the software, with smart accelerometer integration, a slick Cover Flow view, greater accessibility, a handy Genius function, and audio recording features that the company has seemed too hesitant to add to the iPod line until now.

What's missing? Apple didn't set up a way to have uncompressed audio transcoded on the fly to the new iPods, a feature that would have appealed to audiophiles with time to spare. It cut a few corners such as FireWire charging to make the device even smaller and cheaper. And there's no AM radio feature for people who like to listen to angry static. Finally, it delivers less battery life than last year's larger, square nano in video playback, but its more than four hours of video lifespan seems very reasonable; users who want to watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy on a transoceanic flight can bring along an external battery pack.

It's simply hard to find much wrong with the new 4G iPod nano, which might be expected given that Apple has put another year's worth of polish on what was already a pretty cool little device. Anyone in the market for a slim, easy to use MP3 player should be extremely satisfied, particularly when they discover a handful of useful new features and twice the storage capacity at the same price as last year's model.

Rating 4.5 out of 5
4-stars


Pros

Thin and compact, scratch resistant, sturdy construction.

High quality, bright, scratch resistant screen.

Great photo playback features for TV slide presentations.

TV output for movie rentals and downloads.

Includes 3 free games, accelerometer support.

Audio recording features using an iPhone-style integrated mic.

New audio menu accessibility feature.

Cons

Less battery life that previous model when using video.

More photos

High-quality fourth-gen iPod nano unboxing photos

Where to Buy

iPod nano 8GB & 16GB - Amazon.com