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Monday, September 10, 2007, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Review: Apple's new 3G iPod nano is a 5G video iPod in a nano-thin shell


Video Conspiracy!

Bloggers have recently speculated that Apple incorporated a new bit of “spy chip” DRM connected to the 3G Nano and iPod Classic, but it appears that the real change is that both present video out the dock connector rather than a four conductor video jack.

Earlier video iPods used either a video dock that extracted video from the dock connector output or a special headphone mini-jack that added video on a forth pin in addition to stereo audio. Common camcorders use a similar arrangement, but aren’t compatible with regular headphones because they put the pins out of order.

Apple’s video cables reordered the pins to be backwardly compatible with regular video, resulting in rage and outcry about Apple’s top secret “proprietary” video cables. They would have also complained if the iPod’s headphones were required in an odd way to make sure that no other pair of headphones would work, so Apple had no chance to please everyone.

With the latest batch of iPods, it appears Apple has removed the video pin on the headphone jack. That may be related to the iPhone’s headphones, which now use the fourth pin for the mic and click-to-skip or answer switch. That means iPod users will need a video dock to play out to TV, or a set of composite cables paired with a dock connector. So much for the vast anti-consumer conspiracy.

The Wrap Up

Apple could have sold a record number of iPods this winter with just a simple refresh and some new colors, but instead, it's aggressively moving the target for its competitors and making it hard for its customers to resist buying new gear. The new Nano hardware features include a scratch resistant face and impressive video features and performance in an ultra thin case. Rather than a Fat Nano, it's really more like a much smaller and outrageously thin, Flash RAM version of the 5G iPod, without the level of storage capacity a hard drive can provide.

The new Nano also got a major upgrade in its software, with revamped apps and menus that share some features in common with the iPhone. The facelift dabbles in frivolous but impressive ornamentation, with slick graphics sporting animated effects, drop shadows, and Apple's Coverflow calling card. All that new flash comes at the cost of being on the razor's edge of brand new, so the Nano also has a number of glitchy bugs that need to be stamped out. While certainly no show-stopper, the occasional visual flaws detract from the solid stability that the iPod line has typically shown off.

The biggest annoyance with the new Nano is the games compatibility issue. No doubt Apple plans to easily sell fifteen million of these this winter quarter, creating a substantial potential platform of game buyers. in order to capitalize on that, it needs to get in gear on delivering compatible games.

At its $149/$199 price, the all singing, all dancing new Nano manages to cram nearly all of the features of the 5G iPod in the Nano's 6.5 mm thin profile. All that's missing is the larger capacity afforded by a hard drive, and that issue is minimized by iTunes' polished syncing, which makes it easy to copy over fresh content using automated playlists and podcasts that cycle through content as it is watched.

Rating: 4 of 5
4-stars


Pros
  • Amazingly thin and light form factor with very solid construction.

  • Very high quality, bright, scratch resistant screen.

  • New photo and video playback features and game playing.

  • New animated menus, with new and expanded mini-apps and search features.

  • Impressive photo playback features for TV slide presentations.

  • TV output for movie playback.

  • Works with existing iPod docks, including video version.

  • Includes 3 free games.

Cons
  • No games available for purchase yet; incompatible with existing 5G iPod games.

  • iPod-style polished metal back will scuff up quickly.

  • Minor software display glitches need to be ironed out.


Where to Buy

iPod nano 4GB (Silver) - Amazon.com

iPod nano 8GB (Silver) - Amazon.com

iPod nano 8GB (Blue) - Amazon.com

iPod nano 8GB (Green) - Amazon.com

iPod nano 8GB (Red) - Apple.com

iPod nano 8GB (Black) - Amazon.com