Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A 16 GB Dark Purple IPod Nano Is Cool, But Not Ideal For A Cinephile.

The Good: Light, Good capacity, Generally decent battery capacity
The Bad: Annoying controls, Truncates video images
The Basics: I end up feeling pretty neutral about the iPod Nano, though it is easy to figure out for new users and has great capacity.

As the links at the bottom will attest, it's a bad time at the Swarts household for independent, freethinking audiophiles. IPod has become synonymous with portable digital music the way "Walkman" (which was a SONY trademark) was with portable cassette players and pretty much every other MP3 player enters the marketplace from a disadvantageous position. In my house, iPods just keep falling out of the sky. Well, not quite the sky, but my mother keeps returning from visiting her sister and returning home with iPods as my aunt upgrades to the latest, best iPod. Yesterday, it was the 16 GB iPod Nano.

This was my first experience with the iPod Nano and it's weird for me because this one came fully loaded, so my experiences are largely with how it operates.

The Basics

The iPod Nano is a 3 1/2" tall (or wide, depending on how you have it oriented) by 1 1/2" wide by 3/8" thick media player. This iPod is one which has a 1 1/4" wide by 1 1/2" tall video screen under which there is a wheel-type control panel. This was the first time I had to deal with the wheel controls and I, frankly, did not like it. The screen is surprisingly detailed. Right now, I have When Harry Met Sally playing and despite the fact that the screen is tiny, the leaves in Central Park in the background of the scene that is playing are clear and have great color definition.

The top of the iPod Nano has a tiny power button which slides on and off. While my iPod Touch has a pair of physical volume buttons, the iPod Nano does not. Below the wheel controls are a 1" in diameter circle with Menu, track back, track forward and play/pause controls with an "Activate" button in the center. The bottom of the iPod Nano has a port for the iBud headphones and a slot for the connector to the computer or the charger. The slot in the bottom is specific to the iPod products and the Nano comes with the connectors which allow it to charge via an USB port connected to a computer or a special recharging adapter.

The purple Nano has a metallic purple finish which is actually a deeper purple that looks very stylish. The metal casing on my iPod Nano came to me untarnished in any way and considering that my aunt had it for at least a year, this is a good sign for durability.


The 16 gigabyte capacity is making me a little jealous, as my 8 GB iPod Touch ran out of room before I finished getting my entire music library into it. Rather extraordinarily, the iPod Nano with 16 Gigabytes has such capacity that it holds one feature length movie, five half-hour television programs, 269 songs (29 albums), a complete audiobook (unabridged) and four computer games and still have 9.7 GB of free space on it. So, this is enough capacity for most people who have significant music collections and who want to use their digital downloads from DVDs.


The iPod Nano has the usual iPod issues, with a few additional ones. The first iPod issue is that in order to load anything onto the Nano - or to remove material once it is there - one has to upload iTunes and program the Nano. iTunes is essentially the operating system for iPod products and it is through that which all materials get transferred to the iPod. ITunes is easily available on-line at the Apple store and with a high-speed connection it may be quickly installed on the computer. With iTunes, installation of materials is simple.

Use of the iPod Nano is remarkably easy. Turning the power button on and/or connecting the iBuds to the Nano turn the iPod on. This brings up the main menu, which gives users the options of choosing Videos, Music, Photos, Podcasts, etc. To navigate the menus, and this is weird for me as I had a tough time initially getting used to the touchscreen controls on my iPod Touch, one has to run their finger around the outer wheel on the Nano. The white disc is essentially a touch screen. This moves the cursor on the screen up and down the screen depending on whether or not one is going clockwise or counterclockwise. When you hit the option you want, simply press the button in the center of the dial and it is selected. All of the menus go up and down based on the wheel.

Playing a movie, which I was enjoying as I wrote this, presents a physically truncated version of a film. The proportions are noticeably cut, so one does not get a "widescreen" version of a movie while on the iPod Nano. To adjust volume, one uses the wheel. The annoying aspect of video play was that if the Nano gets bumped, it flips the image upside down. So, for example, I nudged the Nano a few minutes ago and suddenly Harry and Sally were laying down rug on the ceiling! To get information or adjust the brightness of the picture, one just needs to press the central button and rotate along the outer dial.

Actually, the controls, once I knew the basic functioning, were quite intuitive. Getting around the Nano took me a few moments to get used to, but once I understood the clockwise/counter-clockwise touch pad, it became very easy to use and I appreciated how this was designed to be simple to use with minimal fuss. So, for example, hitting "Menu" goes back to whatever the last menu or function one used. Movies pick back up where one left them when one goes back forward to them, and the physical "track forward" and "track back" buttons can move the movie to the next Chapter.

As for music, the iPod Nano's music playing is equally intuitive and one can go to songs and albums using the screen, so it is easy to find exactly what one wants. But the music quality is only as good as the digital file one takes it from. So, if one has CD-quality MP3 files, they sound amazing, if one has lesser-quality MP3 or .wav files, they sound less impressive. Listening to the movie, for example, I was acutely aware of the stereo sound and there was a richness to the audio I had not heard before.

Watching a two hour movie has drained the battery halfway, which is not bad. Using it to simple play music presumably extends the battery life. It recharges within an hour from half a charge.


The iPod Nano is convenient and arguably enough for anyone who wants a little more than just a basic MP3 player. However, for a similar price, one could get an iPod Touch with a bigger screen and more applications, but despite feeling a little unenthusiastic by the wheel system, this is an affordable MP3 player which provides audiophiles with enough capacity for a significant music collection. For cinephiles, this is not the ideal digital player for using those digital downloads.

For other iPod products, please check out my reviews of:
iPad 64 GB
iPod Touch


For other electronics products reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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