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iPod: The next generation

iPod does video By Stephen Schleicher

With Apple controlling 75% of the portable MP3 player market, and considering just over a month ago they released the new iPod Nano, it makes perfect sense to update the tried and true iPod.  Two colors, larger screen, and oh yes, it does video.  Digital Media Nets Stephen Schleicher received his in the mail and shares his thoughts on the next generation.

I waited until generation 3 before I purchased my first iPod, and not a day has gone by that I have not listened to everything from downloaded music, ripped CDs (all legal of course), audio books, and my own goofy programming. My G3 iPod made it through the battery debacle, survived a drop from over four feet, connected to my Jeep Liberty stereo system, and dodge the bullet when the iPod Nano was announced.  My first iPod has traveled all over the country and has entertained me for thousands of hours.

Just over a year ago Steve Jobs stood up before world and claimed under no uncertain terms that video would never be on the iPod.  A year is a lifetime in the technology cycle.  Smaller drives, increased size, longer battery life, and of course the introduction of great compression techniques for video made it a no brainer when just a few short weeks ago Mr. Jobs stood before the masses and claimed the iPod now does video.  Of course I had to get one, and this week it arrived in a small tiny box direct from the factory.

The iPod decided to go the distance and purchase the 60GB Black iPod.  Not only does it have three times the storage capacity of my G3 iPod, but the sleek black color complements its older brother nicely.  With over 60GB of storage space, the G5 iPod can hold nearly 15,000 songs.  Yes, that is 875 hours of music; over a months worth of listening without a single repeat.  And how does it sound?  Wonderful.  The audio clarity coming from the new iPod is much better than before.  With a firmware upgrade, the iPod will be able to support other audio formats in the future.

Side by side the two iPods look identical to one another, but it is only by comparing the thickness do you see a size difference.  The 60GB iPod is roughly 12% thinner than the older models (the 30GB is 36% thinner).  Gone is the odd headphone connector, replaced instead with a traditional mini jack.  The connector on the bottom is exactly the same, so there are no worries for anyone concerned about having to replace their car stereo iPod adaptor.

With the introduction of podcasting (and vodcasting), the new iPod allows you to quickly access those programs via the menus.  For an audio junkie, Im listening to talk radio and podcasts all day long, and being able to load and go and not worry about shelving the files in a specific playlist is a blessing.  You can even customize the menu to access information quickly.

Extras included on the iPod include the traditional Clock, games, contacts, calendar and more.  It also has a very handy stopwatch feature that includes a lap counter.  If you are recording your own podcast, or working on a live television show, chances are your iPod is closer than a traditional stopwatch. 

If you are concerned your calendar, contact or notes information may be seen by curious looky loos, the Screen Lock function allows you to set a combination to lock and unlock the unit.

I missed out on the first iPod to support photos, but I have been blown away with the color screen and how well it displays your photos, or album art.  The 320x240 display is wonderful.  It is very easy to see everything you are trying to access, or to watch a slideshow of your last vacation set to music.

One more thing? it also does video.
The biggest news with this iPod is of course video.  With the 60GB drive, you can store nearly 150 hours of mp4 video.  To make this happen, Apple enlarged the size of the screen to a whopping 2.5 inches.  I know that doesnt sound like a lot considering there are other portable devices that also do video with much larger screens PSP anyone? Still the picture quality and clarity is spectacular.  Video plays smoothly, and I was even impressed at the sound quality of programs like ABCs Nightstalker series.  Yes, I did purchase and download programming from the iTunes site, and am impressed.  Detractors of the iPod claim no one would want to watch video on an iPod, but I must disagree.  Those riding the subway, taxi, airplane, and other crowded places will be able to see everything with little problem.  Of course those doing training videos will have issues as text will be impossible to see, but high quality programs fit well into the palm of your hand. 

How do you get 150 hours of video onto an iPod?  H.264 dear reader.  This codec is amazing at compressing footage into small files that look great.  Of course it will take some time and tweaking for users to get the compression just right.  The first video I downloaded and watch on the iPod was the very funny Tiki Bar TV vodcast that can be found via the iTunes podcast directory.  I noticed a lot of banding and a few artifacts, but after seeing the quality of the ABC programming and my own tests satisfied my desire to have high quality video on a small portable device.


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Related Keywords:ipod, apple, digital audio, video, black, schleicher, review, mp3 player, itunes


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