This year’s choice is a little simpler than last year’s–you essentially have two models available. Although Minis and Shuffles can still be found, I’d say don’t bother unluess you’re really strapped for cash and desparately want an iPod of some flavor. You can read last year’s overview for information on those models.
This year features the miniscule Nano, or the Video iPod (technically, the iPod with Video Playback). Both are available in either white or black, and in different capacities.
The Nano has the smaller capacity of the two models available, at 2 GB or 4 GB (the Minis were 4GB). 4 GB is enough capacity to store about 1000 songs. I have an older model iPod with slightly over 1000 songs, and I’ve used just about 4 GB. The music ranges from Elmer Bernstein themes (“Stripes”, “Magnificent 7”) to symphonies (Copeland’s “Appalachain Spring” or Bach’s “Brandenburg Concertos”) to AC/DC, The Ramones, Jet, Booker T & The MGs, etc. A pretty good mix of lengths and styles in there. Count on about 500 songs for the 2 GB version.
Small does not begin to descibe the Nano–it could literally fit in my wallet. It’s as long as a business card, slightly narrower, and as thick as a couple of credit cards stacked on top of each other. Lightweight and perfect for the gym and work. It has a dock connector, so all the remotes and accessories that have been around in the least year or so should be compatible; there’s even an adapter to make the thing fit accessories like the Bose SoundDock (not a guarantee it will fit every accessory, but should be OK with many). There are a mountain of accessories such as armbands and clips for the Nanos, so just spend a little time looking for things you (or whomever you’re giving it to) would like.
The Nano can also be loaded with photographs–my sister-in-law has hers loaded with workout music and photos of my new nephew that she ogles over while at the gym (she must have incredible eyesight, because the screen is pretty darn small). The Nanos use flash memory, so there are no moving parts, and the battery life is excellent (rated about 14 hours or so).
iPod with Video Playback
The new iPod with Video Playback is the same width and height as the older models, but is slightly thinner than the previous versions, and considerably thinner than the iPod Photo. It also sports a larger full color screen, about 2.5″ diagonally. Capacity is 30Gb and 60GB, or roughly 7500 sings or 15,000 songs (unless you are into live Pink Floyd, then you’re good for about one “The Wall” and one “Dark Side of the Moon”). In addition to music, you can also store photos and video clips on here. Not technically rated as a video player yet according to Steve Jobs, videos are selling like crazy through iTunes (about 1 million in four days). Pixar has some movie shorts available, and there are music videos and the latest episodes of “Desparate Housewives” and “Lost”. I have no information on what other…ahem…genres…of videos are available, but I suspect there are some on their way, if not here already. This is your better choice if you want to put A LOT of music or photos or videos or some combination of the three.
This isn’t your best choice for the gym–even though it’s lighter than previous models, it’s still pretty heavy, and could pull loose fitting shorts off when running on the treadmill (no that hasn’t happened, I’m just saying it could–I have my own treadmill at home where shorts don’t matter anyway 😉 ). These are hard drive based, so too much motion could damage the drives. Battery life is much improved apparently, but I don’t have one to torture to say if that’s the case. My older iPod is getting about 6 hours (down from 8), so I would hope that’s improved significantly in recent models.
I definately recommend the Etymotic ER6i earphones. The sound is incredible, and they passively block a tremendous amount of background noise. Some headphones listed as “noise cancelling” do so by feeding a hissing sound directly into your head. The Etymotics instead use a very soft earpiece that fits into your ear to block sound (similar to the triple-flange earplugs I use when shooting). The upshot is that you can just stick these in by themselves if you want some peace and quiet, and you won’t have to put up with a hissing noise. I can mow the lawn with the volume turned up only slightly more than normal, which saves my ears after a couple hours of mowing. Well worth the money, but you won’t agree until you try them out, so it’s kind of a trust issue to drop an additional $90 on earphones.