First Impressions: 30 GB iPod

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Date: Monday, May 5th, 2003, 09:00
Category: Archive

CompUSA in Houston told me they’d have the new 30GB iPods in stock this past Friday but couldn’t start selling then until 6pm.(?) I went Friday night and got the new 30GB iPod. It comes in a similar box to the older iPods, maybe a little bigger and is kind of black and white in colors. The box opens in half like the old ones and you have the accessories on one side and the iPod on another. Click Read More for the rest of the story…


CompUSA in Houston told me they’d have the new 30GB iPods in stock this past Friday but couldn’t start selling then until 6pm.(?) I went Friday night and got the new 30GB iPod. It comes in a similar box to the older iPods, maybe a little bigger and is kind of black and white in colors. The box opens in half like the old ones and you have the accessories on one side and the iPod on another. Here’s what you get:

  • iPod
  • Cradle
  • Power & sync cable (fire to some flat pin plug)
  • FireWire converter plug
  • AC brick
  • iPod case & bag
  • Ear Bud headphones
  • Plastic plugs for cable slot on bottom

The new iPod is very sleek. Its about 1/3 thinner than the previous models and about the same height I guess. The biggest change is of course the extra navigation buttons on top of the now slightly smaller scroll wheel area. The smaller scroll wheel (not really a wheel but a trackpad type area) takes a bit of getting used to. There is still a center button for making menu selections and such. It really feels small in my hand and fits in my shirt pocket very well. Wow, this puppy is quite the wonder, a 30 GB MP3 player and hard drive?! They really don’t need to try to make this any smaller, I’d be in serious jeopardy of losing it! I was really motivated by the 30GB size. Now I can keep 20-25 GB of tunes and a few GB for data storage. I keep an OS9 boot system on it for emergency boots and disk clean up.

The biggest trick is that none of the buttons are really buttons at all but touch sensitive areas, and boy are they sensitive. If you’re not careful you can exit out of a currently playing song and be deep inside another menu before you know you’ve press anything at all! And did I say the buttons were super sensitive? Overall I didn’t have any problems getting used to used the top 4 buttons in conjunction with the scroll wheel. The only down side I see if that with the previous iPod buttons, I could work them fairly blind as long as I knew “up” from “down.” This makes it a bit more difficult especially since the buttons are so sensitive. Did I mention that? The backlight seems a lot brighter and the lite up buttons are very slick. It seems that the backlight is a bit too quick to auto-shut-off, probably to save battery life. You turn on the light by holding down the menu buttons for a few seconds. The iPod seems about as responsive as before, so slower or faster.

There is now a cradle to put your iPod in for syncing or charging. Its feels very study and weighted, obviously to keep from falling over his it holds the iPod at a slight angle. The same cable you use to charge or sync plugs into the cradle. You can choose to ignore the cradle complete if you wish I like that! The cradle also has a line out port – very cool if you want to have it hooked up to a sound system all the time!

I was hesitant about the new cable at first and still am. I really liked the idea of using a firewire cable before and now you have this “proprietary” slot on the bottom of the iPod and this proprietary cable. It works well though and I guess I see Apple’s POV. Now the iPod can have multiple connectors, you just have to buy the right cable for it. The down side if that if I lost my old cable, no biggie – I have other firewire cables. If I lose THIS new cable, I am screwed until I get a new one from Apple. Boo, Apple! Geez I might order a second cable just for peace of mind!

I backed up my tunes from my old iPod to an external firewire drive (using file buddy, forget all those silly iPod applications that do the same, the tunes are just in an invisible folder on the iPod) and then copied them via iTunes to my new one. I know Apple isn’t thrilled about people doing this but I wasn’t about to manually re-rip 20 GB of songs!! Transfer went swimmingly and I was jamming in less than 30 minutes. I don’t sync my tunes back to my laptop, why the heck would I want to actively mirror 20-30 GB of music on my computer, isn’t that why I bought the iPod?

Firewire disk access seems fine. I tried it direct to my TiBook and also plugged into my external firewire drive. Worked fine, yea Apple! Again, this makes you consider the extreme importance of that PROPIETARY cable. Do you get that bothers me? Sigh.

Now for the software! Wow is it nice!! The 2.0 software is about the same generally but with some really nice additions. First you can edit the main menu via the settings menu. You can almost any sub menu selection tot he very top level, EXCEPT for the one I use the most: SHUFFLE. I really wanted to be able to select shuffle from the top levels, but no biggie. Its neat to put the Albums link right on the top level and such. You can put the clock, or contacts, anything! So this is fun.

On the Go play list: Awesome! I’ve been wanting this for a long time. My first MP3 player had it and I always wondered why not the iPod. To add tunes to the OTG list you just select a tune or album and press the button until the tune blinks. Very sweet!! I’m not sure what triggers a reset of the OTG menu but there is a menu selection to do this if you need to.

New games: Parachute and Solitaire (and the old bricks) – well ok, they cute and work fairly well. I guess if you really want to play games on the iPod, not for me but I appreciate the thought.

It seems you can “rate” songs on the new iPod, I don’t remember being able to do this on my old iPod. While a tune is playing, you hit the select button a few times and you end up on a strange screen with a row of stars, you turn the scroll wheel to choose the number of stars and hit select. Cool! I never used this before but maybe I will now. I really only have stuff I like on my iPod so every tune is a 4 or a 5 star in my book. Why would I have a one star song on my iPod?

The clock function now has a sleep timer (new?) and an alarm clock function that you can set to a beep or a song or playlist! Very cool, I tried it this morning and it worked well!! But its not as easy and slamming the snooze button on your clock radio. Good for traveling I suppose.

Using the new iTunes and Music Store didn’t seem to pose any problems. I only have the one iPod can don’t share music between any of my macs or pc’s so couldn’t test any registration issues. Music I had bought from the Music Store earlier in the week transferred to the new iPod without a hitch.

Battery Life: probably the most hotly debated issue of ANY handheld device. PDA’s, mp3 players, digital camera: they all need lots of power and if you have a device which fails to live up to its battery projections, then life sucks. That being said I really haven’t had this iPod long enough to test the battery life. I knew enough to plug it into the cradle last night and charge and sync without unplugging it overnight. I let it charge a good 13 hours just to make sure. I used the iPod today for a few hours on the road and I saw the battery bar drop down 2 notches but then bounce back up to full. So, like the older iPods I guess the battery is constantly re-evaluating itself. I really hope it gets a at least 6-7 hours of life. Time will tell I suppose.

So, what’s the word? 2 thumbs up on the unit itself, sleek, and sexy and works like a pro. But to anyone out there with new iPod envy, once the wrapper is off and you’re played with the buttons – its still more or less just like the older iPods. The best handheld music player on the market. I hope the new software makes it to the older iPods but I’ve been reading on the apple discussion forums that this will not happen, a pity. I know Apple wants to get people to buy the new iPods but this new software is just too cool! 1 thumb sideways on the PROPRIETARY cable for charging and syncing though. A good trade off for Apple but not for us.

If you have a 10 or 20 GB iPod and are itching for the new one, just remember that other than more storage space and slightly better software, its really not that much different. But if you’re like me, well – you have to have it.

Where will the iPod go from here?? The new iPods are really just a fine tuning (and h

ard drive bump) of the already butch software. 30 Gb of music is really extreme. 7500 tunes?! That’s like 500 cd’s worth of music! I would like to see an FM/AM tuner though. Surely that’s not that big of a deal? Canned music is great but sometimes you want to hear live news or live programs off the airwaves.

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