Review: iPod nano not Without its Problems

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Date: Friday, September 16th, 2005, 06:42
Category: iPod

iPod nanosNow that I’ve had some time to play with my new iPod nano I felt that some observations were in order. I was surprised by a few things with the iPod mini-replacement – both good and bad.
First off the nano is tiny, I mean ridiculously tiny. The ads and the images online don’t do it justice. You have to go see one at an Apple retailer to grasp the tiny form factor. As a result, the screen is tiny too. The nano’s color display is 176×132 pixels and 1.5-inches diagonally which is about 0.2 inches smaller than the iPod mini and 0.5 inches smaller than a full-size iPod (although it packs almost as many pixels as the full-size iPod).
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iPod nanosNow that I’ve had some time to play with my new iPod nano I felt that some observations were in order. I was surprised by a few things with the iPod mini-replacement – both good and bad.
First off the nano is tiny, I mean ridiculously tiny. The ads and the images online don’t do it justice. You have to go see one at an Apple retailer to grasp the tiny form factor. As a result, the screen is tiny too. The nano’s color display is 176×132 pixels and 1.5-inches diagonally which is about 0.2 inches smaller than the iPod mini and 0.5 inches smaller than a full-size iPod (although it packs almost as many pixels as the full-size iPod).
nano – 176 x 132 pixels – 1.5 inch (Diagonal)
mini – 138 x 110 pixels – 1.67 inch
iPod – 220 x 176 pixels – 2.0 inches
I was shocked to learn that you can’t sync the nano via Firewire. Here I thought they were just saving a few bucks by leaving the Firewire cable out of the box, but they were actually also saving a few millimeters by removing the Firewire chipset from the motherboard. So plan on carrying another cable with you everywhere.
The iPod nano doesn’t let you connect to a television with an A/V cable either, like the iPod photo did. So you can forget about doing a slideshow for Nanna on your nano.
You also can’t install Mac OS X or boot from a nano, but it would probably take up the whole 4GB anyway.
Don’t plan on any of your previous iPod accessories working with the nano, either. Any accessory that requires the small 4-pin control connector next to the headphone jack is hosed because the nano doesn’t have one of them. Apple’s iPod camera connector, the Belkin photo adapter and most FM modulators don’t work. Make, Playlist and Apple have published lists of what accessories do and don’t work with the nano.
The nano’s headphone jack was re-located to the bottom of the iPod, presumably to make room for the display, so connecting the docking cable and an accessory at the same time can be tight.
Because Apple surprised everyone with the nano’s form factor, virtually no cases are available for it (yet). To make matters worse, it’s so small that you’ll frequently tuck it into a pocket without even thinking about scratching it. The problem is that according to a 450+ post virtual flame war on Apple’s discussion boards and several other sites, the nano is very easy to scratch. If you’re concerned about scratches go for the white model. Scratches are much more visible on the black surface.
The main thing bothering me with my iPod nano is the occasional skip when using the nano’s center button to flip to the My Rating screen. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a ratings freak and spend a lot of time rating my songs. Anyway, on my nano, when flipping to the My Rating screen on tracks that have album art (which is most) I get a notable dropout or skip at least 50 percent of the time. This is a real buzz kill for someone that rates all their music or scrolls through the info screens a lot. Is anyone else noticing this? It is 100 percent reproducible on mine…
Lastly, a casualty of the tiny form-factor is that people with large fingers will have a hard time using the center button. Despite Jonathan Ive’s best attempts to over-think every aspect of the design, using the center wheel, especially for ratings is difficult. It is nearly impossible to set an accurate rating on the nano, especially while jogging or working out because when I press the center button to confirm it, my finger inadvertently grazes the scroll wheel enough to change the rating. Maddening, I tell you. I still haven’t gotten used to it after two weeks.
What’s your pro or con about the nano? Send me your comments and I’ll update this story with them.

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