Review: iPod nano with video capture

by Steve Hildreth

Pros: Tiny, Video ... Tiny ... Sexy ... Tiny ... So Cool! ... Tiny
Cons: Small screen for video, Camera in not-no-great a place, Shiny backside prone to scratches
Pricing: $149 (8GB) / $179 (16GB)

Videos, FM radio, a pedometer, speakers, games, podcasts, photos, and...oh yeah, music. What's not to like on the 2009 iPod nano? Sleek, shiny, with a new larger display, the nano is a full-featured iPod that's small enough to slip into any pocket. Apple this year has added a video camera, pedometer, speaker, and FM radio tuner to its venerable iPod nano. Not as small as an iPod shuffle, nor as large as a touch or classic, the nano is just right in the eyes of many and their wallets.

We tested a Black 16GB iPod nano and found that Apple has intergrated the new features unobtrusuvely. The screen is slightly larger than before, pushing the click wheel down toward the bottom of the nano by a couple of millimeters. Compared to the iPod classic, the click wheel is much smaller and more difficult to use - it's mostly a two-handed affair for those with meaty hands. The video camera lens is on the back down near the bottom, and it's the one miscue we could find. When you turn the nano on its side to shoot video, it's very easy to get a hand or a finger in the way of the lens. Frankly, the lens should be in the middle of the back, not near the bottom. Don't expect HD with the nanos new camera since it's limited to 640x480. But the videos look fine on the nano's screen or when uploaded to YouTube.

The included ear buds act as the FM radio antenna when plugged into the iPod. The tuner works as advertisied, but the antenna could be stronger.

The pedometer keeps track of steps and calories burned without the need for the previous Nike adapter.

Extras include alarms, a calendar, clocks, contacts, three games (Klondike, Maze, and Vortex, all three with external sound), notes, voice memos, and a stopwatch. The display is bright and clear, and photos & video are sharp - very easy to see given the screen's relatively small size.

Like the iPod touch, the new nano has a tilt meter, so in addition to the pedometer, included games like Maze respond to the nano's movement. Unfortunately, Apple removed the old iPod games section of iTunes in favor of the App Store...but Apps work only on the touch or the iPhone, so it would appear that the three games included with the new nano are the only games you'll get.

The iPod nano is an attractive alternative to the iPod touch. It's much smaller, has better battery life, and is altogether different - more like a classic iPod - than the iPod touch. Starting at $149 for the 8GB model, it offers tremendous value for the money.

We went out an shot a 22 second video to demonstrate the quality of video and sound you can expect from the 2009 iPod nano. We opening the resulting mp4 with QuickTime, then uploaded the video to YouTube:

View a short video walk-through of the iPod nano:

Click for full-size image:
iPod nano what's in the box iPod nano back
iPod nano front iPod nano FM radio tuner
iPod nano pedometer iPod nano games