iPod classic (5G) Review

by Steve Hildreth

So I've had my new iPod classic for several weeks now, and what's my impression? Overall: It's sexy as all get out. Perfect? Not quite. Almost, but not quite.

One of my seventh grade students recently read several of my archived reviews of earphones and told me that he likes my writing but I should, "get to the point." Alright, Henry, here you go:

Pros and Cons of the Fifth-Generation (5G) iPod:

  • 30GB for $299 is the best value seen from an iPod yet. Bang for your buck wise, iPod 5G blows iPod nano out of the water.
  • The new iPod body is slim and sleek, and the rounded back edges feel great in the hand.
  • The new, larger screen is gorgeous. I'm amazed at how good photos look on such a small screen.
  • Video. iPod finally plays video. Skip to the "Cons" section now for more on this, but if nothing else it'll be interesting to see who follows ABC/Disney to iTunes Music Store's video aisle.
  • Apple added video while shrinking iPod's overall size, increasing storage capacity by a third, and keeping the price exactly the same. If that ain't Moore's Law in action, I don't know what is.
  • Music sounds great on the new iPod. Bass response seems to be somewhat improved over the already quite solid sound that my 3G iPod put out. Paired with a solid pair of earphones or quality home audio or powered speaker system, iPod is literally all the stereo 90% of us will ever need.
  • Two words: Black iPod.
  • I no longer have to make a painful choice every time I buy new music: 30 gigs is a lot of space. Sure, I hadn't listened to that Tori Amos cover of Elton John's "Daniel" since I downloaded it six years ago. But I just know if I ever did delete it would've come back to bite me in the backside. So I had to delete all of those Podcasts from that one guy, what's-his-name?, instead.
  • Cover art. My band's rehearsal tapes seem so much more legit when they show up on my iPod with cover art.
  • According to Apple's spec page, the 5g iPod now supports full 16-bit/44.1K stereo recording. Bootleggers and garage musicians rejoice!
  • $269 with the Education Discount.
  • Pack-ins are paltry for a $300 walkman. No AC power brick? That's downright chintzy, Apple.
  • To make matters worse, the Apple Store employee who sold me my iPod said that repeated charging via USB-to-computer cable "isn't good for your iPod." He suggested I spend another $30 on the Apple USB iPod Power Adapter.
  • The new, larger screen is a bit odd looking at first - why didn't they align it the other way and make it bigger? More importantly, I'm super paranoid about scratching it since makes photos and videos look so good. As of press time there aren't many cases yet available for this new model iPod.
  • Who wants to pay $1.99 to watch free TV on a 2.5" screen? Real portable video players sport 4", 5", or 7" widescreens.
  • Between the new widescreen and the newly laid-out top panel (with no accessory jack and a right flush headphone jack), old iPod accessories are basically useless. Get ready to drop another 10-40% of your purchase price on cases, skins, car chargers, FM transmitters, and the like.
  • The nano is so freakin' small, who wants a beast like this thing?
  • Black nanos scratch more easily than white ones. I wonder if it's the same with the video iPod?
  • Dropping Firewire support is annoying, especially considering that my 16 month-old iBook G4 only has one Firewire port.
  • Menu response is still a bit sluggish. I wouldn't care except I keep reading about it in other reviews. And now I notice it. It is kind of slow.
  • Reports of scratch-prone nanos worry me. But, hey, that's why they created class action suits included a slip cover, right?
  • Until Belkin or Griffin or someone comes out with an Apple-authorized adapter that unlocks iPod's recording functionality, those stereo recording specs are just vaporware.
  • For all it has, iPod lacks a hidden QWERTY thumboard, TiVO-on-the-Go, GPRS telephone, built-in Wi-FI, 3MP camera, and the ability to alter my bank balance from any domestic ATM. I swear that one rumor site promised all of that back in the summer ...

All in all, I'd give the new iPod 4-1/2 stars out of 5 if I was prone to giving out stars to new products. This iPod is better looking and a better value than any of its predecessors. Uncle Steve did a pretty good job of convincing me that it's not "The Real Video iPod," but rather a mere "iPod With Video." If the distinction is lost on you, don't worry -- you're probably better off for it. As a portable music player, the new iPod still delivers when it comes to style, sound quality, user interface design, and form factor. Combined with iTunes, it's a hard package to beat. Whether or not Apple will one day step up and deliver an iPod-caliber solution for video-on-the-go remains to be seem. Still, if Steve and his troops hedged their bets on video functionality, they picked a winner when it comes to everything else that's new about the new iPod. I'm glad I made the jump.