The Apple iPod For Windows Begins A New Legacy

It's All About Ease Of Use & Convenience

The iPod uses a layered menu system that is controlled by the navigation wheel. Using Musicmatch, play lists can be developed and downloaded to your iPod. While this isn't the most convenient of options, it is about the only negative point that we have regarding the user interface.

The iPod uses the MP3 Tags, and you can sort by artist's name, album, or title. The iPod supports repeat and shuffle options to keep the music flowing, and flowing it will be, with our 5 GB unit's ability to store almost 1,000 songs encoded at 160 kbps. To give you an idea, 1,000 songs are about the equivalent of approximately 100 CDs. Depending on the size of the CDs, your mileage might vary.

This picture gives you a close up look at the iPod in action with the back lighting turned on. You will have no problems being able to read the display with the back light on.

The scroll wheel is also a very good part of the iPod experience. You can scroll between and select menu options very quickly. You can also choose a mode for the iPod to offer an audible click as the wheel is turned. This audible click gives new users an idea of how much turning action is necessary to move the cursor between highlighted menu items. This option can be turned off so as to avoid driving you nuts with the clicking sounds.

The iPod is nearly skip-proof, using a large 32 MB buffer to load music and play the music from the buffer. This strategy serves two purposes. First, it allows the hard drive to spin up and upload the music to fill the buffer, and then spin down. Secondly, it conserves battery life by not having to power the hard drive to keep it spinning all the time.

With that being said, it is important to realize that this is a key part of Apple's battery conservation strategy for the iPod. If you were to play titles in such a way that the hard drive always had to remain 'spun up' to keep filling the buffer, this would reduce the battery life. In our testing using typical MP3 files encoded 160 kbps from Musicmatch Jukebox, we were able to achieve 10 hours and 4 minutes, 9 hours and 47 minutes, and 9 hours and 53 minutes in our three battery life tests. For each of these tests, we loaded the iPod 5 GB with MP3 files and used a pre-programmed play list in repeat mode while timing the unit until it shut off. These tests did prove that the iPod was able to live up to its bold battery performance claims.

Another great feature of the iPod is its quick-charging battery performance. The battery in the iPod can be recharged to 80% of total capacity in one hour, and 100% capacity in four hours. As we explained, charging can take place either by connection to a six-pin firewire port or by using the AC to Firewire adapter brick that is included with the iPod. During our uses of the iPod, we found these recharging estimates to be accurate.

The iPod offers the ability to help smooth out the volume differences between MP3 files using a filter called "Sound Check." We found this option to be quite effective at helping smooth out the volume differences among music files.

The iPod supports the following audio file formats: MP3 (up to 320 kbps), MP3 Variable Bit Rate (VBR), WAV, AIFF, Audible (for Mac only). As we explained above, the unit is firmware upgradeable to allow support for future formats.

The sound quality of the iPod was excellent, and by far one of the loudest MP3 devices that we have ever tested. Apple claims that it has a frequency response rating of 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz with maximum output power 60 mW rms (30 mW per channel). These specifications are impressive when compared to other players in the same class.

The iPod is also able to function as an external portable hard drive when needed. This can prove to be a excellent portable storage media for documents and presentation files.

We found the 1394 Firewire interface to offer exceptionally quick transfers. With the Firewire interface offering almost 400mbit of performance, it was necessary to store files that can quickly fill up gigabytes of disk space. The iPod user interface is easy to use and even the computer novice can get the hang of using it within a few minutes. This is part of the beauty of the iPod, and something that seems to be lost by other manufacturers of similar products.

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