Today I will be reviewing the 10 GB Mac version of Apple's popular iPod music player. The iPod plays MP3 and uncompressed audio (WAV or AIFF). In addition to its music playing abilities, the iPod also acts as a portable FireWire hard drive, making it very useful for moving large files to and from work, storing disk images, installing software or even entire operating systems.
Like virtually all of Apple's products, the iPod came in very clean, well-organized packaging. Here's what you'll find in your iPod box:
carrying case and bag
firewire cable (PC models include 4-pin to 6-pin FireWire adapter)
CD incduding iTunes and iPod firmware
First, the iPod itself
This thing fits really well in my hand. Really well. I got it about 4 months ago, and I still find myself staring at the shiny, polished aluminum backside or admiring the smooth transparent plastic. Very svelte. The clean, 5-button interface goes a long way; there are no ports or buttons, knobs or switches on the sides, this makes for perfect one-handed (really one-thumbed) operation. I personally find this a lifesaver when I'm driving through traffic and need to switch tunes.
The 2" screen is more than adequate for displaying and navigating any collection. The user can browse the library by artists, albums, songs, genres or composers, or a combination of artists -> albums -> songs (all sorted alphabetically). It really is easy to quickly find any song.
I find the touch-sensitive scroll wheel to be indispensable. It's responsive for when scrolling huge lists, but it's also sensitive enough for scrolling slowly. I compared it to a 5 GB version, and I found that the 5 GB version would become "loose," meaning it would become too easy to spin the thing. The 10 GB touch-sensitive version still works perfectly, even after I spilled orange soda on it while driving.
iPod is certainly not without its share of design flaws: My #1 complaint by far is that the damn screen is too damn prone to (damn) scratches. There's no way around it, the thing scratches way too easily. My friend put his Creative MuVo on top of the iPod to compare sizes, and it left tiny scratches on the display; and this happened within a week after I got the thing. It's unacceptable, and as a result, I have to baby it and lug around the included carrying case everywhere I go. I would love to just be able to throw the thing around and put it in my pocket without thinking twice, but the plastic covering the display is too fragile. Other than that, I really have no other qualms with the industrial design.
Using the iPod with a Mac really is as seamless as advertised. No drivers or additional software is required (provided you already have iTunes or Audion, another OS X MP3 player that works with the iPod). When you first plug it in, it mounts on the desktop like a normal hard drive. You can add contacts by exporting from Address Book and dragging and dropping the files into the 'Contacts' folder in the iPod's file system.
Integration with iTunes is even more solid. The iPod also shows up in the left-hand column in iTunes. You can easily set it to automatically sync with specific playlists or your entire library, or you can manually add songs by dragging artists/albums from the library to the iPod. The first time I added files, I manually selected about 2 GB worth of artists, then dragged 'em over. I was greeted with a very speedy progress bar at the top of iTunes. Then my music was there. iTunes handled my collection beautifully, when I added more songs to my library, I just dragged them over, and it worked perfectly.
What's even more slick is the iPod's integration with iTunes' Smart Playlists. Smart Playlists allow you to create your own playlists by specifying an unlimited number of criteria. Among them being genre, artist name, rating (songs can be given ratings between 0 and 5), album name, etc. The software even allows the user to specify number (of songs), MB or GB limits to the number of songs in the playlist. And to top it off, the Smart Playlists update themselves automatically. The software allows me to manage my collection quickly and efficiently, I can't really complain about any of it.
The 10 GB iPod (Mac version) is one solid product. It runs well in cold weather (the coldest I've been in is -5° F), but the sub-zero temperatures cause the LCD to slow down and also drastically reduce the otherwise impressive battery life. I have to recommend the 10 GB iPod over the 5 GB model due to the touch-sensitive scroll wheel. It's much more durable when the unit is dropped, plus it won't wear out. The iPod really is a great product, and If it weren't for the damn propensity to scratches, it just might deserve a recommended.