I gave into temptation last week and ordered an iPod. It arrived yesterday much to my delight. I went with the middle of the road model, the 20GB one, with all the accessories, it’s actually not that much more expensive than the mini iPod, plus it looks nicer!
I’ve never owned an Apple product before and I’m impressed. The attention to detail is superb, it was nicely packaged, with each component careful wrapped in clear protective plastic that easily came off. The manual (which I haven’t needed to look at) and the software came in a small box with just the word “enjoy” on the outside. It’s really remarkably well done. I installed the software (iTunes and a driver) on my Media Center PC (that’s the only one I have with a Firewire port) and plugged in the iPod. After a required reboot it all just worked perfectly. I’d already ripped some music into AAC on another computer, so I mapped a network drive and told iTunes where my music was, it found it and started downloading on to the iPod and told me when it was complete. I didnt’ have to tell it to synchronise, it just did it. Meanwhile the iPod was charging it’s battery using power from the Firewire port – now that’s a smart idea, just one cable needed – why can’t my PocketPC do that with its USB cable?
The iPod’s interface took a bit of getting used to, but it didn’t take long, there’s a few quirks though. Setting shuffle and repeat can only be done from the settings menu and once leaving one part of the UI and going to another part theres no easy way to get back again, for example, find an album, start playing a song from it and then go to the main menu to get to the clock – if I want to go back to the album that’s currently playing I can’t without finding it again. The iPod will continue to play from that album but I can’t quickly go and check what the next track is, without navigating back through the menu tree to get to the Album. It could be easily fixed with a “now playing and next” list that I could get to from the main menu in addition to a link to the “now playing” display – that only lists the currently playing track, not what’s next.
It’s a very impressive piece of hardware and is likely going to be something that I almost always carry around with me. I’m especially looking forward to having it on a long flight and train journey.
Being a digital photographer there’s an accessory available for it that has caught my interest – Belkin’s Media Reader – it’s a gizmo to transfer digital photos from a flash card onto the iPod’s hard drive. It’s not terribly fast apparently, about 3.3seconds for a megabyte, but that might just be good enough for my purposes. I’ll always have a couple of gigabytes of free space on my iPod and I never want to run out of flash memory to take photos with and buying a lot of high capacity memory cards to ensure I don’t run out isn’t really economically feasible.
The biggest problem with the iPod though is a lack of WMA support. The chipset used in the device I’m told is capable of and supports decoding WMA but Apple chose to disable this functionality. Unfortunately this means I have to keep multiple copies of my music – as CDs, as highest quality VBR WMA9 (although I’m considering going to lossless WMA9) and as AAC for the iPod.