First Look: iPod Brings Music to Your Photos

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At a Glance

Apple's IPod Photo
Carrying around a wallet full of pictures of the kids or the dog is so last year. Apple's IPod Photo makes it as easy to look at your most beloved pictures on the go as it is to listen to your favorite tunes. But it'll cost you.

IPod Photo comes in two sizes; I tested a shipping 40GB version, which costs $499--$100 more than the plain vanilla 40GB IPod. There's also a 60GB version of the IPod Photo, which sells for a wallet-emptying $599.

This IPod variant is the first in Apple's line of digital audio players to feature a color screen. The 2-inch, 65,000-color display is beautiful and crisp, though a bit small for viewing photos. It can also display album art while playing music--it's a nice touch, but the art is just too small (about the size of a fingertip) to appreciate.

Photos on the Go

Loading images onto the IPod Photo is simpler than heating up a microwave meal. Just as it does with your music, this device syncs pictures via ITunes 4.7 software (included on the CD). Plus, it's compatible with photo collections from Photoshop Elements 3.0 or Photoshop Album 1.0 on the PC, and IPhoto on the Mac.

Since I don't use either of the aforementioned PC apps, I set the IPod Photo to synchronize with the My Pictures folder, which worked great. I was able to choose between loading the entire My Pictures folder or only certain subfolders. IPod Photo automatically grabbed any new pictures I added each time I synced. Slick and seamless.

Once images are loaded, scrolling through thumbnails--even hundreds of them--is lightning fast. You can choose to look at a single photo, scroll through photos manually, or start a slide show. The Slideshow Settings menu lets you set, among other things, the amount of time slides display, as well as a playlist to aurally accompany a slide show. Unfortunately, you can't assign different playlists to various photo albums--you must change the playlist manually every time you want to alter the slide-show music.

On the Big Screen

IPod Photo comes with a cable for plugging into a TV's RCA jacks so you can present slide shows on the big screen. And while others see just the slide show on the TV screen, the IPod Photo screen displays both the previous and the next picture that will appear.

Apple includes USB 2.0 and FireWire cables, both of which let you charge the battery when plugged into a computer. And Apple claims up to 15 hours of life per charge (up from 12 hours on the current fourth-generation IPods); I was able to eke out about 14 hours of fantastic-sounding Coldplay, Green Day, and, uh, Barry Manilow (and that included some time spent looking at photos and playing slide shows).

Although you pay a premium for the IPod Photo, you also score on the accessory front. Not only are the AV cable and Apple's traditional earbuds included, but so are a carrying case and dock. On the downside, you'll have to purchase an add-on if you want to move pictures directly from a digital camera onto the IPod Photo. And even if you do that, you won't be able to view photos that come straight from a digicam--you need to load them on your computer before you can look at them on the IPod Photo. That's pretty annoying.

Despite such minor flaws and the high price, the IPod Photo won me over with its gorgeous color screen and its ability to seamlessly load both photos and music from my PC. Now instead of suffering through 40 minutes on the stair climber staring at the calorie counter, I can enjoy my favorite pictures.

Apple IPod Photo (40GB)

Elegant but pricey way to tote around your favorite pix and music.
List: $499
Current prices (if available)

This story, "First Look: iPod Brings Music to Your Photos" was originally published by PCWorld.

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