capsule review

Apple IPod

At a Glance
  • Apple iPod 20GB (Click Wheel)

Apple IPod
Photograph: Courtesy of Apple

[Editor's note: Since this article was published, Apple has discontinued the 40GB model. The 20GB player in our most recent Top 10 Audio Players chart is identical to the model reviewed here except for its capacity and price ($280).]

Apple recently launched its fourth-generation IPod--and by now either you love the slick-looking player, or its features and price have left you unimpressed. Here's a simple take on the new version from someone who resides in the second camp: This one's much better, but it's still not perfect.

Apple has introduced its 20GB and 40GB IPods for $299 and $399, respectively. That's $100 less for models with the same capacities that the previous generation offered, though accessories such as cases are no longer standard.

The major improvements: Apple rates the new IPod's battery life at 12 hours of continuous play (up from 8 hours), and I netted exactly that in tests of a shipping 40GB unit. To improve usability, Apple added the IPod Mini's click-wheel control, which elegantly combines touch-sensitive scrolling with easier-to-use click buttons.

Other improvements are minor: You can now speed up audiobooks without triggering the chipmunk-on-helium effect; you can better manipulate On-The-Go playlists (and more easily save them); and you can shuffle through all of your songs or albums with a single click.

Frustratingly, the IPod continues to suffer from several feature omissions. Apple limits codec support to AAC, MP3, and Apple Lossless (plus .wav and AIFF), so fans of WMA, Ogg Vorbis, and FLAC are out of luck. You still can't change the order of songs on a playlist, and you can purchase music online only through Apple.

The IPod's thoughtful design and features make it an excellent MP3 player. But for picky buyers who are holding out for the ideal portable music device, the wait continues.

Apple's 20GB IPod has most of what you need, but power users may want more flexibility.

Eric Dahl

This story, "Apple IPod " was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Featuring controls borrowed from the iPod mini, a simplified menu interface, and a reduced price tag, the latest generation of iPods are a fitting evolution to Apple's stunningly popular line of digital-audio players.

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