Apple iPod Nano 5th Gen 16GB £135
20th Sep 2009 | 09:00
The new iPod nano packs more punch than ever before
The iPod nano is still Apple's best-selling iPod. It's small, lightweight and fits into even the smallest pocket.
Now Apple has beefed up this miniature marvel considerably, with the addition of a video camera, speaker, FM radio tuner and a slightly bigger screen, all without changing its physical dimensions by even a single millimetre. And at the same time dropping its price by £11 to a more wallet-friendly £135.
When you stop to think about it, it's actually amazing how much tech Apple has managed to squeeze into the nano's incredibly thin case. But enough of the wonderment – what's it like to use?
Video on the go
We have to admit to being pleasantly surprised with the iPod nano's video quality. At just 6.2mm thick, the video it produces is never going to be of the highest quality, since there's hardly any room to pack in a decent lens.
We also found that the size of the nano worked against it when you shoot video – it's all too easy to get your finger in the way of the lens. Despite this, video is clean, detailed and surprisingly good.
While its 640x480 VGA resolution is perfectly adequate for taking a few fun clips of your friends on holiday, which you can then upload to YouTube, it's still not the sort of thing you want to be recording your baby's first steps with for posterity.
As if to emphasise the nano's function as a "just for fun" video camera, Apple has included 15 real-time special effects you can apply to spice up your video. These are similar to the effects found in iMovie, and range from classics such as Twirl and Light Tunnel to more modern creations like Cyborg, which overlays robot-style animations.
They all work well, but are really just a gimmick that you'll use a few times, then forget about.
Of course, you'll want to show people the video you've taken immediately, so Apple has included a speaker through which your friends can hear the audio as you playback the clips. As you'd expect, the speaker sounds thin and tinny, but it'll suffice. You're not going to really want to play your music through it though.
Again, to increase the fun factor, the nano now comes in a range of impressive bright colours. The cases are coated in anodised aluminium, and are particularly tactile and not in the least bit garish.
Given the lively finishes, it may seem that the nano is aimed squarely at the YouTube generation, but don't let that fool you into thinking this isn't a great product for older music listeners too. For instance, Apple has finally got around to building an FM radio into one of its iPods.
That's right – the nano now uses the headphones as an antenna, which you'll need to have connected whenever you want to listen. Unfortunately, that rules out using the speaker for radio.
The real beauty of the implementation here, though, is that you can pause live radio for up to 15 minutes. This is a truly great feature for such a tiny device, and it's as simple to use as pressing pause, then play to resume live radio reception.
To find a station frequency you just scroll the Click Wheel around, or press forward to search automatically. Favourite stations can be added with ease, and the whole system feels intuitive and easy to use. There's also the ability to utilise song tagging – so you can tag songs you like by pressing the Click Wheel for later purchase on iTunes.
Sadly, this feature doesn't work in the UK, and there's no word on when it will.
Apple has imported VoiceOver from the iPod shuffle to the nano. This isn't the same as the iPhone's Voice Control, which is the ability to recognise voice commands, such as "play song by Muse"; instead it means the nano can tell you what song and artist is currently playing when you hit the centre button on the Click Wheel.
It can talk to you in multiple languages too. VoiceOver was originally designed for the screen-less iPod shuffle, but it works surprisingly well on the nano too, for occasions when you're jogging or at the gym and you can't look at the screen.
Other innovations include a pedometer, which utilises the nano's built-in accelerometer to help you keep fit. Well, at least it counts the number of steps you've taken that day, so you can try to keep up with the 10,000 steps a day that doctors recommend. It's not completely accurate – in tests it missed the occasional step, but it's good enough for you to be able to trust its readings.
Real sports enthusiasts will of course need to purchase the Nike + iPod sport kit to track their running data using the pedometer.
The iPod nano is overflowing with so many genuinely useful new features that it's easy to forget that at it's heart, it's still an iPod whose main job is to play music.
The 16GB flash drive capacity may come across as a bit on the small side these days, especially if you want to watch purchased movies, although you can still fit eight hours of video at full quality on it. Of course, once you add in tracks from your music library, podcasts and video podcasts, you'll start to run out of space pretty fast.
As usual for iPods, battery time in our tests perfectly matched Apple's prediction of 24 hours for audio and five hours for video. All in all, this is a great update to the nano, and one that will ensure it remains Apple's top-selling iPod.
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