Sat, 19 Sep 2009 iPod nano (Fifth-generation) review
Popular iPod now more capable thanks to video and radio
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: Larger display; video camera and microphone; built-in video effects; buffered FM radio with iTunes Tagging; pedometer.
- Cons: Video shot indoors looks poor; FM reception adequate but not great; same old earbuds.
- Min specs: Mac computer with USB 2.0 port, Mac OS X v10.4.11 or later. iTunes 9 or later, PC with USB 2.0 port Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional with Service Pack 3 or later. iTunes 9 or later.
- £115 (8 GB)
- £135 (16 GB)
- Star rating:
One of the more unexpected features that arrived with the 5G nano is FM radio. This is a feature that some users have been clamoring for since day one, and Apple has finally relented. But, typical of Apple, this is more than the standard FM radio you find in other MP3 players.
Sure, you can tune the radio from 87.5 to 107.9 by using the clickwheel. You can add favorite stations by simply selecting a station, pressing and holding the Center button, and choosing Add To Favorites from the drop-down menu. And you can scan for stations with a strong-ish signal by pressing and holding the Forward or Back portion of the clickwheel while viewing the radio dial, and the iPod will grab the next strong station, play a bit of it, and then move on to the next solid frequency.
The 5G iPod nano's radio buffer feature.
What makes this radio interesting is that you can “pause” and buffer 15 minutes of radio playback. To test the radio I plugged the nano into my car’s auxiliary input jack, chose a station, and headed to the local petrol emporium as the tank was running dry. As I stepped out of the car I pressed the Play/Pause portion of the clickwheel to pause the playing station. I pumped the gas, paid the bill, jumped back in the car, pressed Play/Pause on the nano, and the broadcast picked up where it left off without a discernible change in the quality of the audio.
For fun, I pressed Play/Pause to stop playback. This produced a timeline with a time readout above it—1:51 AM, for example. I then swiped my finger counterclockwise around the clickwheel to rewind back in time (up to 15 minutes). To move forward, I pressed Play/Pause and swiped in a clockwise manner.
You can’t save any of this audio or sync it back to your computer. Once 15 minutes has elapsed, the buffer begins to empty, dropping the oldest audio as new audio is buffered. Regardless, this is a great feature, particularly if you’re often interrupted during a favorite radio broadcast.
Another unique feature of the nano’s radio is its ability to save iTunes tags (US feature only). Tags are bits of data embedded in audio files broadcast over radio stations that support iTunes Tagging. When the iPod is tuned to one of these stations and a tagged song comes along, its title and artist appears below the radio station number readout with a small Tag icon next to it. Press and hold the Center button and you’re offered the option to tag the track.
This places the song’s title in the iPod’s Tagged Songs screen. More importantly, when you next sync the nano, the track’s name, artist, and (in some cases) album appear in a new Tagged playlist that appears under the Store heading in iTunes Source list. In that playlist you can choose to preview or purchase the song. If you often listen to stations where the DJ’s fail to name tunes, this is a great resource.