iPod 10GB; firmware update

Kicking yourself isn’t easy. But I managed it when Apple released its 10GB iPod a scant three weeks after I bought my 5GB model. After my leg had healed, I got to thinking: do I really need 10GB of space for all my MP3s? A quick look at the info that came with my iPod led to an equally quick – and surprising – answer: “yes”. Even better news: the “2,000 songs in your pocket” motif applies to MP3s ripped at 160Kbps. Ripping tracks at 128Kbps will, to be frank, make little difference to their quality – especially when you’re listening to music surrounded by the cacophany of the outside world. It will also give you the space for around 2,600 songs – that’s about 200 CDs’ worth. A 10GB hard drive that fits into something the size of a packet of cigarettes is a technological wonder – and the increased capacity means that using iPod as a FireWire hard drive is a more realistic proposition than before. In fact, you could conceivably install OS X on it, and run your Mac directly from the iPod (see Q&A, page 103). Apple has also priced the 10GB version competitively – it’s only £80 more expensive than the 5GB model, although it isn’t cheap to start with… If your CD collection numbers in the hundreds, you might well fill it up; I’m up to 609 songs, with 2.5GB left – and hundreds of CDs left to rip. Having that much music available at any one time is a little overwhelming – it would reduce me to a salivating, indecisive wreck. More impressive than the hardware is the updated iPod software. Apple has introduced an equalizer (EQ) (something iPod users had been clamouring for), and a new Contacts feature. The EQ is a welcome and powerful addition. By synchronizing with iTunes, the iPod can assign presets on a song-by-song basis, or apply a global setting. It’s even more essential if you use the supplied headphones. The ones that come with iPod are tinny, and lack warmth in the low-end. The Contacts feature can import and store over 1,000 names and addresses from Mac OS X Address Book, Microsoft Entourage, or Palm Desktop – a great resource. This works quickly and painlessly, updating itself each time you plug your iPod into your Mac. Given that these powerful features were added with a simple 0.1 update, one wonders what else could be in store in future versions. For instance, while I won’t grumble at a preset-based EQ, it would be nice to have some control over it. Maybe a full manual version such as the one in iTunes will make an appearance.

OUR VERDICT

Ten gigabytes is a lot of space – 4GB more than I have on my Mac at work, in fact – where MP3s are concerned. Although it’s expensive, try and view the new iPod as more than just a glorified Walkman. If you can store 2,000 songs on it and run OS X from it, £429 suddenly doesn’t seem like too much money. Add to that the excellent free software, and you’re set – until the 20GB version arrives.

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