Apple iPod nano (sixth generation, late 2010) review

No iPod model has received as many makeovers—both minor and dramatic—as the iPod nano. (Perhaps not coincidentally, no other iPod model has sold as well.) The original nano was simply a scaled-down version of the standard iPod—tall and thin with a shiny, steel back and a white-plastic front, but the first revision gave the nano an all-aluminum body. The third version brought a short-and-wide shape, but the nano returned to tall and thin in the fourth go-round. The the most-recent nano, the fifth in as many years, got a larger screen and a video camera. But one thing all nano models have had in common is the traditional iPod design: a screen at the top with Apple’s iconic Click Wheel below.

No longer. With the release of the sixth-generation (6G) iPod nano, the line has received its most dramatic redesign yet, and the Click Wheel is nowhere to be found. In its place you’ll find a Multi-Touch screen similar to—but much smaller than—the one on Apple’s iOS devices.

Hip to be square

The new nano, available in the same 8GB and 16GB capacities as before but in seven new colours, still wears an aluminum shell, but it now takes a considerably smaller shape: Instead of rectangular, it’s nearly square at just 1.5 inches tall and 1.6 inches wide. But the 6G nano is also the thickest nano yet—0.35 inches—thanks to a built-in, spring-loaded clip, a la the iPod shuffle. The clip is grippy enough to keep the nano attached to your shirt sleeve during moderate activity, though the nano is heavy enough that you’ll want to clip it somewhere safer during vigorous exercise.

Apple iPod nano

On the bottom of the new nano, you’ll find Apple’s 30-pin dock-connector port, as well as a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) headphone jack. We’ll have more on accessory compatibility soon, but for the most part, dock-connector accessories that worked with the previous iPod nano should work with this one. The nano ships with Apple’s USB dock-connector cable and standard earbuds. As with most recent iPods, not included are an AC adapter—unless you buy one separately, you charge the nano while syncing using your computer’s USB port—and an adapter for dock accessories that use Apple’s Universal Dock design. (Apple’s online store doesn’t yet list a compatible dock adapter for sale.)

On the top of the nano are a Sleep/Wake button and shuffle-like Volume Down and Volume Up buttons. In fact, between its volume buttons, shape, and clip, the new nano looks very much like an oversized version of the new iPod shuffle. Well, except for the fact that it has no playback buttons.

Can touch this

“No playback buttons? You mean this is another third-generation iPod shuffle debacle?” Not exactly. The front of the new nano sports a square (1.54-inch diagonal) LCD display with a resolution of 240 by 240 pixels. This display is quite a bit smaller than the 240-by-376-pixel display of the 5G iPod nano, but the new screen mostly makes up for its smaller size with Multi-Touch functionality: you control most of the nano’s features by touching the screen.

If you’ve ever used an iPhone or an iPod touch, this touch-based interface will be familiar. You press the Sleep/Wake button to turn on the screen, and in place of the traditional iPod interface of hierarchical menus listing functions and media, you now see “app” icons floating over a user-configurable background (the nano includes different backgrounds based on the color of your iPod)—four icons per screen, with one icon for each major feature or category: Playlists, Now Playing, Artists, Genius Mixes, Radio, Podcasts, Photos, Settings, Songs, Albums, Genres, Composers, Fitness, Clock, Audiobooks (if you’ve synced one or more audiobooks to the iPod), and (if a microphone is attached) Voice Memos. You swipe the screen to the left or right to view another group of four, and you tap an icon to open that “app.” You swipe up and down to scroll lists of, say, tracks or artists.

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