Third-generation iPod shuffle review

Allow me to save some of you the trouble of reading this review in its entirety. If you want an inexpensive iPod that holds 1,000 songs, know how to pack that iPod with exactly the tracks you like to listen to, are perfectly happy with Apple’s earbuds, and rarely hunt for specific tracks on your iPod, the third-generation (3G) iPod shuffle is a reasonable choice.

If, on the other hand, you want a more flexible iPod that lets you use any headphones you like, suspect that you’ll grow frustrated by controls that make it a small chore to navigate the iPod’s music collection, and wish to avoid jumping through hoops to use your iPod with an audio device other than Apple’s headphones, this is not an ideal iPod for you. Continue to use the iPod you own, save your money for the far more flexible £107 4G iPod nano, or drop £31 on the still-available 1GB second-generation (2G) iPod shuffle.

Physical attributes.

Before we turn to the intriguing question of whether an iPod without physical controls makes sense, let’s dispense with the technical details and the iPod’s performance.

The £59 3G iPod shuffle comes in a single 4GB capacity in either a silver or black anodized aluminum case that’s approximately the size of a AA battery. Like the previous 2G iPod shuffle, this iPod bears a clip for attaching the iPod to your clothing.

At the top of the shuffle is a small three-position switch- Off, Play-in-Order, and Shuffle - a small status light that glows different colors depending on the state of the iPod’s charge (as well as blinks in response to presses of the headphone controller), and an Earphone port.

Apple suggests that the 3G iPod shuffle can continuously play for up to 10 hours on a single charge. In my tests this shuffle exceeded that estimate by just over 20 per cent. Packed with 128kbps AAC files between three and five minutes long and set to medium volume, the shuffle played for 12 hours and 12 minutes before the battery drained fully.

While it’s nice that this shuffle bested Apple’s estimates, it offers less play time than the previous shuffle, which, rated at 12 hours of continuous play, managed to play non-stop in our tests for 16 hours and 31 minutes.

This iPod shuffle sounds as good to my ears as the last. And it provides plenty of volume. Also, this is the first iPod shuffle that plays all the audio formats supported by the larger iPods - AAC, MP3, AIFF, .wav, Audible, and Apple Lossless. Previous iPod shuffles don’t play Apple Lossless files.

This is also the first iPod shuffle that lets you place more than one playlist on the device. Additionally, when you sync it in iTunes, audiobooks and podcasts are automatically placed in their own playlists.

This is welcome, as playing audiobooks and podcast episodes in order with previous iPod shuffles took a fair bit of playlist fiddling within iTunes. And, as with the previous iPod shuffles, you can autofill the 3G shuffle from your entire music collection or specific playlists.

NEXT: Controversial control


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