First Look: Apple iPod Classic

CNET Senior Editor Donald Bell gives his take on the new Apple iPod Classic.

Again, the video here tells most of the story for this new sixth-generation version of the iPod, now called the iPod Classic. Still, there are a few specific details worth focusing some extra attention on.

Capacity

The iPod Classic is now the only iPod Apple makes with a storage capacity over 16GB. In fact, the base model ($249) starts with a whopping 80GB of storage, and the next model up ($349) jumps to 160GB. These are serious numbers that are bound to excite those of us who carry huge music and/or video libraries. Many people were worried that Apple would ditch high-capacity players altogether with their latest line of iPods, but maintaining a high-capacity legacy MP3 player makes sense. After all, the iPod at this point has become an icon of industrial design and a symbol (for better or for worse) of our current digital music economy.

Also worth noting, unlike the iPhone, the iPod Classic, iPod Nano, and iPod Touch can be used as generic external storage devices. So if you're in a pinch and need a place to store that PowerPoint presentation, these new iPods might save the day.

Cosmetics

The two most striking aspects of the iPod Classic's design are the matte, anodized-aluminum faceplate (instead of the highly scratchable plastic on the fifth generation) and the thinner size (the 80GB feels as thin as a 30GB fifth-generation iPod). The 2.5-inch screen looks identical to the previous iPod model, offering the same 320x240 resolution as the new iPod Nano. The headphone jack, hold switch, and USB connection are all identical to the fifth-generation iPod.

Graphic user interface

One of the most important updates to the sixth-generation iPod, beyond the metal faceplate, thinner body, and increased storage, is the overhauled GUI. Identical to the GUI found on the new iPod Nano, the iPod Classic's new interface allows you to browse your music using either a Cover Flow mode or a split-screen mode that presents the navigation list on the left side of the screen and any graphics associated with the current selection on the right side of the screen. As I mentioned in my First Look on the new Nano , the new iPod OS also evolves the Shuffle feature and includes three games right out of the box.

Battery life

The two versions of the iPod Classic claim to have the longest battery life of any iPod to date. The 80GB model is rated for 30 hours of audio and five hours of video, while the 160GB model claims to be capable of 40 hours of audio and seven hours of video. We'll have to wait and see if these claims hold true.

What's missing?

One feature that I believe Apple has sneaked out of both the new iPod Nano and iPod Classic is the ability to use the headphone jack as a composite video output jack for playing photos and videos directly to your television without the aid of a third-party interface. Honestly, most iPod users I encounter don't even know this feature exists on their fifth-generation iPods, so I can understand Apple's motivation for cutting out this cool, but undervalued feature.

 

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