The iPod Classic's sound quality is clean and crisp, but still uninspired when it comes to sound enhancement options. Users do get more than 20 equalization presets to choose among--but half of them are either useless or indistinguishable from one another. Compared with products such as the Creative Zen, the Samsung P2, or the Sony S-Series Walkman, the iPod's sound quality still leaves room for improvement. That said, after listening with our Ultrasone HFI-2200 headphones as well as a set of Shure SE310 earphones, we can say with confidence that the Classic's fidelity will certainly satisfy most users.
Video playback was the most impressive aspect of the iPod Classic. While we were impressed by the crisp resolution of the iPod Nano's smaller 2-inch screen, the 2.5-inch screen found on the iPod Classic is easier on the eyes. Both players share the same 320x240 resolution and are capable of playing files encoded at 640x480. By purchasing an additional component AV cable from Apple, it's possible for users to output resolutions up to 480p (720x480) to a television.
The iPod Classic's enhanced battery life is one of the better reasons to fork over your money to Apple. The 120GB Classic's rated battery life of 36 hours of audio playback and 6 hours for video is fairly conservative, actually. Our CNET labs found the iPod Classic to be realistically capable of 39 hours of continuous audio playback or 8.8 hours of video playback. MP3 players capable of 30 to 40 hours of audio playback are a rare find, but the Classic's 8-plus hours of video playback is in a class of its own.
Is it worth upgrading?
If you're looking for an iPod that can store more than 32GB of music and video, the 120GB iPod Classic is the only option now available to you. For file-hoarders anxious to break the 120GB iPod storage limitation, you may want to consider picking up one of 2007's 160GB Classic's before they disappear from the market.
Before you leap, however, you should know that the iPod Nano, the iPod Classic, and the iPod Touch, all require iTunes 8 or later in order to be compatible with your computer. We recommend testing the compatibility of the latest version of iTunes with your computer before making the purchase.
The iTunes factor
No iPod review would be complete without mentioning Apple's iTunes music software. For better or worse, the integration between an iPod and Apple's iTunes music software is nearly airtight. If this is going to be your first iPod, it's worthwhile to download iTunes ahead of time to see if it works well on your computer and is intuitive for you to use. You should also be aware that most of the music and movies available for purchase on the iTunes online store will play only in iTunes or on an authorized iPod and cannot be transferred to a non-Apple MP3 player.
As the availability of high-capacity hard-drive MP3 players seems to be on the decline, we're happy to see that Apple is continuing to develop them. The iPod Classic doesn't deliver the futuristic novelty of the iPod Nano or the iPod Touch, but it is still one of the best-designed high-capacity MP3 players on the market.