Apple iPod Photo review: Apple iPod Photo

When you connect the Apple iPod Photo to iTunes 4.7 or higher, you'll get a new tab in Preferences. This is where you can designate what photo application or photo folder you want to sync with the iPod Photo, just as you would with audio tracks. After--and only after--iTunes has synchronized the music side, the program will automatically create and transfer three copies of the original photos designated by the user: one each optimized for thumbnail viewing, regular viewing, and television viewing. This makes a ton of sense, as zero optimization or compression would make for annoyingly slow photo-loading times, as experienced on the iRiver H320. And without optimization for televisions, your outputted photo would look pixelated and harshly low-fi. The transfer is invisible to the user, and the benefits include blazing-fast scanning through photos and thumbnails, which are displayed in an innovative, mosaiclike, five-by-five thumbnail grid. In iTunes' Preferences menu, you also get an option to transfer a full-size copy of the photo. While you can't view this file, you can store and transfer it as you would a data file.

Now here's the catch. The best possible way of transferring photos to the iPod Photo is by utilizing the power of iPhoto 4.0. Having the latest version of the Mac OS X staple allows you to transfer photo albums and the accompanying slide-show music you've spent time assembling. It's a much cleaner experience than pointing to a folder and having every photo in it transferred in bulk. Unfortunately, many users of older Macs don't have iPhoto 4.0 or must pay $79 for the iLife '05 suite to get it. The fact that Apple didn't bundle iPhoto 4.0 with a device costing $350 to $450 blows us away. On the PC side, iTunes is optimized to work with Adobe Elements or Adobe Album--again, two products that will cost extra.

OK, you now have your photos on your iPod. In its default state, the iPod main menu lists Music, Photos, Extras, Settings, Shuffle Songs, and Backlight as options. Drill down into the Photo menu, and you'll see Slideshow settings and your iPhoto Albums or bulk photo library. In Slideshow settings, you can specify what music playlist accompanies the slide show, the time between slides, whether to use a simple transition, and so on. If you're away from a computer and want to play a specific song, you can utilize the On-the-Go playlist feature as a workaround.

Besides the updated pricing scheme, Apple has added a hotly desired feature, one that should have been included with the first version. Digital camera owners can now transfer their photos onto the iPod Photo and view them. Users will be able to do this by purchasing the optional iPod Camera Connector ($29) and by updating their iPod's firmware to version 1.1. This once-coveted extra feature is now icing on the cake, especially since users today would buy an iPod Photo just for its colorful interface. The firmware update also includes additional slide-show transitions. For a list of compatible cameras, click here.

Let's not forget that the iPod is an audio player first and foremost. Outside of the color screen, the scrolling track information, and the inclusion of album art, the iPod Photo is the same excellent and easy-to-use audio player compatible with MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, AIFF, and Audible files. We love the fact that you can browse photos while listening to music outside of slide-show mode. The slide shows add an intangible emotional element to the portable experience, and album art brings some personality to the music, with the effect of transforming a digital file into a song. For more detailed information on the iPod's audio features, click here .

The first thing we noticed about the Apple iPod Photo was its relatively speedy processor. Although Apple won't get specific about internal hardware, we know that the Photo runs on dual 80MHz processors residing on an updated PortalPlayer chip. In general, you're never waiting around for photos to render or for slide shows to activate. Other than the few seconds it takes to load a screen full of thumbnails, the iPod Photo slows down for no one.


You can flip through photos or the five-by-five thumbnail view with ease using the Click Wheel.

This model's sound quality mirrors the regular iPod's and is good overall, although we're still not impressed with the preset EQ settings--in other words, we've heard better-sounding MP3 players. Rated battery life has also been improved to 17.1 hours for audio only. This is a marked improvement and another reason to like the iPod Photo. You're able to get a rated 5 hours of battery life when you play a continuous slide show, but with a device with dual audio and visual features, expect battery life to vary depending on usage. For example, our device lasted only 9 hours when we had played audio (backlight turned off) for about 6 hours and slide-show mode with the backlight turned on for nearly 3 hours.

Transfer times were excellent as well at a brisk 7.5MB per second over USB 2.0. For those interested, over FireWire (cable sold separately), the iPod Photo reached only 2.6MB per second.

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Apple iPod Photo (30GB)

Part Number: M9829LL/A Released: Feb 23, 2005

MSRP: $399.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Feb 23, 2005
  • Built-in Display LCD
  • Run Time (Up To) 15 hour(s)
  • Capacity 30 GB
  • Color White
  • Weight 5.9 oz
  • Supported Digital Audio Standards AIFF
  • Installed Size No built-in memory
  • Diagonal Size 2" m
  • Type 1 year warranty
  • Sound Output Mode Stereo
  • Type Hard drive