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, clickThe 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. .
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.