Apple iPod Shuffle third-generation review: Apple iPod Shuffle third-generation

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.3
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 6.0
  • Performance: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The third-generation Apple iPod Shuffle is as light as a feather and as small as a paper clip, and it includes VoiceOver cues, and improved support for podcasts and audiobooks.

The Bad You need to operate the Shuffle using a pill-size remote control on your headphones, battery life isn't great, features are few, and the design is a bit boring.

The Bottom Line The third-generation iPod Shuffle is the next best thing to an invisible MP3 player, but the quirky controls and microscopic design make it a limited recommendation.

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Editors' note: Apple gave the third-generation iPod Shuffle a minor refresh in September 2009. The line added new color and capacity options. Find out more here.

Apple's third-generation iPod Shuffle MP3 player ($79) is the smallest MP3 player you can buy. Its unique size and uncommon, remote-controlled design won't suit every purpose, but people looking for the next best thing to an invisible iPod will appreciate the player's minimal approach.

Design
At first glance, the iPod Shuffle looks almost like a practical joke--as if someone is trying to persuade you that their tie clip plays MP3s. The aluminum-encased hardware measures just a few hairs larger than a paper clip (0.7 inch by 1.8 inches by 0.3 inch) and includes not a hint of button, knob, or screen. The headphone jack sits on the top edge of the Shuffle along with a switch that controls playback mode (shuffle playback/consecutive playback) and power.

Fortunately, Apple doesn't expect you to control the Shuffle's volume and playback using mind control (not yet, at least). The earbud-style headphones bundled with the Shuffle include a remote control on the cable, just below the right ear. The remote offers three buttons: two for volume control (up/down); and a central button with multiple functions. You press the center button once to pause music playback, twice to skip forward, and three times to skip back. Of course, the downside to this headphone-controlled design is if you lose your headphones, you also lose control of your iPod. Apple's replacement earbuds for the Shuffle cost $29, but it's possible to grab third-party headphones and adapters for less. And if you don't like Apple's earbuds, it is now becoming increasingly possible to pick up third-party headphones with integrated iPod remotes.


The iPod Shuffle's slim design and all-metal construction make the SanDisk Sansa Clip (left) look like a beast, but the iPod's elegance comes with some sacrifice.

The headphone cable reaches 3 feet, which should be more than enough length considering that the Shuffle is meant to be clipped to your clothing. A hinged chromed metal clip runs the length of the Shuffle on one side and includes a slot for attaching a lanyard or keychain. An Apple logo is engraved on the clip, and custom engraving is offered on orders placed through Apple's online store.

Features
The Shuffle is purely a digital audio player. There's no FM radio, no voice recording, and--obviously--no photo or video playback. Audio formats supported include MP3, AAC, Audible, WAV, AIF, and Apple Lossless, but no hope for WMA or FLAC.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Color Blue
  • Weight 0.4 oz
  • Supported Digital Audio Standards MP3
    AIFF
    Apple Lossless
    Audible
    AAC
    WAV
  • Installed Size 2 GB
  • Type 1 year warranty
  • Sound Output Mode Stereo
  • Type Digital player
  • Run Time (Up To) 10 hour(s)
  • Capacity 2 GB