Apple iPod shuffle (September '09, 3rd gen, 4GB) review: Apple iPod shuffle (September '09, 3rd gen, 4GB)

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
Pricing Unavailable

The Good Dinky dimensions; VoiceOver feature works well.

The Bad Controls located on headphone cable; no screen.

The Bottom Line Apple's latest iPod shuffle is extremely small and stylish, but its lack of a screen and fiddly controls make it tricky to use. As a result, we can't fully recommend it

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It's not just Apple's iPod nano and touch that recently received a facelift -- the shuffle line-up was rejigged too. The shuffle is now available in 2GB and 4GB versions, and there are five colours to choose from, rather than the previous two. The 2GB version costs £45, while the price of the 4GB version remains unchanged, at about £60. There's also a 4GB stainless steel version that costs £75.

Teeny tiny
Apple boasts that the third-generation shuffle is the smallest MP3 player in the world, and we're not about to argue -- it really is tiny. Imagine a stick of chewing gum folded in half and you'll get a pretty good idea of its dinky dimensions. It's also incredibly light, weighing in at just under 11g. Previously the shuffle was only available in silver and black, but now you can pick one up in silver, black, pink, blue or green.

There's only a single control on the shuffle's body -- the switch on top. This is used to turn the shuffle on and off and choose between the two play modes -- shuffle and consecutive. There's no USB port. When you need to connect the shuffle to your computer, you have to use the short, 10cm adaptor cable that plugs into the shuffle's headphone jack. As the cable is so small, it's easy to misplace. That could prove a problem, because, if you haven't got it to hand, there's no other way of getting music onto the shuffle.

Control freak
Apple hasn't yet perfected mind control, so the buttons you might expect to find on the player have had to find another home -- the headphone cable, or, more precisely, the part of the cable that runs to the right ear piece. There are three buttons mounted on a very small piece of hard plastic, providing you with controls for increasing and decreasing the volume, and a multi-function central button.

You can now pick up a shuffle in one of five rather charming colours

Pressing the central button once pauses playback, pressing it twice in quick succession skips forward, and pressing it three times skips back. The problem with putting the controls on the headphone cable is that it means you can't easily swap out Apple's rather lacklustre cans for a different pair. There are now headphones available from third parties with shuffle controls built-in, but these can set you back almost as much as the player itself.

Display dismay
Unlike most MP3 players on the market, the shuffle lacks a screen. Apple has tried to sell this as a feature rather than a failing, but such marketing nonsense has never washed with us. There's absolutely no doubt that the lack of a screen is still one of the biggest failings of the shuffle, making it much fiddlier to use than most rival devices.

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Where to Buy

Apple iPod shuffle (September '09, 3rd gen, 4GB)

Part Number: CNETApple iPod shuffle (September '09, 3rd gen, 4GB)

Typical Price: £60.00

See manufacturer website for availability.