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iPod Nano 5G review: Jack-of-all-trades

CNET Senior Editor Donald Bell offers his official review of the Apple iPod Nano (fifth generation).

Photo of iPod Nano next to Flip Ultra HD camcorder.
When it comes to camcorders, I won't be abandoning my Flip anytime soon. But that doesn't make the iPod Nano any less attractive. The more camera-having gadgets, the merrier. Donald Bell/CNET

The official CNET review of the fifth-generation iPod Nano is done, and I am officially exhausted. Someone please tell Apple to stop adding features to this thing. Remember when all an MP3 player to do was play music? CNET's first iPod review was only 600 words long. These days, you practically have to write a textbook to cover all the features that get crammed into a device like the iPod Nano.

Photo of 4th-generation and 5th-generation iPod Nanos sitting next to each other.
An extra 0.2-inch really does make a noticeable difference when you're dealing with screens this small. Donald Bell/CNET

Writer's exhaustion aside, the fifth-generation Nano is a fantastic little gadget that's one of the easiest-to-recommend stocking stuffers out there. The thing comes in a ton of colors, works with iTunes, helps you lose weight (pedometer), and might even get you to record the world's next completely unnecessary viral YouTube sensation. Sure, the earbuds are still garbage, but Sony seems to be the only manufacturer fighting that battle.

To prevent from boring you to tears, one area of the iPod Nano's performance I didn't go into exhaustive detail over is the video camera's image quality. If you're curious, I ran a few of tests over the weekend, shooting indoors and outdoors, and A/B testing the Nano against the Flip UltraHD. Aside from the obvious image quality differences, I also found problems with the Nano's tilt-sensor getting tripped-up on the camera's orientation and capturing videos sideways. Editing programs will often be smart enough to reorient the video automatically, but the glitch shows just one more way where a dedicated camcorder like the Flip gets things right.

Image comparing video frame stills from iPod Nano and Flip Ultra HD camcorder.
Comparing the $199 Flip UltraHD video capture quality (left) to the $149 iPod Nano's (right). Click to enlarge. Donald Bell/CNET

Still, minor complaints aside, the Nano is still an exceptional itty-bitty do-it-all gadget for the price. You really have to take the Nano's camcorder with a grain of salt. It is, after all, an MP3 player. But if video recording tests really float your boat, former CNET-er Tim Moynihan has an comprehensive comparison of pocket camera and iPod Nano video tests. Otherwise, check out my rated review of the fifth-generation Apple iPod Nano by heading on over to CNET Reviews.