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iPod upgrading--Jasmine's Tech Dos and Don'ts

Get schooled by CNET editor Jasmine France. This week she gives advice on whether to upgrade from your current MP3 player to the new iPods released at Apple's annual music event.

Jasmine's Tech Dos and Don'ts

You may have noticed that this column enjoyed a hiatus last week. You may have also taken note of a little announcement from Apple about some new iPods. That was no coincidence; I spent the first several days of September up to my neck in the related iTunes 10 news.

Still, the new MP3 players didn't escape my attention, mainly because I'm eager to replace my essentially ruined second-gen iPod Touch. But more importantly, should you upgrade to one of the new iPods? To answer just that question, I spent some time with all three players.

The first thing worth pointing out is Apple's drastic departure from the iconic clickwheel. As much as I wasn't a fan personally, anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of iPod owners loved the thing. If you count yourself among the clickwheel-faithful, DON'T upgrade to the sixth-generation Nano. Its minute touchscreen isn't nearly as user-friendly. Not only that, but the display doesn't sit flush with the player, which is another aberration for a company that has become synonymous with sleek, streamlined design.

Also, though Apple didn't announce an refresh to the iPod Classic, the company didn't do away with it either. DO snatch up this time-honored player before it disappears completely, especially if you're still hanging onto an iPod Video or older model. The Classic is the only iPod that retains the clickwheel, and it's also one of very few true high-capacity MP3 players left on the market.

As for the fourth-generation iPod Shuffle, its return to a button-friendly interface elevates it back to fitness-friendly status in my book. However, DO consider the Sansa Clip+ as an alternative to the Shuffle if you're after a gym-worthy player with an FM tuner and a higher capacity. Transferring music is a simple drag-and-drop affair, and it also offers a built-in clip.

That said, DO purchase a Shuffle as a secondary MP3 player to your iPhone or iPod Touch--you already have to use iTunes, so it's easiest to stick within the Apple environment. Plus, the Shuffle is the most suitable companion player to the iOS devices, as they already offer all the extra features found on the new Nano.

Finally, we come to the fourth-generation iPod Touch, and there's no denying that this is one slick, jack-of-all-trades device. However, DON'T bother shelling out for this model if you already own the previous one, as there's not a noticeable improvement in performance. Plus, the addition of the cameras is more gimmicky than anything, and multitasking on the Touch isn't a necessity for most people.

That said, absolutely DO upgrade to the latest Touch if you still have the first- or second-gen models--especially if you made the mistake of upgrading to iOS 4 (touché, Apple). The difference in processor speed is definitely apparent here, and your pleasure in using the device is likely to enjoy a marked increase as well.

Two weeks ago: Protect your tech