Apple's not about to get rid of its popular--and patented--Clickwheel control. This iPod operates just like the previous generation: press up for menu, down to play/pause, left or right to shuttle tracks, and center to make selections. Circular thumb-dragging makes quick work of long track and album lists.
...depending on the pocket. The Classic is certainly no beast at 4.1 by 2.4 inches, but it's also not all that diminutive in the scheme of MP3 players. If you really want a player for your pocket, you're better off with the new iPod Nano.
The Classic features the most revolutionary interface change of recent iPod generations. A split screen on the main menu cycles through photos and cover art as you navigate. The album sort shows a thumbnail of each cover, and there's even a Cover Flow selection for those who want the feel of flipping through vinyl.
There's still no dedicated volume (or FM radio, for that matter) in the latest iPod. The top edge of the player houses the standard headphone jack and hold switch, and the bottom features the same 30-pin proprietary connection found in previous models.
The Classic is the way to go if you have a ton of music and videos you want to take on the go. The hard drive Zune can match the Classic when it comes to storage and feature, but the Classic's battery life is much better.
The Classic takes a page from the iPhone's book, offering Cover Flow browsing for albums. Unfortunately, this mode can be a little slow going at first--we rather expected better performance from the iPod's processor.
The Classic is roughly twice the size of the 3rd-gen iPod Nano (left). The smaller player makes a better day-to-day companion--and is much more suitable for the gym--but for frequent fliers, the Classic is in it for the long haul.