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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).

Originally published by Donald Bell at Crave.
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 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 up, 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 something like the Nano.

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

Writer's exhaustion aside, the fifth-gen Nano is a pretty fantastic little gadget that's one of the most easy-to-recommend stocking stuffers out there. The thing comes in tons 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.

Now, to prevent from boring people 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 my own 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 ran up against problems with the Nano's tilt-sensor getting tripped-up on the camera's orientation and capturing videos sideways. Photo programs like iPhoto will often be smart enough to reorient the video according to EXIF data, 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, go read my rated review of the 5th-gen Apple iPod Nano by heading on over to CNET Reviews.