Five reasons why the 4G iPod is better--for audio

Five reasons why the 4G iPod is better--for audio

James Kim
Account in memoriam for the editor.
James Kim
3 min read
The new is no doubt the most capable iPod to date. It's sleeker than its predecessor, and it gives you the option to watch video. But though the 5G and 4G iPods received similar ratings, which is the best for audio only?

After comparing the two, I've come up with five reasons why I'd pick the 4G iPod (the 20GB photo, to be exact) over the 30GB 5G model--if I just wanted to listen to tunes.

  1. Better overall battery life. In CNET Labs' drain test, the 5G (30GB) scored nearly 15 hours, while the 4G (20GB) maxed out at 17 hours. Sure, the 5G is 31 percent sleeker, but the weight loss comes at a price. And most users will dabble in a little video playback, so average playback times will certainly drop into the single digits. If you don't use it for video, you still need to contend with the fact that the 5G has a bigger, more power-hungry screen than the 4G's, one that will probably be turned on for 10 seconds (default setting) many times a day. You can maximize both versions' battery longevity by keeping the backlight off during the day. Also, consider the 60GB 5G iPod, which adds the tiniest amount of thickness and weight but has a rated battery life of 20 hours for audio.
  2. Faster processing. Apple won't tell us what's inside, but we've seen an autopsy. Obviously, the processor has been upgraded to power the video engine, and for the most part, the user experience is much the same--that is, the processor is stable, reliable, and relatively powerful. But we've noticed that the 5G has more 2-second pauses when skipping tracks (especially those with multiple titles) than the 4G. In fact, the 5G at times reminds me of my G4 PowerBook: slow.
  3. More Click Wheel = defter navigation. The 4G has a bigger Click Wheel than the 5G. It actually takes more thumb rotations to get through the entire music library. And the 5G's select button is flat, not raised, and thus less tactile, as with the 4G. The bigger screen and smaller Click Wheel feel a tad unwieldy for this iPod user.
  4. More robust design. The 5G feels slippery and slightly awkward in the hand--maybe it's too sleek. The 4G feels more ergonomic and certainly less precious than the 5G, though the age of the device might be a factor. And whether or not the 5G scratches more than the 4G version, the bigger screen amplifies the effect of any blemish. When I'm using an iPod for audio, I could care less what the screen looks like, though I like viewing photos with background music.
  5. Remote control. With the 5G version, you can spring for the new dock, which works with the cool new Apple wireless remote control. But you can't yet get a convenient wired remote, such as the one available for the smart-jack-equipped 4G version. As iPod users can attest, the remote is awesome for music, since it lets you stash your iPod, and you get dedicated volume controls.

But here are four reasons why you'd want a 5G iPod anyway:

  1. At the same price point ($300, at launch), you do get 10GB more with the 5G. However, 4G iPods (color or not) are available on the cheap these days.
  2. I've had fun watching Desperate Housewives the last three nights in a row.
  3. The slim 5G iPod is better in the pocket and on the eyes.
  4. I've noticed the 5G sounds slightly better (brighter, with a tad more bass) than the 4G version.