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CNET First Look
Apple iPod Nano (6th Gen)The sixth generation of the iPod Nano is the smallest yet, but it comes at the expense of valuable features and practical controls--and there's no reduction in price.
-Hey, I'm Donald Bell, and today, we're taking a first look at the 6th generation Apple iPod Nano. It comes in 7 colors and 2 capacities: an 8 gigabyte model for $149 and a 16 gig version for $179. Compared to the previous model, they've chopped off the click wheel, shrunk the screen, and oddly, they've dished the video camera that they made such a big deal about last year. They've also put a clip on the back similar to the iPod Shuffle, and on the top, you have buttons for volume and the screen lock. Now, to make up for the missing click wheel, Apple is using a tiny touch screen that measures about 1-inch square. You get little icons similar to the iPhone that control music playback, photos, radio, a pedometer, and even a clock. The screen lets you browse your music collection by flicking up and down, and you can also back out of menus by flicking back. You can even reorient the screen by pinching 2 fingers together and twisting it around. It's fun to play around with such a unique and small touch screen, but I gotta say for all its novelty, the new interface isn't much better than the click wheel in any practical way. If anything is more difficult to operate by feel, which is kind of important if you're actually using this while driving or exercising. I'll hand it to Apple, though, for finding a way to make the smallest Nano yet. But, I also have a hard time believing that anyone really thought the last version of the Nano was too big. Plus at half the size, you're also getting half the features. There's no video playback, no camcorder, games, calendar, notes, contacts, or alarm clock. That said I have to admit the features you do get are fairly incredible for such a small size. The main focus here is music and you should get around 24 hours of music playback from a single charge. You get icons for your music library, playlist, Genius Mixes, as well as shortcuts for artists, albums, songs, genres, composers, audio books, and podcast. You can customize the arrangement by pressing and holding any icon and shifting it around. There's also a "Shake to Shuffle" feature that you can turn on or off in the settings menu, that can play a random selection of songs when you give the player a shake. Beyond that, you also get a built-in radio which has the unique ability of pausing live broadcast for up to 15 minutes. You can also rewind anything you hear on the radio, which is pretty cool. Photos on such a small screen are really just for fun and you can't set your own image as a wallpaper. Under settings though, you can go back and swap out the wallpaper from one of Apple's own designs. There's a fitness app that includes a pedometer, and there's also support for the Nike Plus Fitness System, but you'll need to plug in the Nike receiver into the 30-pin dock connection in order to make that work. Another hidden feature is voice memos which you'll only see if you plug in a compatible headset with a microphone. The same goes for Apple's voiceover feature, which will announce track information for you if you have a pair of headphones with a compatible remote control. The headphones bundled with the Nano are just your plain old Apple earbuds, which we strongly recommend upgrading from for the sake of sound quality, but also for the sake of extra features. A remote also gives you the ability to skip and pause songs without looking at the screen, which is really useful if you're using this for exercising. Last but not least, there's the clock. It's an analog clock face, and we have to believe that manufacturers are gonna find some creative way to turn this thing into a watch. By flicking on the screen, you also get access to a stopwatch and a timer. So that's the 6th generation Apple iPod Nano----the smallest Nano yet but definitely a step backwards in terms of iPod features. If you're not sold on the small size, the cool little touchscreen, or the unmistakable Apple design, you can stretch your dollar a lot further with an older model or go on with an iPod alternative. For cnet.com, I'm Donald Bell.