Apple iPod 40G

Apple iPod 40G

iPod01 copy.jpgThe Lance Armstrong of MP3 players breaks another ribbon

If you don’t like ballet, it’s likely that the only possible enjoyment you get out of watching a performance is in wondering when one of the dancers is going to screw up and land with a spectacular thud on the stage. It’s kind of like that with Apple’s iPod: It’s a product so graceful and talented, we can’t help but watch in mesmerized fascination to see how the next iteration will screw it all up. But alas, Apple has once again pulled off another grand jete that leaves us feeling breathless.

The major update to the 4G iPod is that the hardware interface adopts the design of the iPod Mini, placing the four control buttons of the 3G version—reverse, menu, play/pause, and fast-forward—directly on the touch-sensitive click wheel. This design was a necessary space-saving innovation on the Mini, but it turned out to also be an improvement over the original. Not only is it easier to control all the functions of the iPod with one hand, but feeling the click of the iPod’s scroll wheel also gives you tactile feedback when you press a button.

The other improvements are subtle, but nonetheless brilliant. If your headphones get snagged or yanked out, for example, the iPod graciously pauses music playback for you. This feature also comes in handy when switching between earbuds and external speakers or an FM transmitter. The 40GB model is slightly thinner than the 3G 30GB iPod, but the 20GB we reviewed is even slimmer still. Battery life has improved as well; in fact, it improved over the span of our tests, initially lasting a little more than nine and a half hours, but eventually holding for slightly less than 12 hours (as advertised) as we were wrapping up our testing.

Our gripes are pretty much the same ones we’ve voiced since the original iPod was released. We’d love to see a custom parametric equalization option with at least five bands to tweak, and the option to associate custom settings with specific songs and playlists. A removable battery would also go a long way toward reassuring potential converts about the iPod’s longevity. And although the 4G iPod supports Apple’s proprietary lossless compression format, would it kill Apple to support the open-source OGG and FLAC standards? We think not. --Logan Decker

+ An apple a day: An improved interface, better battery life, and smaller size than previous models.

- Doctor’s office: Still lacks parametric EQ, removable battery, and open-source format support.

Month Reviewed: October 2004
Verdict: 10



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