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Jazz vocals and solo instruments don't ring out with quite the same realism as they do on the Vibez; Lisa Ekdahl's rendition of Laziest Girl In Town doesn't quite sound as if you're there. But feed it something more energetic like Fat Lip from Sum 41's joyous romp, All Killer No Filler, and it really comes into its own with buttery, rounded out bass and mid-range, which makes for easy long-term listening. However, the smoothness does mean that dynamics don't quite hit the heights: guitars lack the bite they have with better players and high hats and drums lack a little energy.
Other areas of performance are impressive. Battery life is 30 hours for music, which is very impressive for a hard disk player like this, and video playback of five hours is about par for the course; enough for a couple of movies with room to spare for an episode or two of The Simpsons. Move up to the bulkier 160GB model and you get an extra ten hours of music listening, while video playback is extended to a maximum of seven hours, which is seriously impressive.
File format support is, as usual, pretty miserly, however. For music, you're stuck with AAC, Apple Lossless and MP3, while video is restricted to H.264 formats - .mp4, .mov and .m4v - with no sign of native support for .avi or .divx files. If your main source of video is the Internet, this means you'll be doing a fair bit of re-encoding.
But the most astonishing thing about the new iPod Classic is not the battery life, sound quality, usability or design tweaks but how much of a bargain it is. The 80GB model can be had for around the £160 mark, while the 160GB Classic costs £230. To put that in perspective, the 80GB Classic works out £10 cheaper than the 4GB DAB radio flash-based player I reviewed the other week and gives you 20 times the storage.
Complaints about the restrictive file format support, volume level and games compatibility aside, if you're in the market for a high-capacity music and video player the iPod Classic should be high on your shortlist. Its years at the top of the MP3 player market have resulted in a great-looking, mature product that's not only wonderfully easy to pick up and use but is also packed with features and, most importantly, is a great bargain.
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