With the Touch and new nano grabbing all the headlines recently, it's easy to forget that Apple also relaunched its classic range of hard disk players the other week. But relauch it did, improve them it has and, despite the fact that it's not the show-stopper it once was, the old iPod is still an extremely solid choice for any discerning music lover looking for a high-capacity do-it-all device.
It's been two years since Apple launched its last standard iPod and it's not surprising to see the design tweaked this time around. But while it hasn't received quite as dramatic a makeover as the nano this is still a very nice refinement. The most obvious change is to the glossy front fascia, which has now been dumped in favour of anodised aluminium fronts. It's a big improvement if you don't like greasy fingerprints and is available in silver or black, but not white. Apple now seems to be moving slowly away from the classic plastic look that has characterised its revival over the past few years.
Like the nano, the corners are rounded and the edges curve gently towards smartly sharp corners, while the back is shiny, easily marked chrome, just as before. The Classic has also been slimmed down by a few millimetres - all the better for your pocket at just 10.5mm (13.5mm for the 160GB model), but this is hardly a dramatic change and in all other respects - physically at least - the Classic remains very familiar. A 320 x 240 resolution, 2.5in screen still occupies half of the front of the player with the click wheel control dominating the lower half. The hold switch is on the top edge with the 3.5mm analogue audio output, while on the bottom you'll find the Apple sync connector.
What's more noticeable are the alterations that have been made to the interface. Here the most exciting addition is that of Cover Flow. This has been available on iTunes for some time now and allows you to flick through the album covers of your music collection as if they were mounted on some giant virtual Rolodex. It works perfectly on the iPod Classic, animating smoothly and varying in speed depending on how fast you spin your finger or thumb around the click wheel. And though it sounds like a gimmick I found myself increasingly using it as the main method of choosing what I wanted to play over the traditional album, artist and genre browser.