The reason that the nano needs iTunes 8 is so that it can show off another new feature, Genius mode. Genius mode let’s your iPod decide what you want to listen to next, by cueing up tracks in a similar genre or tempo. Apple is by no means the first to come up with this kind of feature, and I can’t say I’m a fan of the concept. Personally I prefer to listen to the music I want to listen to, rather than what my player thinks is best - isn’t that what playlists are for after all?
Battery life for music playback is an admirable 24 hours, just like the outgoing model, but strangely video playback is only four hours on a full charge, as opposed to the five hours offered by the third generation model. Of course this reduction could be attributed to the more svelte dimensions and lighter weight than the outgoing nano, but then I would have expected music playback time to suffer too. The new nano retains the fast charge ability of its predecessor, which means it can go from empty to 80 per cent charged in only 1.5 hours, with a full charge taking three hours. The quick charge is pretty handy if you know you’re going on a trip and forgot to charge your iPod overnight.
In the box you’ll find a pair of Apple earbuds, which are best left untouched. You also get an iPod docking cable, and a docking plate, so that the nano will sit comfortably in a speaker dock. Unfortunately, Apple only supplies a white docking plate, so if your speaker dock happens to be black, it’s going to clash somewhat. Of course if you buy yourself a B&W Zeppelin, then you won’t need a docking plate at all.
The 8GB version of the nano that I’m looking at here can be had for £104, which seems like pretty good value to me. Yes there are small 8GB players on the market that cost less, but none of them are quite as cool as the nano, or feature a navigation method as good as Apple’s wheel. Ultimately, if you need a small and stylish player and have £100 burning a hole, the nano should be high on your list.
There’s no doubt that the fourth generation iPod nano is the best so far. The design is beautiful, even by Apple’s high standards, and the user interface is as intuitive as it always was. Crossfade is superb, and makes listening on shuffle even more enjoyable, but the nano still lacks some of the features seen on competing devices, like an FM tuner. The nano also looks a little pricey on paper compared to other players, but then no other player is as thin, light and stylish as this one.
Sound quality isn’t quite up there with the best players available, but I’m sure that the vast majority of non-audiophile users will be more than happy with it. Pair the nano with a pair of Klipsch Image earphones and you’ll have the perfect combination of small, light and comfortable mobile listening. My trips to the gym just won’t be the same once Apple picks up the nano.