You may be wondering why we’re reviewing the iPod photo some four months after it first came out. Well, the hard cold fact is that getting review samples out of Apple or its PR company has been like trying to get blood out of a…well, an Apple.
But it's undeniable that since colour was introduced to the iPod, it’s been the reference point for all the colour screened competition. And with a little help from our friends at MR Systems, we were able to finally get hold of one so we can see what all the fuss was about first hand.
It’s a good thing that we did too, as my impressions of the iPod photo when the player was first released was that it was just too fat to be worthy of consideration. Yes, a colour screen sounded like a good thing but surely it couldn’t be worth the extra bulk? While the 3G and 4G players were pleasingly slimmed down compared to the first two generations, the iPod photos extra bulk seemed something of a step backward. However, once I started playing with it I quickly succumbed to the charms of having a colour screen, which I’ll describe in more detail a little later.
Other improvements over the monochromed units are increased battery life - taking it up to 15 hours if used exclusively for music and five hours when used exclusively for colour slideshows. Inevitably, actual battery life will vary between these figures depending on usage. To get to this figure the photo only has 17 minutes of skip protection rather than 25, which isn’t too much of an issue. It will recharge fully in five hours and fill to 80 per cent of its capacity in three.
From the front, the iPod photo looks the same as the non-colour fourth generation iPods. The click wheel is a new design classic integrating the four buttons that were under the screen in the third generation unit. For those that aren’t aware, the iPod will play MP3 files natively, and always has, something that Sony has just got round to adding. It will also play VBR MP3 files, Apple’s AAC files, the obscure AIFF format, and Apple’s Loseless codec, which is more space efficient than WAV, which it also supports.
Since Apple has first introduced the iPod photo, it’s actually made some changes. The first was the name, dropping the capital ‘P’ from Photo, to bring it into line with with the ‘mini’ and the ‘shuffle’ players. The photo was also originally available in 60GB and 40GB capacities. The 40GB has since been dropped from the line-up and replaced with a slightly thinner 30GB capacity, shaving off 3mm and reducing the weight from a hefty 181g to 167g. This compares to 158g for the 20GB iPod (pictured on the right).
The prices of the iPod have also been lowered but in a sneaky move a lot of stuff that used to be included as standard is now missing. Gone from the box is the Dock, which also contains an S-Video output, enabling you to hook up to a TV using a better quality connection than the standard composite AV cable. Unfortunately this has been removed from the box as well. You also no longer get a Firewire cable, only USB 2 though most people won’t be too upset by this. Additionally, the carry case is omitted, while the remote control was removed from the standard box with the 4G iPod.