Under the hood, however, it’s not the same old nano. The first clue comes in the menu system, which packs in far more features. This iPod may not have video playback, but it does add an alarm, to do list, pin-code locking facility and the ability to sync Outlook contacts and calendar appointments to its armoury. There are also four games here, if you get bored listening to your music on the train.
Perhaps more importantly Apple has given the nano’s battery life a massive boost. The first nano, while acceptable at around 12 hours, often suffered in comparison to the competition. This one isn’t quite up there with the very best, but 24 hours on a charge is not to be sniffed at and should see you through any long-haul trips.
And let’s not forget that the new nano is now also available in larger capacities; up to a massive 8GB, though with the 4GB version you have a choice of more colours. It’s sobering to think that the nano’s largest capacity is 3GB more than the company’s original hard drive-based iPod, first announced in 2001.
The 4GB version reviewed here is good for around 1,000 songs according to Apple, and obviously encoding at higher bitrates will reduce this figure somewhat – something we’d encourage you to do, because the nano’s output is good enough to discern between a 128kbps encoded track and one ripped at 192kbps if you listen with a halfway decent pair of headphones. That’s not to say the earbuds included with the nano are complete rubbish, of course. They’re better than the usual dross, but still not as good as you can get for a relatively small outlay of £30 or more.
As with the shuffle I looked at a couple of weeks ago, this nano is blessed with plenty of brightness and clarity. The jazz guitar on Joshua Redman’s cover version of Tears in Heaven rings out realistically, and there’s a real kick to the flamenco-style Spanish guitar on Gipsy Kings’ Ternuras. The top end isn’t too harsh either. Play back a little of Sigur Ros’ much-played-on-the-BBC Takk album and the lead singer’s shrill singing never grates or sounds too sibilant.
There’s also enough mid-range oomph to provide rock and indie with drive and entertainment. Listening to Green Day’s classic albums International Superhits and American Idiot were really good fun, from the acoustic refrain of Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) to Boulevard of Broken Dreams, with Billie Joe Armstrong’s gravelly vocals reproduced convincingly over the top of the ripping guitars.