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I have had my ipod for 9 months and have had no problems with battery life. Generally it lasts about 10 -11 hours on a full charge which for me is about 2 days of listening but as it takes only 1 hour to 80% charge and a further hour to full charge it doesnt take long to recharge. The battery life is also affected by factors such as how often you change songs (as the hard drive has to spin up) and how much you use the backlight.
Im not the safest person with fragile gadgets and before I got my ipod I was worried I would spend a lot of money getting one and then break it. However I neednt have worried I have (though Im not proud to say) dropped it down the stairs and been the cause of several more minor falls and has survived to tell the tale so I feel it is quite sturdy (though my first ever ipod went for a swim and never survived )
The ipod I have is a 4th generation 40gigabite one and came with a charger, firewire cable (the same cable plugs into the charger to charge it and unplugs to fit into the firewire port on the computer) firewire 6 to 4 pin adapter, docking station and headphones but no remote, though I have since got a remote and must say I hardly ever use it!
This incarnation of the ipod comes with the option of a firewire connection or a USB2 connection. Firewire ports at first were only present on apple computers with USB2 being the choice for PC users, however it is now common to find firewire ports on PCs also. The firewire option is the one I went for as the speed is quicker than that of a USB2 connection.
As well as using the ipod as a music player you can enable the ipods disk mode which means you can carry all sorts of info round on it. In the past I have used it for carrying photos on by transferring them from my computer on to my ipod and then onto my friends computer which was a lot quicker than me emailing them and her downloading them as there was about 1gigabite of pictures! There is also a note feature on the ipod which is handy to read e-books with and its great when travelling. The only problem is that each note can only contain 1000 characters so you need a small shareware program (free) which will brake up bodies of text into a suitable size and link one note to the other for ease of reading. You can also use the ipod as a kind of address book/calendar filofax thingy but I have never tried this out as its not a feature I really need though Im sure some people would find it useful.
Getting the ipod working out of the box is really easy. Firstly you need to charge it for an hour or so and then its ready to go during which time you can install iTunes and start loading up your cd collection, this can be quite time consuming if you have many but there are places which will do this chore for you but not cheaply. It takes about 2 minutes to upload a standard album to iTunes . When the ipod is charged you can upload the songs onto it by opening iTunes and connecting the ipod to the computer and providing you have not changed the ipod settings iTunes will automatically synchronise your ipod and upload all your music which if you have a lot can take a while.
Which brings me to another point, deciding what bit rate you want to encode your music at, the higher the bit rate the better the quality but the bigger the size, so its a trade off between how many songs you want and what quality you want. With 40gigabites of space on this ipod though its not a problem I have found yet, most of my songs are encoded between 192kbps and 320kbps with most being at the lower end, however I also have quite a few audiobooks and find that between 16kbps and 64kbps is fine for them which is great as they tend to be very large files as they are several days long!
A little test you can do if you want to find the optimum encoding for you is to rip a track at several different bit rates, then listen to the original and then one of the rips, the lowest bitrate at which you cant tell the difference will give you the best quality for you at the lowest bitrate. There is no point wasteing valuable (and expensive) space by encoding at 320kbps if you cant tell the difference between the original and a track ripped at 192kbps so this way you get the best sound at the lowest bit rate for you and you get the best audio from your ipod.
The ipod is controlled through a touch sensitive click wheel with a central button. The central button is the enter key and on the wheel are the forward song, back song, menu and play/pause buttons. The wheel and the enter button are used to navigate through the menus to select songs, games and other stuff. The click wheel is a great way of navigating and can scroll quickly through thousands of songs. The only problem is that when you are selecting a song with the enter button you have to be sure you dont touch the touch sensitive click wheel, if you do this the ipod will select the track down from the one you thought you had chosen, at first I though this was a fault with my ipod but then I noticed that I was inadvertently causing the problem!
The ipod screen is easy to read and the song titles are displayed in the same clear font as the menus, though if you are having difficulty you can use the backlight which gives off a strong blue light and makes it possible to navigate the menus in the dark. You can search for songs by using different listing criteria such as title, album name, genre and artist so its easy to find exactly what you are looking for.
You can play through your whole music collection on random, which can bring up some unusual combinations and plays you songs you may not have listened to for a while. This is my favourite feature as it brings up old favourites.
iTunes is the official Apple software which comes with the ipod, it is easy to use and free to update, it also comes with optional integration with the iTunes music store which means you can purchase songs with just one click. As well as allowing you to purchase songs you can also download podcasts which are like radio programs especially for mp3 players there are even a few by the BBC as well as podcast from other countries and many individuals. The only problem I have found with the iTunes software is that if you want it to syncronise your computer and your ipod automatically you have to keep all your music on your hardrive, or else it only puts on your ipod what is on your hard drive. My hard drive is only 30gigabites and my ipod is 40gigabites which means I am forced to manually update my ipod when I add new stuff as I just dont have room to keep it all on my computer. I am also a little disappointed that it is not possible to keep music on the ipod and then move it back to the computer though Apple say this is to stop people pirating music it does make it more difficult for me to manage my music. However there are several pieces of third party software such as iPod Liberator and redchairs Anapod which solve this little niggle admirably.
Apple also provide regular firmware updates, these updates the instructions on your ipod and can introduce new features and upgrades, the apple website has a page dedicated to ipod downloads and it has different versions of the updates for the different generations of ipods. You simply click on the correct download for your ipod and save it to your computer, next you plug your ipod in and start the update program and your ipod will be updated in a couple of miniutes. There is also a restore option with each update which will wipe your ipod completely and install the latest firmware which is usually used as a solution to any ipod problems (this solves most problems except the major ones) but this will delete all the music and information you have on the ipod.
I really enjoy having my ipod, it allows me to pick whatever I want to listen to from my whole music collection, so no more damn wish I had brought that cd moments. As well as being great for portable music I can also hook it up to speakers and have a great music system or plug it in the car, so much so I never use my midi system anymore. Unfortunately the ipod does not have a built in radio though an adaptor can be bought for around £30 which I think is a bit expensive considering how cheap radios are.
The only problems I have found is that the ipod scratches far too easily, but this is cosmetic and does no real damage to the insides. Scratching can be minimised by using a case (doesnt need to be anything fancy mine lives in an old camera case!) the other thing is that you cant really run with the ipod in a belt case as once the 25-30 min skip protection runs out the ipod will no longer play however if you invest in an armband case this seems to solve the problem. I would also advise replacing the earphones that come with the ipod as they really dont show it to its best (despite selling for £30 separately!)and I found them a little uncomfortable, I have a pair of Koss The Plug headphones I bought for £8 which I find to be much better. But despite these minor issues all of which are easily resolved I find this to be a really great music player and would definitely recommend it, especially as Apple have reduced prices considerably in the past year.
For the past few years, I'd been using various models of Sony's Minidisc players as my portable audio device of choice. At the time, it made sense to me to use one of these over the newer mp3 players which I thought were too small, capacity wise, to be of any use (plus I really doubted their sturdiness).
While visiting America last year, I had the chance to see Apple's iPod up close and personal for the first time. I was really impressed by it, design-wise. It was small, but not too small (slightly longer, narrower and thinner than a pack of cards) and had a pleasing weight to it that made it feel sturdy and not too fragile.
I did eventually buy one before leaving the States. At the time it was the top of the range 4th Generation 40GB model which came complete with a docking station, various connection leads, CDs of drivers and software and the obligatory manual.
I was advised by one of the nice Apple shop staff that if I drained the battery before my initial charge, then the power indicator would be more accurate for some reason. This was easy to do by using the backlight a lot and playing 'Solitaire' which comes as standard on the iPod as an included game.
I had the choice of two connections to my PC - either via USB2.0 or Firewire (sometimes referred to as IEEE-1394). Using either of these connections means that you can synchronise your music to your iPod and charge it at the same time. Also, if you're feeling brave enough, every now and again Apple updates the firmware which can offer new features, improved performance, better battery life etc. This is not a terribly difficult thing to install, although the instructions can be a tad vague at times. Software for iPods can be found at: http://www.apple.com/ipod/download/ You'll have to check for this manually though. I would have preferred it if Apple had automatically informed you of updates as they do for their iTunes program.
Setting up the iPod was simplicity itself. Getting my music from my PC to the iPod via iTunes initially was easy enough and once the battery was fully charged, I was ready to go. iPods are sold unformatted which means you can use them on either a PC or an Apple Mac. Upon first use, they're then 'formatted' to match your computer. Once this decision is made, it cannot be changed without reformatting your iPod and losing all the music on your iPod.
If you are planning on buying any mp3 player, you might want to consider importing your music to your PC long before you actually make your purchase. If you have a substantial music collection, importing it could take quite a long time and obviously if you've spent money on a good mp3 player, you'll want to use it as soon as possible. How you encoding your mp3s will have an effect on the sound quality of your mp3 player. If you encode your music at a lower bit rate (e.g. 128 kbps) then you will be able to store more music on your mp3 player, but at a poorer sound quality than if you'd used 256 kbps (for example). Things like audiobooks require a lower bitrate while maintaining sound quality - usually 64 kbps.
Currently most of my music is encoded at 192kbps and at the time of writing I have 3281 songs stored on my iPod (which is 17.90 GB worth - just under half of the storage capacity or 9.3 days worth of music). I've found that the iPod delivers adequate sound quality at 192 kbps though some audio purists might scoff at the output. For a portable audio system, it's completely acceptable to me. Sound quality can also be improved by investing in a better set of ear or headphones as Apple's are not particularly great.
Actually using the iPod is dead easy. The click wheel has just the right sensitivity to make it usable without being too sensitive and the menu/display is easily seen, even without the backlight. The fonts used are clear and the text can be easily read. There one or two slight niggles about the use of the iPod which are to do with the way they display song information. It can be difficult sometimes to pick out a song. If, for example, you wanted to listen to "Power of Love" by scrolling through all your songs, there's no way to tell if it's "Frankie Goes to Hollywood", "Huey Lewis and the News" or "Jennifer Rush". You can view your music using other criteria such as artist (which solves the songs with the same name problem), album (which eliminates the problem of you having various versions of the same song), genre and other, logical, sorting methods. I would have liked to have seen a feature where you can view a song's mp3 tags when selecting a song.
Once or twice, for some reason, the iPod decides that it's not going to play the track I select and skips immediately to the next one in the list. That can be annoying, especially when I've just closed my carrying case and put the iPod in my pocket, only to have to dig it out again to select the correct track. This doesn't happen all the time, but enough times to be mildly annoying. In the nine months that I've owned the iPod, I've had to reboot it twice when it froze/crashed. Luckily, the iPod equivalent of Ctrl-Alt-Delete (hold down the 'Select' button and 'Menu' at the same time until the Apple logo appears) sorted that out.
iTunes, as Apple's official software for use with the iPod is easy enough to use and produces good results even as a media player. Importing music, creating play lists, burning CDs etc. are all easy to do and takes little effort, especially if you are connected to the internet where iTunes will look for your CD in the Gracenotes CDDB. Getting your mp3 tags correct is a must when using an iPod. iTunes is now on version 4.9 and new versions are released regularly. Using iTunes also gives you access to Apple's music store enabling you to buy music online.
There are other pieces of software on the market for use with your iPod that might offer extra functionality that is currently limited in iTunes. If you're interested, check out Anapod at http://www.redchairsoftware.com/
I've found that I can get around nine or ten hours of battery life out of my iPod on average. This is dependant on various factors such as how long I use the backlight, how much disk access there is (playing songs in order is less battery intensive than playing songs using the 'shuffle' feature). On top of that, battery life will drain significantly over a few days even if you have the iPod turned off. Lucky, the cables that are used to connect to your PC can also be used to connect to the mains (with an adapter that was supplied with the iPod), so charging your iPod while away from your PC is possible.
Being the clumsy oaf that I am, I have actually dropped my iPod a few times. It has come through these incidents unscathed and unscratched (probably due to the carrying case), but it is good to know that it's a lot more sturdy than it looks.
Here are a few extra options available that I have yet to use: you can use your iPod to carry around non-music data - as a glorified external hard drive and it's also possible to store a list of contacts and their details. I can see that these features could be useful, but I have other methods of storing data and contacts in a portable way.
Overall, I have found this to be an excellent purchase, even with the reasonably high price tag of US$399 (you can find it for much cheaper than this now and there are newer versions on the market with colour screens). It's in near-constant use and unlike my old Minidisc recorder, I don't have to continue to copy my music to minidiscs and cart them around. Everything is stored on my PC and synchronized with my iPod each day as it charges.
Given that a carrying case is a must because the iPod is prone to scratching, I am disappointed that an inline remote control wasn't included with the iPod. That's probably my only real gripe about this marvellous gadget though.
PC with USB 2.0 or FireWire ports
Windows 2000 (with SP4) or Windows XP SP2 or later
iTunes 4.7 or later (included)
Mac System Requirements:
Mac with built-in USB 2.0 or FireWire
Mac OS X v10.2.8 or later
iTunes 4.7 or later (included)
Towards the end of October 2005, my iPod started to behave erratically, eventually giving up the ghost. I tried, in vain, all the suggested possible solutions from the Apple website, with no luck. Calling the technical support line, I was once again run through these tests (despite being in the queue for an hour) before ultimately, the operator authorised a repair. A few days later, a package arrived via courier to pack my iPod, this was then returned to Apple who diagnosed the problem and sent a replacement unit (of the same model). The whole episode took less than 10 days from my phone call, and all was right with the world.
Or so I thought.
On Friday 24th March 2006, my iPod started to behave erratically, eventually giving up the ghost. Over the weekend, I tried all the suggested possible solutions from the Apple website, with no luck. Calling the technical support line on Monday 27th March, I was put through to a friendly American chap who took my details to trace my account. He explained to me that Apple's warranty period only lasts 1 year, though if a repair or replacement is required on the original unit, then this might be extended by 90 days, depending on the date of repair. As I was only a few days away from my warranty running out (in October), I got the 90-day extension, but my iPod was now out of warranty.
A repair, he added, would be "One hundred and sixty nine British Pounds". I told him that I considered that to be unacceptable and thanked him for his help.
I am in the middle of writing a letter of complaint to Apple, so I have no idea how this story ends, but when I spend approximately £250 on a piece of equipment, I don't expect it to last sixteen months at the very most. I also don't expect the average lifespan of such a piece of equipment to be eight months, only for the company to ask me to pay the market value of a brand new unit for a repair.
At the moment, I would find it hard to recommend Apple goods to others. The iPod was excellent while it worked, but the reliability and after-sales care is unacceptable to me for the price I paid for it.
The letter to Apple was posted on Tuesday 28th March explaining my situation and my dissatisfaction in the reliability of my iPods and Apple's ludicrous requests for £169 for a repair (especially when a brand new Apple 30GB model with all the updated features such as video playback, colour screen etc. are currently being sold on Amazon UK for £189). Today (May 1st) I received a call from an Apple customer care representative who informed me that they'd looked into my complaint, but there was nothing they could do (i.e. there's nothing they WOULD do). The person agreed that £169 was expensive for the repair, but reiterated that matters were essentially closed. The phone call was simply a courtesy to let me know that they'd investigated some possible solutions to my complaint, but that action "wasn't possible".
Essentially, my point of view hasn't changed from five weeks ago when my iPod first failed when it works, Apple's iPod is a great gadget, and if anything goes wrong within the year long warranty period, then they will be helpful in organising a repair or replacement. If your iPod goes wrong outside of this warranty period, then I get the impression that while Apple's customer care staff will be friendly (and possibly sympathetic), they'll not be particularly helpful unless you have a wad of cash in your back pocket going spare (and even then, it'd still make more sense to spend the cash on a new iPod and get a year's warranty).
With the reliability of the two iPods I've owned being less than satisfactory and the lack of decent, long-term customer support for products that should last well beyond their warranty, I'd think long and hard about buying Apple branded products in future.
Now lets be honest, even as little as ten years ago if someone had told you there would soon be a contraption that could store and playback your whole music collection you may well have laughed in their face. Add to that the fact that this wonder machine of the future would be little bigger than a pack of cards and very likely you would have thought that the particular soothsayer had seen one too many episodes of Tomorrows World. Behold though, the future is hear and it is manufactured by Apple! I talk about a minor miracle of engineering and computing wizardry, the i-pod. The i-pod recently celebrated its third birthday and is currently on its fourth incarnation, it is available in a number of shapes and sizes from the pastel coloured 4GB mini i-pod to the just released 60GB photo holding version. The idea is that you store your music on the i-pods hard-drive in MP3 format having first purchased your MP3`s online or converted your existing CD`s. I have long wanted an i-pod but was waiting for prices to drop slightly before committing myself, when I noticed a 4th Generation 40GB i-pod at www.eatay.com for £268.49 I decided the time was right and placed my order, and my shiny new i-pod was duly delivered two days later.
Whats In the Box
Well it is fair to say I felt like a big kid on Christmas day morning when my new toy arrived, I ripped open the parcel to be greeted with a square box adorned with pictures of i-pods and trendy young people listening to music thereon. Inside the box I found the i-pod, an i-pod dock which can be used for transferring music or charging the battery, an i-pod power adapter, Apple earbud earphones, FireWire and USB 2.0 cables and an installation CD containing all of the relevant drivers as well as Apples iTunes software. Also included are a thirty-five page instruction booklet which includes a quick start guide as well as more in depth instructions, a software licence agreement and a warranty leaflet Everything a gadget freak like me could want!
Unfortunately I couldnt dive straight in and play with my i-pod as of course it needed charging first. Charging can be done either by attaching the FireWire cable to the power adaptor and dock connector port located at the base of the i-pod or by connecting the i-pod to the computer via a FireWire or USB port. Since I had not yet installed the software I opted for the first option and sat the i-pod in the dock. A charging battery is then displayed on the display as progress is made with the built in battery becoming eighty percent charged in around two hours and fully charged in about four hours. While the i-pod was charging this gave me ample opportunity to install the software needed to make the i-pod and my PC work together in harmony, inserting the CD installs the drivers and synchronising software during which the i-pod needs to be connected to the computer either by FireWire or USB. Once the i-pod and the computer are synchronised iTunes is installed, iTunes enables the user to buy music online or helps turn music CD`s into MP3 files for transfer to the i-pod. The whole installation process takes little more than five minutes and after the obligatory reboot of the computer everything is set up and ready for the transfer of music to the i-pod.
A Closer look at the i-pod
So you have the relevant software installed and the i-pod is fully charged and ready to go now what happens? Well, firstly you need to get to know which button performs which function; pushing any button will turn the i-pod on where you are greeted with a choice of languages to choose from. Scrolling up and down the list is easy; you simply draw a finger around the click wheel as you would a laptop touch pad. When the language required is highlighted a simple push of the button in the centre of the click wheel is all that is needed to select the particular option required. The language set up only has to be performed once and when the i-pod is turned on in future you are greeted by a five option page offering the choice of Music, Extras, Settings, Shuffle Songs and Backlight:-
Music:- Fairly self explanatory, this is the area where all the i-pods music can be accessed. Clicking on Music delivers another menu which gives the choice of Playlists, Artists, Albums, Songs, Genres, Composers or Audiobooks. Again each of these options is selected by using the scroll wheel to highlight them and the centre button to access them. The good part about these options is that you can listen to a certain artist or album even if you have only uploaded some of their music as part of a compilation album the i-pod automatically puts the artist in their own folder for easy access.
Extras:- Extras contains all those handy little items that add a little more to the whole i-pod experience. A clock can be displayed in 12 or 24 hour format and an alarm clock ensures you will never over sleep as long as you have your earphones in. Notes can be stored on the i-pod simply by dragging and dropping a .txt file to the notes folder within the i-pod icon in My Computer when it is connected to the PC. Games is again self explanatory with classics such as Brick, Music Quiz, Parachute and Solitaire available for your titillation while listening to some music. Calendar lets the user set up a to do list so that reminders can be delivered on the relative date.
Settings:- This is where the guts of the i-pod sit, various options in this folder determine how the i-pod behaves from setting the backlight timer to whether the scroll wheel clicks when you run your finger over it. Legal information and details about how much space is left on the i-pod is also located here as is the ability to reset the i-pod to its factory default should a problem occur.
Shuffle Songs:- again this option speaks for itself this gives the listener the opportunity to have any of their songs played in no particular order, nice for a bit of variety I guess especially if your i-pod holds the stated 10,00 songs!
Backlight:- simply switches the backlight on and off independently of any options you have selected using the backlight option in the settings section. The backlight can be turned off completely, kept on for 2, 5, 10 or 20 seconds or be kept on permanently. Obviously depending on what option you go for the battery life will be effected.
Preparing or Buying Music
Music is transferred to the i-pod using the supplied software application i-tunes. Music is transferred from i-tunes to the i-pod in one of three ways, firstly, i-tunes can search your hard-drive for any MP3`s you may have stored and transfer them automatically. The next option is probably the one in which the majority of i-pod users use and that is to transfer music from a CD. This is done simply by inserting the music CD into a drive; i-tunes will automatically detect the disk and if you are connected to the internet i-tunes will use the Gracenote CDDB (CD Database) to automatically retrieve track and artist details. Then it is a simple matter of clicking the Import icon and waiting for the CD tracks to be ripped to i-tunes in MP3 format. Typically I have found it takes the average CD around three minutes to be converted although computer and drive speed will dictate this somewhat.
The third way of acquiring music for your i-pod is to purchase it at the i-tunes music store. Simply clicking the Music store icon in the right hand pane of i-tunes opens up the store and reveals some 700,000 songs available for purchase and download. Browsing is easy and can be done by genre or alphabetically, when a song is found that you would like you simply add it to a cart as you would in any online shop. Special offers are available for whole albums so that one with twenty tracks will not cost twenty times 76p typically a whole album can be downloaded for £7.99. Once paid for the download process is swift and the tracks are delivered directly into i-tunes for transfer to the i-pod.
Transferring Music from i-tunes to i-pod
The transfer of music from i-tunes to the i-pod is a fast and pain free operation and requires very little effort on the users behalf. Simply plug the i-pod into the chosen cable (FireWire or USB 2) and let i-tunes auto detect it which usually happens in around ten seconds. If the i-tunes software is set to auto-sync the music is simply transferred to the i-pod at a lightening fast pace (typically about one second per music track in my experience). Once transferred the i-pods display will inform that it is safe to disconnect and you have an i-pod with plenty of music files on it!
What I Like About the i-pod
Well, there is much to like about the i-pod, not least the appearance of the unit. It is compact and deliciously simple in its look and operation. The click-wheel is a great way to scroll up and down on screen menus and pushing it to select one of the options produces a firm feel. The sound quality is very high and accessing any of the 3500 songs I have on it only takes moments. The internal hard-drive is quiet and any static is virtually undetectable. It is also considered very cool at the moment with shortfalls expected come Christmas It really is the must have accessory for gadget and music freaks everywhere.
What I dislike about the i-pod
For some strange reason Apple decided to make the back of the i-pod highly polished metal and as such you only have to look at it for it to scratch. Battery life is on the low side Apple state twelve hours but I have only managed around eight. Also, the battery is unchangeable due to the i-pod being a sealed unit plus the battery is only covered by warranty for ninety days! So if your i-pod battery goes wrong after just three months of i-pod ownership you have to kiss goodbye to your £268 and buy another one! You also have to keep the MP3`s you have downloaded/ ripped from a CD on your computers hard-drive otherwise i-tunes will detect they have been removed and kindly wipe them off the i-pod as well (although there is a work around for this). A colour screen would have been nice but I guess that as this is only an MP3 player it is not strictly necessary. Also, it is a brave man or woman indeed who goes out with the highly recognisable i-pod ear phones in position after dark they are the second most targeted items by muggers after mobile phones.
I love it, simple as that. Yes the initial transfer of your music collection from CD to i-pod is time consuming but as i-tunes retrieves track and artist names from online it really is only a matter of changing CD`s. I have now completed this operation and have 3633 songs on my i-pod taking up 12.51 GB so I still have over 25 GB of empty space to fill, safe to say that will take me several years. Battery life could be better but the eight-ish hours I manage to squeeze from it is a lot of music to listen to in one day. Four stars out of five from me.
The super-slim iPod defines what a digital music player should be. It's lighter than two CDs, can hold up to 10,000 songs, thousands of digital photos and works as a personal voice recorder. Now you can sync with iTunes for Mac and Windows at blazing speeds, and take your entire music collection with you wherever you go.