iTunes 7 + iPod 5.5
Last week during the September 12th surprise-note at Apple, a bunch of new iTunes and iPod-related stuff was unveiled. At long last, my wish for an 80GB ‘pod was realized and I hastily ordered it from the Apple Store before the event was finished. Dria ordered a sporty new 8GB Nano in serious black metal jacket. Hers arrived last week just in time to take it on an airplane ride. I had to wait around until this Tuesday for mine to arrive.
I contented myself with playing around with some of the new features in iTunes and prepped my collection for transport for when the device finally arrived. At just over 9000 tracks weighing in at 60GB, this was not a trivial matter. My collection’s been scattered across multiple iPods for so long that I’ve forgotten how convenient total syncing was. The new album art retrieval feature in iTunes grabbed the covers for most of it though I have enough odd-ball music that it was unlikely to get everything. Some weekend when I’m feeling obsessive I’ll run some AppleScript to search out the rest of it.
The new version of iTunes makes good use of the album art, with a couple of new views available that let you browse your collection grouped by album with art or as CD covers. It’s cute, but not really that useful and only really serves to point out how many albums have missing art. If I were a demented sort, I might think this was a clever ploy by Apple to catalog my collection for their own nefarious purposes.
Also refreshed is the sidebar with nicer groupings and a cool blue look. Scroll bars have replaced the standard Aqua look with something smoother and less glassy. The control buttons are more rounded now and the buttons along the lower border (which annexed the “Browse” icon) are a little darker. Maybe a glimpse of the new look & feel for Leopard. Even the app icon got a little polish.
There are nice little touches throughout the app including the much-sought-after “gapless playback”. Now that it’s there, I haven’t heard much about it from the crowd that whinged for so long about it. You really only notice it’s there when you realize that you haven’t heard any harsh transitions between tracks on some albums (electronica and live recordings are particularly jarring without it).
what about the iPod?
The 5Gs have returned to a flatter surface than the recent iterations. It’s at once similar to the 1G iPods and more modern. Amazingly, the 5G is quite a bit thinner than my 3G 40GB even with the double capacity. Kryder’s Law (or whatever it’s called) continues to amaze and astound. The screen, apparently brightened and more efficient than the first batch of 5G iPods is really quite nice, despite its tiny size. The click wheel is a joy to use and the new search features are a nice addition.
Unpacking the iPod was a pleasure — ritualistic unpacking photos above with a walk-on by Wally. Apple has cut down on packaging considerably since I bought my 3G several years ago. They’ve also cut down on what’s included: no dock and a flimsy, velveteen sleeve in place of a real case, itself an addition after complaints during the 4G notes and the nano-scratching debacle. The ubiquitous cheap earbuds and a USB cable round out the package. This has been been the case since the introduction of the 4G a couple of years ago, but it’s still somewhat annoying. The case that came with my 3G iPod is still probably the most-used accessory, coming in ahead of the wired remote which I will miss on this new version. The old wired remotes are incompatible, but have been replaced by a wired FM receiver / remote which I’ll acquire the next time I’m near an Apple Store. Though really, the most-used accessories included with the 3G iPod not included with the 4 or 5s were the little plastic dock port covers. Leaving those edge connectors exposed fills me with great fear at having the insides fill up with dust and particulates that may one day cause my hard drive to grind to a halt. I know it’s sealed, but still!
A word about the cheap earbuds: A lot of people like them. They like ‘em a lot. I can’t really fault them for that, but if you’re going to spend $300+ on a piece of hardware, do you really want to put a pair of 99¢ speakers in your ears? I don’t. I continue to use my trusty and durable Koss PortaPro headphones and when I’m being more serious about turning off the world, my Shure E3s. There are lots of good ‘phones out there and those of you who’ve never bothered to try something a little better might be surprised at the extra detail and subtlety these players are capable of producing.
After the unpacking, I proceeded through the setup. Plugging into the USB port with the fairly short, but nice white USB->dock cable, I was brought to the registration screen. After going through my Apple ID and selecting Canada and verifying my address was connect, I clicked the button to continue to the good part and was greeted with error messages. I tried to do this process several times and each time the system rejected my postal code. I registered through the website, but c’mon guys! I don’t want to spend those precious first few minutes fiddling with a registration page, I need to get my music loaded and playing!Fortunately I would have plenty of waiting to get through while 60GB and various calendars and address books squeezed their way through the USB2 connection. It’s not like Firewire would be that much faster, but… would Firewire be any faster?
I decided to use the time wisely and snuck out to get some accessories. It’s mandatory when getting a new iPod to go spend half as much again on accessories, and Apple’s making it real easy to do that by not including such amenities as a case and dock. So, I went to CompuSmart and nabbed a Universal AV dock kit which comes with another USB cable, a dock with a bunch of different-sized cups to accept any sized iPod, and a nice cable with a composite video line on it.
Let me say something about that nice cable and how it works with this new dock. The rings in the new cable are different from standard stereo mini jacks. That means, I can only use this cable with this dock on any stereo or television I want to plug my iPod into. Composite video’s cheap and plentiful and all, but since there’s an S-Video port, it’s not like I need that composite line dangling off the end of the cable. There are S-Video->Composite converters so the need for a hard-wired composite plug with a special adapter is really a kick in the pants. The remote’s nice though and I can see why a lot of people really like them.
The other item I got was a Belkin NeuElements slip case. The lid can’t really stay closed with the little non-clasping button and the clip is a little weak, but it’s a serviceable case for the time-being and has a nice suede-like interior and a screen protector. It doesn’t add a lot off bulk and looks decent and has a nice padded feel.
So what about it, then?
It’s safe to say that I like this thing a lot. I’ve only been using it for the better part of a week and it’s amazing just how retro my 3G iPod seems now. Sound quality on the new device is every bit as good as prior generations and the headphone preamp is still just as powerful. The volume limiting function is a nice addition. The somewhat controversial searching function (controversial because it wasn’t included as a firmware upgrade for original 5G iPods) is another nice touch, though honestly, I’d be more interested in the brighter screen.
I’ll still be using my 3G iPod in the car for now as the ICE>Link adapter I have installed doesn’t support the new models yet. I can already see myself wishing for the new ‘pod for its improved music collection and the ability to store and view maps as photos. Couple with the better-looking screen and UI, the notes function and pictures can be very useful navigational aids. And when sitting around, waiting in the car for something, being able to watch an episode of ze frank’s “The Show” or a music video would be a fun way to kill time.
But really, it’s about the music, stupid…
boolean is listening to: Le Monde from the album “The Mirror Conspiracy” by Thievery Corporation