Sunday, October 30, 2005

iPod Video (But don't let Steve hear you call it that)

I know that it's been more than a month since I last posted. But with the new job and all I've been more than a little preoccupied lately.

But, in the last few weeks, I've made a few acquisitions, not the least of which is my new 30GB BLACK, iPod w/ video. It's about time that black has appeared in the main line of an apple product, (although the headphones are still the same white, and so are the rest of accessories).

The first things that I noticed were that the new iPod had 50% more capacity, and was 30 bucks cheaper. Very nice, of apple, not to mention that they are smart in that it would make it more appealing to those, (like myself) who JUST bought a nano, a month ago. I'm just glad that I didn't personalize my ipod when I bought it, same as with my nano.

I did decide to personalize this one however, as I feel that I'll be hanging on to it for a while, and this should FORCE me to keep it; But I should have learned from the mistake that my friend Danny had made when it came to this "feature", and that's it will take nearly a full week more to get it.

The first thing I noticed when I received the package @ the FedEx depot was that the box was tiny compared to my 20GB 4G ipod. The box the 5G was shipped in was only marginally larger that the retail box for the 4G, and when I tore that open I found a box, only about an eighth of an inch thicker than that of my nano.

Sitting in my car still parked in the lot of the FedEx depot, I peeled off the shrink wrap, and opened it up, there was this beautiful black monolith only marred by the plastic wrap telling me not to steal music, (kind of funny since I just spent nearly 400 buck on this thing). I only see that request from apple as a thinly veiled way of saying "Please buy from the iTunes music store", something that I will not do until the Canadian store doesn't suck, and we have access to the full library, for now I'll just stick to ripping all of my CD's.

The next thing that I found in that box, really surprised me, and in a pleasant way; There was a little sleeve. Not really a huge deal, but now several days later, there is still not a scratch on the screen. Again the whole black/white issue appears again, in that the sleeve is white, but I'll overlook this since the sleeve is so nice and thin. Even with the sleeve it's thinner than my 4G without a case.

The problem with the 5G's is that since they are the same height, and width, but, only slightly more than half the thickness of the 4G's, none of the cases out there fit them. Not to mention the fact that the headphone slot and the hold slider are in different positions making my old incase folio case useless, same with my aluminum case. Oh well, I guess Jen's getting a free iPod case.

I never got around to buying any of the accessories that used the remote power plug on the top of the 4G, and I'm now very glad that I didn't, since just like the cases they are no longer supported by the 5G's.

The face of the new iPod has the same basic layout as the last, but with a few distinct alterations. The screen is now 2.5", and finally has a decent screen resolution of 320x240, not the greatest, but it's where the 4G should have been, plus, any bigger would have been harder to keep the size of downloads down; Not to mention that I would have "Needed" to get the 60GB version, and spent the extra money.

I first thought that I would only ever watch vidcasts on this, and so far that is the main thing that I watch. My favorite right now is Tiki Bar TV, I highly recommend it to anyone that likes quirky entertainment, and likes to try new cocktail recipes. The screen is clear and crisp enough that the couple of feature movies that I have converted to iPod compatible vids look great. I pulled "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" off of my HD PVR, and it looks great even though it's letterboxed, being 16:9, and the iPod is 4:3. More important to me than the quality of the image is that there were no hiccups in the audio or the video.

Speaking of vidcasts that is a bit of an issue for me. The main menu can have podcasts added to it, but if you are in the podcast menu and select a video podcast you will only get the audio, unless you select Video Podcasts from the Video menu; There isn't even an option to add Video Podcasts to the main menu. The only reason that I could see for this oversight, would be the comments made by Steve Jobs stating that the new iPod is a music player that can also play video, not the other way around, and this is his little way of enforcing that edict.

As far as media-based subscription services... a.k.a. "Podcasts", are concerned why haven't those fantastically "forward-thinking" people down in appleland added an rss based image capability to iTunes, and the iPod, the same way they have for audio, and video. I mean all iPods that have screens now have photo capacity, so why not.

iTunes 6, is nearly identical to iTunes 5 released mere weeks before, with the exception that there is now a video section. This video section has a nice reflection effect, and a sleek looking black backdrop. But just because it shows up in the video section of iTunes, doesn't mean that it will show up on your iPod. Video needs to be the right format, h.264, and even then it's not a guarantee. When I try exporting a video file, using quicktime, on my Mac, it will only export the video and no audio. I need to look into this.

The Good:
- Sexy black
- Big Screen, (The new Archos player puts everything else out there to shame with a 7" 16:9 screen, but costs $700 CDN)
- Almost half the thickness of the last iPod
- Costs less than the last iPod
- Plays video, audio, and images

The Bad:
- Scratches easily... Like any other version didn't.
- Still no image RSS capability
- Smaller click wheel. (For big handed people)
- I have to unplug, and replug in my iPod every time I want to sync. (What's that all about???)
- I still can't sync my Outlook w/ my iPod. (It's supposed to work, but never has)
- Battery life, It's fine using audio, but the video life sucks.
- None of the accessories that I have, (except for my iriver FM transmitter that works with any headphone out device), work with my new ipod, cases included.
- Strict file format requirements for video. Kind of OK considering the execution.
- Touting video capability, but not following through on features, or ease of conversion to proper format.
- Hard drive based player that's more than $10/GB is still more expensive than most people that I've talked to are willing to pay.
- Included accessories are still white, with the black version... AAAaaaarggghhh!!!

Even though the list looks a bit skewed to the side of suck, it's still a recommended device. The biggest reasons are the simple "with-time-even-a-retarded-monkey-could-figure-it-out" interface, and the integration with iTunes, (still the best media management program, free or not), And now video support, why wouldn't I.

A few minor tweaks, and it would be nearly perfect. I hope apple picks up on these things, and fixes them up.

Until next time.