This is a shame because - Cover Flow aside - it remains a good UI, and most of the changes are improvements. The album cover slideshow on the main menu is a gimmick, but the use of icons is smart. Visit the Settings menu, for example, and as you scroll down through the options, the graphic changes to give a handy visual read-out of the setting so you can immediately see what the setting is without having to go a further step into the menu structure.
Apple's iPod Classic UI: CoverFlow aside, it's a good interface
The EQ setting image, for example, show you exactly where the sliders have been set. Move through the EQ sub-menu and you'll see precisely how they'll be changed if you apply a given pre-set. We also liked the new storage status screen, which takes the capacity read-out from iTunes and displays it on the iPod, with coloured blocks on a white bar showing you how much of your player's hard drive is loaded with audio, video, photo and other files. Press the centre button and all this slides off to the left, replaced by a list of the number of songs, videos, photos, contacts and so on that you've stored on your iPod. Click again to show the iPod's serial number.
Expect this to come into its own on the iPod Touch when you're going to need to know how much free space you have before downloading content over its Wi-Fi connection direct to your player.
Not that you really need it here, when you've a choice of 80GB or 160GB of storage. These capacities are a real boon. The Classic supports all the formats the previous generation of iPod could handle, but now there's space to start using the compressed but full quality, lossless formats. Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, for example, lasts almost 49 minutes and in 128KBps MP3 takes up 45.5MB. Using the Apple Lossless format, the album takes up 233.8MB - room enough for five copies of the MP3 version.
There was a time was when storage limitations meant that the trade off between capacity and sound fidelity would have favoured MP3, but since the 160GB Classic can hold around 650 Lossless albums, now you can take your collection with you and have it delivered in true CD quality.
Apple's iPod Classic UI: sub-menus slide in
Or you can store 200 hours of H.264-encoded video at 640 x 480 - more if you encode at 320 x 240, the Classic's actual screen size. Even the 80GB model can hold 100 hours of 640 x 480 video or 330-odd Lossless albums. Video playback is smooth, and the picture crisp and bright on the Classic's nice display. For video, we'd prefer a bigger screen - enter, again, the iPod Touch - but this one's not bad for occasional viewing.
Incidentally, the 160BG is the better value product: you pay £1.43/$2.18 for each gigabyte, whereas the 80GB model charges you £1.99/$3.11 per gig.
"Incidentally the new nano coped much better with this."
Which is rather strange; I'm sure the people that do such things pulled them both apart and found the same (Samsung) CPU in the two machines. Oh well.
Wait for version 2!
The processor in this is terribly slow and really can't cope with the interface.
It chugs through menus, and coverflow feels like scrolling through molasses.
If you should dare and try to scroll through with coverflow with a song playing (I'm always searching for the next song to play) it will start to Porky Pig through the song you're listening to: pppeeerrggger-dddddeeerggggerrrr
Incidentally the new nano coped much better with this.
I'm looking to replace my ageing 4G 20Gb, but the new nano while splendid is too small (storage-wise), and I would not pay money for the Classic in this state.
What do I do now? When's the next refresh due?
@ Scott re compression
Few people own sound equipment advanced enough to to be able to project the difference between AAC @ 192 and CD audio - even fewer have the ear to tell the difference if they did have the equipment. My point wast that the real weak point in digal audio reproduction is the DAC, not the data loss in the compression format. Without a high end DAC, the extra fidelity of CD quality audio is wasted. In fact what people often think they are hearing as imperfections in the compression format of tunes on their iPods, is actually the result of the DACs interpretation of the uncompressed binary stream. So carrying around lossless tunes on an iPod is just plain silly.
I do agree that good headphones are a worthwhile investment though - although I'm not sure that picking ear wax out of Etymotics is everyone's cup of tea!
Actually on a related rant - another real kick in the arse sound wise is the recent practice of boosting the volume on tracks and using compression to clip the waveform, in order to have louder recording then the next guy (aka the loudness wars). CDs are getting hotter and hotter and the sound quality is plummeting. I can see a market emerging for the old CD re-releases from the 80's / early 90's with no crazy wave compression.
I also just upgraded from a 3rd Gen 20GB. Really like being able to play the odd video (although I don't like the way I can't categorise tv show/movie/music video myself), also the 160GB storage is ace.
There are more UI inconsistencies than the review noted. I love the 24-hour clock, and also have the time set to be in the menu bar.
So I start some music, put the ipod out on my desk at work in front of me and this bloody clock comes up! Oh great. It shows me that it's playing something, the battery charge and the 12-hour clock. Even though everything else on the iPod is set to 24-hour, this is 12-hour... great. The worst part is that I don't want to see the time by looking at it (or if I do, it's in the menu bar) - I want to see WHAT'S PLAYING! but noooooo there's a screensaver now. That's great. Can't turn it off either... =(
Nice but ill be even better when v1.1 software is released...
I've just upgraded from a 20GB 3rd gen to a black 160GB classic, noticeably nicer UI and certainly got lots more room. Am using Sennheiser CX-300 headphones (black to match) and am really enjoying it.
My only complaints are more to do with the way that apple seem to do digital upgrades to their product lines without notice. I very nearly got stuck with an 80GB 5G which I'd bought in advance of my birthday but managed to take it back and get a classic from the apple store. (Also a slight issue with an email telling me that they'd dropped the price of my headphones by £20 received the day that mine arrived - nice apple refunded the difference though). Doesn't exactly encourage early adopters...