Apple iPod Classic
In a metal mood
Album art is pervasive, appearing in thumbnail form in subsidiary menus, such as the Albums listing. Here, each entry is presented with the thumbnail, the album's title in bold above the artist's name in plain grey text. Likewise, other listings are presented with this kind of subsidiary information. Select Genre, and each entry has the number of relevant artists and albums presented below it. Only the Composers and Artists menus don't follow the pattern. Why not? We can't think of a good reason.
Apple's iPod Classic UI: now with iTunes' Cover Flow and reflection effects
Since Apple introduced accelerated scrolling in the 5G iPod, all these extra lines of information don't slow you down if you have to dash to the end of the list to find the track, album or artist you want. Once again, scrolling quickly pops up the initial letter of the album, artist or song the cursor's passing over, making it easy to find, say, albums beginning with S and then slow down to narrow the search to Springsteen.
And there's a Search entry that pops up a text-entry field and, to the right of it, the alphabet. Select the letter you want using the clickwheel, then press the centre button to 'type' it into the field. As you type, the iPod searches, narrowing down the list of results as you enter more characters. The Rewind button works like a backspace key.
Album art really comes into its own in the Music menu's Cover Flow option. The fact it is optional tells you immediately it's not ready for primetime. Yes, you get the same 3D cover-by-cover album display that was first introduced by iTunes, though Apple did itself a disservice by setting it here against a white background, which shows up the jagged edges that might have been obscured by a black background.
Apple's iPod Classic UI: photo slideshows and a revamped calendar
Selecting a cover brings up its track listing just as it does on the iPhone - select a specific song or press Play to hear them all. Pressing Menu takes you back to the Cover Flow screen. The screen certainly populates quickly enough, but moving along the line doesn't feel as smooth as it does in iTunes. Maybe it'll look a lot better on the bigger, 3.5in screen of the iPod Touch, but here Cover Flow feels crammed in.
Part of the problem is the Classic's processor isn't quite up to it - there are a fair few brief but noticeable pauses, not only when we were using Cover Flow but also when transitioning between other menus and sub-menus too. We've experienced this before with the first-generation Nano, for example, but that's two years old and we'd have hoped Apple might have beefed up the iPod's specs to a point where it can handle the demands of the UI. Our time with the Classic suggests it hasn't.