iPod Reviews: iPod nano 4th Generation
Apple iPod nano Fourth Generation
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Sept. 2009 Editor's note: read our review of the iPod nano fifth generation with video camera.
Reviewed by Jacob Spindel, September 2008
Previously, on “All My Nanos…”
Last time, we met the third-generation iPod nano, whose video playback capability and small size instantly made it one of the most popular citizens in all of Podville. But then came the shocking twist: When the users discovered that the third-gen nano was limited to 8 GB of storage space and also left room for improvement in its battery life, some of the users felt that the nano wasn’t adequate for their needs, while others stood by the nano, igniting a feud so bitter that a few people even relocated to the dreaded city of Zunezibar. Well, now there’s a new nano in town, and it hopes to overcome the shortcomings of its predecessor while retaining its advantages. Although some of Apple’s latest design decisions are sure to be controversial, the new nano is a slick portable media player that most of the users will certainly approve.
This Specs Section Is 99% Pun-Free
As many users have noted, the fourth-gen nano resembles the longer, thinner look of the first two generations of the iPod nano, rather than the shorter, fatter look of the third-gen. Specifically, it measures 3.6 inches high X 1.5 inches wide X 0.24 inches deep, whereas the third gen was 2.75 inches high X 2.06 inches wide X 0.26 inches deep, making the fourth-gen nano the thinnest iPod ever. It is lighter than the third-gen as well, weighing only 1.3 ounces (versus 1.74 ounces). The click-wheel and Dock Connector are essentially identical to other recent iPod models. It is available in nine colors, including Product Red, and in two capacities: 8 GB and 16 GB (a 4 GB version has reportedly also appeared in a few countries). The 16 GB model, which we used for our review, can hold 4,000 songs, 14,000 photos, or 8 hours of video. All of the versions use flash memory for storage.
The fourth-gen is the first nano to have an accelerometer (similarly to the iPhone), which enables it to determine which angles you are holding or rotating it at. Turning the iPod on its side while navigating the menus automatically places you in Cover Flow mode; you can also shake the nano during playback to shuffle in a new, random song. Moreover, Apple has included a new game, Maze, in which you use the accelerometer to navigate your way through (you guessed it) a series of mazes.
The new nano’s screen certainly looks larger than its predecessor, but Apple states that its diagonal measurement is still 2 inches, which is actually the same as that of the third-gen. In order to fit the redesign, the screen is taller and narrower than its predecessor, but its diagonal measurement, as well as its resolution of 320 x 240, remain the same.
Well, actually, a better way to state the resolution might be 240 x 320; if you’re wondering how a tall, narrow screen can possibly handle standard iPod content, you’ll have to think sideways. In fact, landscape orientation is the only way to watch video on the new nano, with the screen and the click-wheel side-by-side. You can hold it pointing in either direction (the accelerometer can make the screen flip during playback), but you cannot display video in portrait mode. Furthermore, iPod games purchased from the iTunes Store also work only in landscape mode, although the built-in games (Maze, Vortex and Klondike) have been updated so you can play them in either portrait or landscape modes.
The fourth-gen nano supports the same codecs and formats as the third-gen, including the AAC, MP3, WAV, AIFF, and Apple Lossless audio formats, as well as H.264 and MP4 videos up to a resolution of 640 x 480 and a frame rate of up to 30 frames per second.
Like all previous nanos, the fourth gen’s headphone jack is still located on the bottom edge. Since an aesthetic overhaul was one of Apple’s major focuses in designing the fourth-gen, it would’ve been nice if they had reconsidered this idea, since many Dock-based accessories are difficult or impossible to connect and use whenever you have headphones connected. Strangely, the hold switch has been relocated to the top of the nano even though the headphone jack hasn’t.
The fourth-gen nano also adds some new features for vision-impaired customers, such as an option to display the menus in an enlarged font, as well as the availability of spoken menu items. Apple has also addressed environmental concerns by ensuring that the new nanos are free of arsenic, mercury, and PVC, and that the aluminum enclosure is recyclable. (Has anyone has ever actually recycled an iPod on purpose!?)