We’re all familiar with the iPod sleek design and a well-executed user interface, combined with simple sync and purchase options via iTunes. In those respects, the new video iPod performs as expected. If you have a large audio collection, the slimmer form and black option of the 5th generation iPod could be appealing. Some might even consider it a bargain – the 30BG model is only $50 more than the 4GB Nano.
Apple made a point of specifying this iPod just so happens to have video capabilities. After playing with it awhile I can tell you theyre not being modest, it’s not much of a video device… yet. While the screen is sufficiently bright and detailed, 2.5″ is on the small side for extended viewing. I also find support for only MPEG-4 and QuickTime limiting. Initially I figured I’d be able to overcome both those deficiencies, after all Steve Jobs touted all the movie trailers I’d have at my disposal. Well it turns out that the dozens of previews viewable through iTunes are not available for download to my video iPod. Why should they give me free content when they’re pimping TV shows at $1.99 a pop?
So I went down the path that I imagine most new owners have gone down, and I bought a TV show. Given Night Stalker’s low 320×240 resolution, I was surprised that a 43 minute video took about 30 minutes to download. Syncing with the iPod took just a few minutes. I enjoyed the show and noticed artifacts in only two scenes. I also successfully converted various content using free software applications. Those new to portable video will be surprised to discover that you can’t fast forward or rewind in real-time as with a set-top box. The automatic bookmarking when leaving a video or turning the iPod off is a nice touch though.
Battery life is pretty poor – In real world testing I experienced under two hours of video playback, shorter than many feature length films. To make matters worse, Apple doesn’t bundle an AC adapter for charging while on the road. I’ve had better performance from mobile phones and PDAs, presumably due to non-moving flash memory. What else bothered me? I am not satisfied with the 3-5 second lag before photo slideshows and video playback. I get the feeling Apple is trying to maximize profits by not providing black ear buds and a black USB cable to go with the new black iPods. I also wonder why they didn’t throw in a copy of QuickTime Pro to ease video conversion. Hey, just because I know how to convert video doesn’t mean I wouldn’t appreciate a simple, quick, and high-quality method.
It’s exciting to see Apple and some of the studios begin to embrace portable video and downloadable content, but we’re talking baby steps here. Enabling movie trailer downloads from iTunes and expanding format support through a firmware update would go a long way towards making me a believer. Until then, I’ve paid my 10% restocking fee and I’m sitting this one out.