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Review: iPod Shuffle lightest, no frill music player
By
Vipul Shah

iPod is many things to many people, majority of people think its music player which can hold 100 songs, 15000 songs or more depending on the model. 30/40/60GB iPod photo can act as multimedia juke box that shows color photos apart from playing music. To Apple Computer, iPod helped transform itself from niche computing company to dominant consumer electronics giant sending Sony and others back to drawing board of their business plan. iPod is largest selling music player brand and has sold more then 10 million iPod players and sold more then 350 million songs worldwide via its iTunes service.

Latest model of iPod is iPod shuffle which is just like any other flash memory based mp3 player which fit into USB port of PC and also act as flash disk to move files from one PC/Mac to another. But unlike regular flash mp3 player, it doesn’t have display screen to show you song name or duration, doesn’t have fm radio, doesn’t do recording of audio, and doesn’t need AA or AAA battery. It costs US$99 for 512mb version and US$149 for 1GB version. Disadvantage of this model is it is screenless and you have to hear song to figure out which one it is. Advantage is it is tiny, no moving parts, internal rechargeable battery and can be worn on bicep during your gym or jog routine and can be worn like necklace during your work/travel and there is little on body of iPod shuffle which can get damaged during rough use.

I got iPod shuffle 512mb for review and I am suitably impressed. As name suggests this is supposed to shuffle all songs you put inside it and then play it randomly and hence no screen to allow you to choose songs. You can play songs in sequence too. On front it has circular dial which has play/pause button, rewind and forward, +/- volume. On back side of player you can find OFF, Sequential play and shuffle play button and battery status button. It doesn’t have STOP button, you just switch off the player. On top end of iPod shuffle is earphone socket and on bottom you have USB connector. Compared to hard disk based expensive iPod, shuffle is very light at 22gram.It is of same size as pack of chewing gum and you will never notice it in your shirt pocket. It comes with white earbuds with 2 set of foam covers, lane yard to hang iPod on neck and disk containing iTunes software for your PC and Mac. It works with any high powered USB 2.0 pc connection to transfer files/songs and charge its internal battery. It takes 4 hour to fully charge iPod which will play audio up to 12 hours. Since there is no LCD screen to drain battery you would get entire battery juice playing only music. Unlike other iPod, iPod shuffle can talk to only one PC or Mac at a time and can’t use music files from multiple PCs. So you may need to have your entire music collection at one PC. You can then use manual selection of songs to fill up iPod shuffle or use its Autofill function to give you surprises; it can empty the iPod shuffle and fill it up with new collection of songs from your PC. You can set aside part of 512mb or 1gb as disk area to move files from one PC to another PC. You can’t use iPod shuffle to shift music from iPod to any other PC but this limitation can be easily circumvented once you study how and where iPod stores your music.

1GB version iPod shuffle costs $149 but if small size is not a priority then have a look at iPod mini which now goes for $189 for 4GB version and has all display functionality. Not having display can be often frustrating when listening to audio books where files don’t start with name of audio book.

All iPod models will play AAC and MP3 files but won’t play WMA files. You can convert them to AAC files before transferring them to iPod. It will also play audioble format and wav files.

In case you like flash memory based player and don't need 4 or 6 or 20GB of storage but need good display function then look at Sansa by Sandisk. It appears to be good alternative with LCD display. It has 512mb or 1GB memory. Sansa e130 512mb player for US$139. It has LCD display, FM radio, and SD card slot. It plays mp3 and wma files. It works on AAA battery and has USB 2.0 interface to PC. Single AAA battery would give you up to 17 hours of playback time. www.sandisk.com

Vipul Shah
guide@vipulshah.com


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