iPod classic review

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
Released alongside the all new third generation iPod Nano, the new iPod Classic offers a refined all-metal case, the same new graphical interface of the Nano, and the most battery and storage capacity of any iPod model (thanks to its hard drive and hefty battery). However, as outlined in this review, the Classic may signal the end of the road for hard disc drive-based iPods, as Apple aggressively moves its entire media player lineup to Flash memory storage.



Physical Features



The sixth-generation (6G) of the iPod -- now dubbed the "iPod Classic" -- maintains the same form factor as the "5.5G" iPod announced last year, but gets rid of the clear plastic face that was so easy to scuff. Instead, the new model is constructed similar to the Nano, with an anodized aluminum metal face surrounding a glass screen.



That means the face -- and more importantly the screen -- is as difficult to scratch up as the iPhone or the new Nano, although like the new Nano, its polished stainless steel back still quickly shows fingerprints and scuff marks.



The new metal case of the 80GB 6G Classic is slightly thinner than the 30GB 5.5G iPod, though Apple also offers the Classic in a 160GB model, albeit slightly thicker. That leaves a wide gap in capacity between it and the other iPod models, which max out at 16GB for the iPhone-like iPod Touch, or at 8GB for the Nano and iPhone. The rest of Apple's entire iPod lineup has moved to using Flash RAM rather than a hard drive.







Flash RAM vs a Hard Drive



The allure of Flash RAM has many facets. For starters, reading from Flash is faster than from a hard drive. The Classic can occasionally be forced to stutter if you start playing music and then immediately zip through menus or quickly pan through album artwork in Coverflow. That's because the display and music playback are both scrambling to read from the hard drive at once. This is not really a serious performance problem on the Classic, because once a song has played for a few seconds, it will read ahead enough music to prevent skipping. However, it signals one reason why Apple is leaning toward Flash.



Second, Flash is much more energy efficient. To operate from a hard drive, iPods have always incorporated a small amount of RAM, 34MB to 64MB. This allows it to read a large chunk of music from the disk and copy it into RAM for playback. This not only makes for smooth, skip-free playback, but also allows it to turn the drive off and coast along in low power mode until it needs more music from the disk. Without this aggressive disk caching, the iPod's battery wouldn't last nearly as long. Playing video or games makes the iPod's disk work harder, and therefore helps to shorten battery life.



As Apple migrates the iPod line toward iPhone-like functions, using a hard drive for storage becomes unworkable due to its power draw. A hard drive based iPhone or iPod Touch would perform more like a laptop, requiring a much larger battery to deliver more than a couple hours of runtime. It would make it much larger and heavier.







The obvious advantage of a hard drive is much more cost effective storage. One of the most expensive components in the iPhone is its 8GB of Flash, which is roughly the same price in quantity component orders as an 80GB 1.8-inch hard drive like the one in the iPod Classic. Combining the two for a pocket mobile device with ten times the storage sounds tantalizing until the reality of battery life, battery size, and additional hard drive volume all add up to create a box the size of a small book, or alternatively a mobile device that can't run for more than two hours without a recharge. Additionally, the hybrid device would be slower and hesitate every time it had to spin up the disk.



On top of all that, 2.5-inch laptop hard drives are already rated for lighter duty and have shorter lifespans than full size 3.5-inch hard drives in desktop computers. A micro-mobile iPod device constantly reading from an even smaller iPod sized 1.8-inch drive to run a full-blown operating system with complex applications like the OS X environment of the iPhone or the iPod Touch would be even more fragile and likely to fail at inopportune times.



That's why Apple doesn't recommend using the iPod Classic in disk mode as a boot device; it simply isn't rated for full-time use. Apple also pulled all references on its website about using hard drive-based iPods during exercise or running due to the risk of mechanical failure associated with operating hard drives in such extreme conditions. It only offers the Nike+ for use with the Flash-based Nano. The Classic is the most vulnerable of all iPods.



That means the hard drive-based iPod Classic is likely to soon be a dead end on the iPod road map. As the price of Flash RAM components rapidly fall as production technology increases, the entire line of iPods is likely to eventually move permanently to Flash. At some point, they will likely be followed by laptops, too. Depending on the demand that remains for large capacity iPods, the Classic line may retire as early as a year or two from now.



iPod Selector: Size Matters



Until then, the Classic is the only way to put more than a few thousand songs and a movie or two on an iPod. For anyone who wants more than 16GB of storage, the iPod Classic is the easy option because its the only option. Compared to the other iPod models, it's almost as if Apple is actively working to migrate users away from hard drive storage.



Apple's first step was making it easy to automate the syncing of fresh content in iTunes. Rather than having to carry around an iPod with a capacity equal to the entire music library, users can now easily set up sophisticated smart playlists that can keep a smaller capacity iPod full of fresh content. Podcast and TV syncing also makes it easy to cycle through new content. That all adds up to make iTunes a software solution to the hardware problem of practical capacity limitations of Flash based iPods.







It's interesting that the new 3G Nano now delivers all of the features of the previous full-sized iPod. That signals that Apple isn't too worried about further differentiating the Classic as a model; it's only purpose is to deliver capacity. Its screen is only a half inch larger than the Nano, which doesn't make much of a noticeable difference when actually viewing video playback. The Nano is also $50 or $100 less than the iPod Classic.



The larger shell of the Classic does give it a slightly longer rated battery life. While the Nano is rated at 24 hours of audio or 5 hours of video, the Classic promises up to 30 hours of audio and five hours of video for the 10.5 mm thick 80GB model, or 40 hours of audio and 7 hours of video for the 13.5 mm thick 160GB version. Presumably, the larger capacity model also holds a larger battery.



According to iSuppli, the battery in the new 80GB classic is exactly the same as the older 30GB Video's. No word on the 160GB.



The new flagship iPod is the Touch, which for $50 more, and similarly trades off capacity for WiFi browsing features, YouTube and the coming WiFi Store music store. The 8mm thick Touch also has a larger, much higher resolution screen for video playback, touch=screen wizardry, and a 22-hour audio playback rating (or 5 hours of video). Throw down another $100 and you can get a full iPhone, with always-on mobile data service, a camera, Bluetooth, Mail, Google Maps and other related mobile features.



These differences between the iPod models will likely make the Classic most attractive to existing iPod users who can't give up the storage capacity they've grown accustomed to, and for users primarily interested in long playback of music, who are not tempted by the more gadgety features of the Touch or the very thin Nano with its limited storage.



New iPod Software Features



Apart from offering vastly larger capacity in a larger shell, the iPod Classic is very similar to the new Nano, offering the same new animated menus and enhanced mini-apps described in our 3G iPod nano review. Both appear to run on a significantly-refreshed operating environment, the main downside of which is that the new Classic and Nano aren't backwardly compatible with games designed for the 5G iPod.



Both the new Classic and Nano ship with three free games, and Apple says three more are on the way. Until they ship, there aren't any new games to buy, and of course any 5G games you already own won't sync over.



For a more extensive look at the new iPod software, including the animated menus and gaming support, see the 3G Nano review: Apple's new 3G iPod nano is a 5G video iPod in a nano-thin shell.







Video Output Changes



One last change on the iPod Classic over the previous 5.5G iPod model is that video output has changed. Previous video-enabled iPods offered composite video output from a video iPod Dock or via a cable that plugged into the headphone jack. The new Classic, Nano, and the Touch all offer both composite video and now higher quality component video for use with a HDTV or modern standard definition TV. Component video delivers a higher quality picture.



The new models now lack an option to output video from the headphone jack. Instead, Apple sells both composite cables for use with all video-capable iPods and component cables that only work with the new Classic, Nano, and Touch. Both cables plug into the iPods using a dock connector. They also come with a USB wall power adapter and cost $50. Apple also sells a $50 "Apple Universal Dock," which provides an IR remote control. It requires one of the above cables to plug into a TV or HDTV set.







The new iPod models may not work with some third party devices that extract video from the Dock connector, although the new iPods work with the previous "iPod Universal Dock connector" when used with Apple's composite cables designed for previous video-capable iPods.



Rating 4 of 5





ProsMuch greater capacity than other iPods.Longer batter life than other iPod models.Scratch resistant metal face and glass screen.Enhanced animated menus and Coverflow.Three free games.ConsNot compatible with 5G games.No games yet available apart from the three free games included.Polished metal back will scuff up quickly.

Where to Buy



Apple 160 GB iPod classic (Black) - Amazon



Apple 80 GB iPod classic (Black) - Amazon



Apple 160 GB iPod Classic (Silver) - Amazon



Apple 80 GB iPod Classic (Silver) - Amazon
«13

Comments

  • umijinumijin Posts: 133member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Rating 4 of 5





    ProsMuch greater capacity than other iPods.Longer batter life than other iPod models.Scratch resistant metal face and glass screen.Enhanced animated menus and Coverflow.Three free games.



    ConsNot compatible with 5G games.No games yet available apart from the three free games included.Polished metal back will scuff up quickly.



    First, I can't take this review seriously if you don't list the lethargic CoverFlow interface in your cons or factor it into your rating. It's not a feature, it's a liability. It really slows down browsing music, and it's slower on the Classic than the Nano Fatty.



    Second, the shape of the Classic is awful, and not particularly easy on the hands with that raised edge.



    Third, the classic form factor needs to be put to bed, not kept alive. This tiny screen is so TWO YEARS ago.



    Fourth, what do you need all that capacity for, if you are not watching videos? And the classic is just not worthy of video because of this tiny sceen.



    Apple should have released a high capacity HD Touch along with the flash-based Touch. Or at least redesigned the classic so it could keep its scroll wheel and get a bigger screen.
  • dr_lhadr_lha Posts: 236member
    Classic is clearly aimed at people who want a regular iPod. I personally will be getting one because I already have an iPhone for all my "touch" stuff. I also want something that I can store my entire music collection on, as well as use as a portable Hard Drive for taking work to/from home.



    My 40Gb 4G is getting on a bit, so I'll be putting my $100 iPhone "rebate" towards a 80Gb Classic, but I do agree with the previous poster on one point, I'm a bit worried by the reports of the UI sluggishness. Any comments from the reviewer? I don't care about Coverflow personally, but I read elsewhere that the sluggishness pervades the entire UI of the Classic, which is a bit worrisome.
  • galleygalley Posts: 971member
    I bought the 160 gigger because I wanted one iPod to hold everything, and act like a portable Apple TV. Regarding the TV output, I believe that the MPAA may have insisted on locking out video due to the fact that it can output a 480p signal via the forthcoming component cable. Remember kids, 720 x 480p is DVD quality, and pirates are perfectly happy with that resolution. I have the cable on order, assuming it will work with my current Apple Universal Dock.
  • acslater017acslater017 Posts: 424member
    is this a review? it seems more like an article explaining Apple's iPod lineup, with a rating thrown in at the end... i suppose the Classic is already somewhat familiar to most people, but i'm not sure what to think of this piece... was the original review focusing on the Classic too short? maybe the middle section should become its own article, and the Classic-related tidbits pieced together for a review



    don't mean any disrespect, i love appleinsider...this was just a frustrating, sprawling read
  • zanshinzanshin Posts: 350member
    I've read people say they DJ and want to use the large capacity Classic for this purpose. When my sister got married this summer, one prospect she auditioned showed up with just an 80Gb iPod. She began to dismiss him immediately as not being the real deal. He convinced her his performance set-up was professional, his patter was smooth, and she ultimately hired him. During the wedding, his iPod drive died. He had speakers and amps, and lights and stands, but chose to rely on a personal music player for his gigs.



    Sis was not happy, nor very forgiving. I guess I don't understand why if you gotta carry in a van-load of gear anyway, you elect to use an iPod (or any other personal player) for weight-savings or convenience. I think a laptop Mac probably would have been a better choice.
  • mazzymazzy Posts: 53member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by umijin View Post


    First, I can't take this review seriously if you don't list the lethargic CoverFlow interface in your cons or factor it into your rating. It's not a feature, it's a liability. It really slows down browsing music, and it's slower on the Classic than the Nano Fatty.



    Second, the shape of the Classic is awful, and not particularly easy on the hands with that raised edge.



    Third, the classic form factor needs to be put to bed, not kept alive. This tiny screen is so TWO YEARS ago.



    Not too small for music lovers who don't care for video on a pod. Just like when they fist came out. It's all about the music for many of us.



    Fourth, what do you need all that capacity for, if you are not watching videos? And the classic is just not worthy of video because of this tiny sceen.



    Many of us want them only for MUSIC. Large capacities that we use in a studios, businesses, second homes or when traveling for long times. I for one want all 100GB of my music. You never know what mood musically you'll be in when you can't sync up daily. Don't need a big screen for music only,



    Apple should have released a high capacity HD Touch along with the flash-based Touch. Or at least redesigned the classic so it could keep its scroll wheel and get a bigger screen.



    .......
  • magicwardrobemagicwardrobe Posts: 7member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by umijin View Post


    Fourth, what do you need all that capacity for, if you are not watching videos? And the classic is just not worthy of video because of this tiny sceen.



    Well my music library is about 55gb, and then counting a few videos that i might want to put in...and in two years i reckon my music library will be another 10 - 15gb large.



    I do think that these small HDDs are outdated and slow, but i think they're the only cheap way to store large music libraries in 'your pocket' at the moment....but then again, im very much pulled towards the touch, and just setting up lots of clever playlists. hmmmm!
  • melgrossmelgross Posts: 28,494member, moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by umijin View Post


    First, I can't take this review seriously if you don't list the lethargic CoverFlow interface in your cons or factor it into your rating. It's not a feature, it's a liability. It really slows down browsing music, and it's slower on the Classic than the Nano Fatty.



    Second, the shape of the Classic is awful, and not particularly easy on the hands with that raised edge.



    Third, the classic form factor needs to be put to bed, not kept alive. This tiny screen is so TWO YEARS ago.



    Fourth, what do you need all that capacity for, if you are not watching videos? And the classic is just not worthy of video because of this tiny sceen.



    Apple should have released a high capacity HD Touch along with the flash-based Touch. Or at least redesigned the classic so it could keep its scroll wheel and get a bigger screen.



    You are so out of it with this post.



    Apple is giving those people who want exactly what the Classic delivers, what they are asking for.



    I'm willing to state that it will be the most popular HDD digital player made.



    It's not for you, and that's fine.
  • dr_lhadr_lha Posts: 236member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by magicwardrobe View Post


    ...just setting up lots of clever playlists. hmmmm!



    The trouble with "clever playlists" is that they have yet to come up with a playlist clever enough to be able to have the iPod play a song that isn't copied to it. There's no replacement for having your entire library in your pocket IMHO.
  • flounderflounder Posts: 2,674member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by zanshin View Post


    I've read people say they DJ and want to use the large capacity Classic for this purpose. When my sister got married this summer, one prospect she auditioned showed up with just an 80Gb iPod. She began to dismiss him immediately as not being the real deal. He convinced her his performance set-up was professional, his patter was smooth, and she ultimately hired him. During the wedding, his iPod drive died. He had speakers and amps, and lights and stands, but chose to rely on a personal music player for his gigs.



    Sis was not happy, nor very forgiving. I guess I don't understand why if you gotta carry in a van-load of gear anyway, you elect to use an iPod (or any other personal player) for weight-savings or convenience. I think a laptop Mac probably would have been a better choice.



    Or at least have a backup iPod!
  • dr_lhadr_lha Posts: 236member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Flounder View Post


    Or at least have a backup iPod!



    Seriously! The guy needs to move over to what we call in the space industry a two string platform (i.e. you have redundancy in case of a single point of failure).
  • melgrossmelgross Posts: 28,494member, moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Flounder View Post


    Or at least have a backup iPod!



    I was thinking the same thing. Anything can fail at anytime. It could have been a Macbook Pro, and it still could have failed.



    The same thing is true for professional photography. At least two bodies have to be brought to every job. Hopefully more than one needed lens as well. Several memory cards, a couple of rechargers, and several batteries.



    Something is always bound to fail somewhere.
  • nightcrawlernightcrawler Posts: 643member
    Weak review, the most important thing, soundquality, has not been reviewed.



    From geek-forums who put the ipod classic through its paces and compared it with the best-sounding mp3-players out there, like for example the iriver and cowon's iaudio-players, measuring frequencies and listening to all relevant music-styles.. I now know that the ipod classic sports a drastically improved soundquality, compared to the mediocrity of the last few ipod-generations, outclassing even the best sounding mp3-player, cowon's d2, on the market.



    The geek-forum-testers found that the improved soundquality is due to a new audio-chip used in the classic.



    That's a fantastic feat and kudos to apple to have done it, unfortunately it's still not clear if the ipod-nano has the same fantastic sound as the classic.. The ipod-classic would be perfect if it had built-in recording-capability matching the professional capabilities of Sony's hi-minidisc-recorders, and it would have been nice if mucic-files were stored or could be stored alternatively in standard formats, including wma.



    I can only hope that the next-generation-ipods will come with professional-recording-capabilities (with fantastic soundquality in playing and recording) and an integrated camera, and 32 GB/64 GB-Flash-memory. Then I will buy one, too.



    Nightcrawler
  • tenobelltenobell Posts: 7,014member
    Quote:

    The geek-forum-testers found that the improved soundquality is due to a new audio-chip used in the classic.



    That's cool if you are really anal about sound quality. I would believe the majority of the market are listening to low bit rate mp3's and will never hear the difference.
  • melgrossmelgross Posts: 28,494member, moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post


    That's cool if you are really anal about sound quality. I would believe the majority of the market are listening to low bit rate mp3's and will never hear the difference.



    I do know that the current models are highly regarded in Stereophile, as long as you are using Apple Lossless, and I can agree with it.
  • nightcrawlernightcrawler Posts: 643member
    Hmm, it seems like I was a bit too quick with saying that the ipod classic had the best sound of all. It seems like there is a major problem with the codec used with the new audio-chip. Here are the details:



    http://homepage.mac.com/marc.heijlig...surements.html



    Quote:

    Conclusions

    From these measurements it is obvious that the Cirrus audio IC is worse that the Wolfson IC:

    - Treble has an uplift of 0.1dB.

    - The Codec has a non-linear group delay.

    - The phase faults are caused by non-linear effects.



    The audible differences between the 5G and 6G are significant, and a firmware correction (most Codecs contain programmable parts) is definitely required to bring back the iPod Classic sound quality to its original levels.




    Nightcrawler
  • wigginwiggin Posts: 2,035member
    I have a 3rd gen, 15 GB iPod, and I'm very sad to say that NONE of the new lineup offer me a reason to upgrade, as much as I'd like to.



    Nano: Not enough capacity...end of story. If it can't hold all my music, at a minimum, I won't even consider it. (And I don?t even have all that much music!)



    touch: Love the concept, can even understand not including Mail app. But my music takes up nearly all of my 15 GB current iPod. So the lovely big screen is wasted because there would be no space left to store photos/video to view on it. I could make due with the limited storage if there was something compelling (Mail) to make up for it. Plus not being able to add events to the calendar, and now reports that contact changes aren't sync'd back to your computer, seriously cripple it as a good compromise to make up for limited storage.



    Classic: I had resigned myself to getting a classic and being jealous of the large screen touch. But then the deal-breaker?Apple as taken away camera connector support (this is a glaring omission from AI's review). On the small screen, I wouldn't really watch much video or view photos; and my current iPod can already hold all my music. The ONLY reason left to upgrade was that I could leave my laptop at home when I travel and use the iPod to download photos when the camera's memory card was full. The new nano works with the camera connector (which is a joke considering it's tiny storage capacity), so it's not the upgraded OS that prevents the camera connector from working. So what is it? So if no video, no viewing photos, no download photos, then I don?t really need the extra storage space, do I.



    So I guess I'll be sticking with my 4-year old, 3rd gen iPod. None of the new iPod's offer any new features that I'd be able to make use of due to either limited capacity or crippled/removed features.



    PS: As for the sluggish interface...sort of like iMovie 8. Apple put all their effort into making the interface "slick" to the point of requiring a supercomputer just to run the app, while crippling it's functions to the point of it no longer being able to do what used to be able to do (ie, edit movies!) on computers several generations old. There is NO EXCUSE for the interface eye candy of the new iPod interfering with the primary function of the device...playing music.
  • jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,927member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Galley View Post


    I bought the 160 gigger because I wanted one iPod to hold everything, and act like a portable Apple TV. Regarding the TV output, I believe that the MPAA may have insisted on locking out video due to the fact that it can output a 480p signal via the forthcoming component cable. Remember kids, 720 x 480p is DVD quality, and pirates are perfectly happy with that resolution. I have the cable on order, assuming it will work with my current Apple Universal Dock.



    I think I called that kind of odd protection schemes a silly façade before. DVDs are by far weakest point of the commercial video distribution system, if you don't count insider jobs. It's much easier to get the DVD and rip from that than it is to record from component outs, and it will get better video quality too.
  • melgrossmelgross Posts: 28,494member, moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Nightcrawler View Post


    Hmm, it seems like I was a bit too quick with saying that the ipod classic had the best sound of all. It seems like there is a major problem with the codec used with the new audio-chip. Here are the details:



    http://homepage.mac.com/marc.heijlig...surements.html







    Nightcrawler



    I can't speak to the rest of the tests as I don't have the iPod here, so I can't test one. However, a .1 db rise is inaudible, particularly at those extended frequencies, where little music resides, and at which, our hearing is not the best.



    If it is true that the impulse test is correct, that can be more of a problem. It would be very unusual for a device to have that shape impulse test, and it's difficult to understand how such a problem could have made it through initial testing at the manufacturer, much less at the stage of the iPods' design.



    It could be that this is a single device flaw, or that of a small part run. We'll have to see if it turns up further.
  • cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 2,717member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post


    That's cool if you are really anal about sound quality. I would believe the majority of the market are listening to low bit rate mp3's and will never hear the difference.



    Yes to your first sentence and maybe and no to the second.
Sign In or Register to comment.