Less than two years after the purchase of my 30 GB 5th Generation iPod (as documented here), I have just returned from the Apple Store with my brand new 80 GB (6th Generation) iPod Classic. The Classic is the replacement for the "big" or "regular" iPod, of which I own a 10GB 3rd-Gen (white) and the 30GB 5th-Gen (black). Along with the two iPod Shuffles that I own, that's 5-still working iPods in my possession, all performing basically the same functions. If you count the Nanos I've given out as presents, and all the accessories I've purchased, and the few iTunes I've actually paid for, that's a hell of a lot of money I've given to the Apple Corporation over the years. And it's been worth every penny. I don't think there's been a single consumer product I've ever purchased which has given me so many hours of unadulterated entertainment as the iPod. So thank you, Mr. Jobs. I don't mind the hit to my credit card at all.
Onto the new purchase... the Classic is one of several new models of iPod recently released, along with a new video version of the Nano (smaller and squarer than the old one) and a brand new product, the iPod Touch -- which borrows the look and functions of the iPhone, just without the phone. The Touch looks really cool and I kind of want one (I'll never own the phone as long as it's AT&T only, because Verizon seems to have by far the best phone service in NJ), but the use of flash memory in this version limits the capacity to 16 GB in the larger model, which would barely hold half of my music collection. The fact that my iPod is full is one of the drivers of my new purchase, so that's why I didn't seriously consider the Touch. Instead, I went with the Classic, available in both an 80GB and 160GB version, in both black and silver. I'll probably regret it a couple months from now, but I went with the 80GB, figuring it will be a couple years at least before my music collection will balloon to that size, and I went with the black.
Out of the box, the Classic looks very similar to my current iPod -- almost disappointingly so. It's the same size and shape, just thinner, and the same color. The front is different than the iPod - gone is the scratch-filled plastic from previous models - replaced with an anodized metal casing that is very attractive. Whether or not I will still buy a 3rd party cover is open for debate. My iPod has been in a Vaja leather case for nearly the full two years that I've had it, so I really don't even know what the front of my iPod looks like otherwise. I know the shiny silver backing will still attract scratches, so I guess I've got to get some case for it, so I'm not sure if the casing matters so much. Other than that, it's the same.
The improvements that make it worth $249 + tax? Storage and battery life are the big ones for me, and the improvements here are drastic. 80GB from 30GB is obviously more than twice the size, and my music collection alone is around the 30GB mark. Add in videos - which I've only had room to put on if I know I'll watch in advance (say, on a flight) - and that extra space will come in handy. The only downside is that my 2-year-old computer only has an 80GB hard drive, which is full as it is. So in order to fill up the new iPod with new video downloads, I need a new computer. Dell should really give a kickback to Apple at this point.
Battery life on my current iPod has long been a problem (it's been a problem on every iPod I've had). I charge it every night, which is fine, but even a music only use day drains the battery in 8 hours. Since that's the same amount of time I'm at work listening to the iPod, that's not been a major problem, but add in the commute and maybe some surfing through titles (anything that lights up the screen drains the battery quickly), and the thing is dead before the end of the day. Again, not a big problem, but certainly one of the only drawbacks to the iPod that I can think of. The new one? 30 hours of music playback is promised (or 5 hours of video playback). A huge leap forward, even if the reality of the machine puts the time much lower (I think my old one promised 10-12 hours, not 8). According to iPod Lounge, their tests showed 6:46 of video, which is damned impressive indeed.
The other major feature upgrade is the split-screen user interface. All of the menu options are on the left side of the screen, with graphics filling the right. Use the Click Wheel to highlight Music, Videos, Photos, or Podcasts and you’ll see cover art or pictures floating on the right, and underneath the shadow of the left side’s menu. Playlists now have small gray song tallies, Albums have small artists’ names and art icons, Songs have artists’ names, and Genres have artist and album tallies. Videos also have icons and summary information as appropriate. There's also "Cover Flow", which lets you flips through the albums in your catalog by looking at pictures of them, as if you actually had the physical albums in front of you, which is really cool. I know on my old iPod I never really flipped through the artist list because it's just black and white names of hundreds of artists, with my favorites getting the same amount of "credit" in the list as those on the list with only one song. Now, I can flip through my twenty different Bright Eyes albums and pick the one I want. It's really kind of awesome. I didn't get through the "A"s before pausing at The Album Leaf's In a Safe Place and listening to the amazing "The Outer Banks," which I haven't heard in forever. Then I stopped on Ani DiFranco's "Untouchable Face" from Dilate, another old favorite. I could be manually "shuffling" all night. Anyway, I digress.
All in all, this iPod is far from a leap forward from my current one, but in the two areas I've wanted improvements (battery life and capacity), they've offered great leaps forward for a very affordable price, and this "Cover Flow" feature is excellent, so I'm pretty satisfied. Until the iPod Touch appears with a hard drive attached - or until flash drive capacity rises to the 50GB+ level, this will suit me fine. Anyone want an iPod 5th Gen with black leather Vaja case that works perfectly fine? You can even have it fully loaded with the best indie rock out there. Make your best over or this is going on eBay.