Apple came out with a stunning MP3 player called iPod Nano in the year 2005, which was then the thinnest music player in the world and from then on, it has spent the subsequent years in improving the device’s quality in some minute and mammoth means. The latest fifth generation Nano that has been released in the holiday season of this year (2009) is obviously the most capable of them all, with a wider display, video camera, microphone speaker, FM radio, speaker and pedometer. All these new features are stuffed in to the, again, “Thinnest iPod ever“. Though some significant changes have been made to the colour options and texture of the casing of the player, the main body of the player looks very similar to that of its predecessor.

Having listed the array of new features that has been added to the latest 5th Generation iPod Nano, most of you out there would think that it is all enough for getting the new version, without any further elaboration. But you cannot actually leave it here; you will have to understand on how to use the model. Though the improvements in the casing, display and battery is not going to affect your knowledge about the player, you will have to know the details of the other new features of 5th Gen iPod Nano that has been added to the player to take full advantage of them.

In the following review, we will discuss the nano fifth generation as a whole and also about what has been changed with respect to its predecessor. At the end, we would like to make sure that our visitor can make a very well informed purchase or have a wait if they feel the performance is not worth an upgrade.

Apple ipod Nano 5G Green

The cosmetic changes:

Apple iPod Nano fifth gen with Video Camera cannot be said to have got a complete cosmetic retread from the fifth generation, but is half true. In the past three years we have seen the nano models have dramatic changes in their design, but there is not a big change this time. The dimensions of the nano 5G is exactly the same as Nano 4G, measuring (H x W x D) 3.6” x 1.5” x 0.24” and weighs 1.28 ounces which is 0.2 ounces lesser than its predecessor’s weight. We get to see the same lifeless knife-like sides akin to its predecessor, although this time it is a bit smoother. This model comes in a variety of nine colours that includes the whole rainbow span along with black and silver.

Wider, Brighter and a Better Display:

We will be able to point out about five major changes that apple has done to the fifth generation nano model. The first one being the change in display, while the previous model had a 2” 320×240-resolution color LCD with LED backlighting, the 5G nano has a 2.2-inch, 376×240-resolution TFT display. This means a larger display, higher resolution and overall, a better quality of screen. The extra bit of screen extends further down to the nano’s face and adds the 56 pixels to the bottom. This extension can be handy for some additional lines of text, a wider presentation of video and for the black bars on the sides of some of the games.

The new display is much brighter than the prior one but is having a very slight pink tint when it is not at its peak. This makes it seem like the videos and games are rendered with dithering, which is a technique that is used to approximate the colours that cannot be naturally produced by a limited colour display. Hence, the video in the new model looks better than the ones in the previous versions. Some subtle shading has been improved especially in the darker scenes, it seems to be better than even the iPhone 3GS, but when it is viewed up close, the videos and games look grainier than the 4G nano.

Click Wheel’s Size Reduced:

Coming to the navigational click wheel, it is a step down from the fourth gen nano. Apple has been really playing with the size of the wheel for years now, by decreasing its diameter twice, and then increased and it has decreased in this model. This iPod Nano fifth Generation with Video Recording Model has the wheel size of the third generation model and as a result, it has got very less touchable area, posing difficulty for users with big fingers. They would tend to slip more often while scrolling or playing games. Though you might think that it is a very small change to worry about, some of the users will find it to be really annoying. Another thing to worry about is that, we hear that several Nanos come with fairly significant gaps off to the sides of the click wheel, most notably the yellow version. We do not know the exact reason for this, but there are greater than permissible gap tolerances in the latest model than its predecessor. Hence, be careful while purchasing one because, if you wind up with the wrong one, then you will have to fight with the dust and dirt that will be trying to get inside the iPod. The overall built quality is simply excellent.

Addition of Camera and Microphone:

The third major change is the addition of a chrome and glass video camera and a microphone plate on the iPod’s rear. We will see in detail about its performance later, but from a cosmetic point of view, with the addition of this tiny pill shaped plate to the bottom left of the casing, the user would need to learn an how the device should be held and used as a video and audio recorder. This learning process is in order to make sure that your fingers do not fall into the natural resting position on top of the panel. Here, Apple has not done an optimal job in positioning it and this is one of the things that Apple will have to change in the sixth generation model. A bit higher and a central position will surely solve the issue of fingers.

The ports swapped:

The next change is regarding the ports. The position of the dock connector and headphone, which it had been having for couple of years now, has been reversed. The headphone port is now on the bottom left of the device and the dock connector is on the bottom right. The only practical impact of this change is that, the users will have to have a look at the instruction manual to know how to seat the new model in its docks.

iPod Nano 5th Generation colours

Changes in Texture and Tones:

The last, but one of the most significant changes are the colours and textures of the Nano 5G. All nine colours of the nano chrome are retained, but have been given a glossy finish and a slightly different metallic tone. The new body material is called as anodised aluminium which looks like a coat of automotive grade paint with a shiny texture. The rear engraving, top, bottom and click wheel, still have the matte finish. And unlike all the other glossy finished productions of Apple, this time it is come up with something that is really scratch resistant. Most of them got scratched with just a little force from your finger nail, but the new Nano fights back well and it feels as though some film has been applied on its surface.

As we had mentioned earlier, with the new glossy finish, there is a slight difference with the tones too. The tones of yellow, silver and black colours remain unchanged except for the glossy finish. The purple is very different, the new tone possesses a darker and is more of a bluish purple. The new blue is little bit stronger. The green has been completely changed, the then green colour is now having a pine tone. The orange colour tone looks more like a copper penny. The red is also a bit darker than the previous version. The pink too, like the green has been changed completely. The hot pink has been replaced by a rosy reddish tone. Guess that is all with the colours folks!

Capacities of the iPod Nano 5G:

The fifth generation Nano comes in 8GB/16GB capacities akin to its predecessors. Though the capacities remain to be the same, the latest nano carries the positive trend that we sensed in the fourth generation Nano. Synching with iTunes looks to be fairly rapid. But nothing seems to come anywhere near the transfer speeds of the  160GB iPod classic.

Interface Tweaks:

Coming to the interface, the Nano 5G Video Player and Recorder has retained the interface of its predecessor, with just a handful of changes. They look exactly the same, but then you get to see the extra bit with the display. One of the screens that had got a key change is the “Now Playing” screen that appears whenever you play music, audio podcasts or audio books. The album title, artist name and the song title has been moved from below the album art to a gradated black bar beneath the display. And this screen also has the current time displayed on it header. The font is also bolder, brighter and more legible. In the latest Nano 5G 8GB and 16GB, the album art is large and more prominent with the addition of an accelerometer that automatically takes the shape of a cover flow mode that is horizontal and scrolling whenever the device is turned onto its side. With the additional bit of screen you will be now able to view nine album covers at once rather than seven and twelve lines instead of ten. On most of the other screens, the extra space is either left empty or is filled by a continuation of the background. Though the tweaks made with the design of the interface are very minor, they have a good impact on an overall basis.

No changes with the three games collection:

As far as the games are concerned, you get the same three games that were designed for the third and fourth generation Nano. The games include Klondike, Maze and Vortex and they are all of the same version that was released previously.

The Radio feature in Nano 5G:

Not so long before Apple had been selling an accessory called the “iPod Radio Remote” together with an FM tuner with some of the Apple iPod models. But this 5th Gen Nano comes with an in-built radio tuner. This new software has got a better new background and the bottom of the screen has controls that are quite intuitive. You will find a “Live-Pause bar” representing a 15-min recording time. As long as you are in the same station, the Nano caches its contents so that you will be able to pause rewind and fast forward through the contents. The recording is erased once you change the stations. This is a very neat feature. Though it is not as well implemented as the True Radio recording accessory that was developed by Griffin for the older iPods, the one in Nano also does a good job and it is mainly to encourage you to more stuff via iTunes.

The integrated FM radio tuner works very well to tune in the local radio stations, which entirely depends on the pair of headphones that serve as an antenna. Though the static preset is low, the tuner is very easy to use and you will be allowed to mark your favourite stations. Once you disconnect the headphones, the radio application closes by itself. Apple has provided five radio regions that include America, Asia, Australia, Europe and Japan and you will be able to make a selection via the settings menu.

The major inclusions in depth:

As you must be clear by now, the inclusion of a 640×480 video camera, a speaker and microphone are the three major additional features of the fifth generation Nano. And these features together allow the device to be a standalone audio player without headphones. This dignity previously belonged only to the iPod Touch and the iPhone.

The video camera:

The camera functionality is very basic. Just hit on the central action button to start recording and press it again to stop. You can capture vertically or horizontally depending on the position of the Nano. On holding down the button, you get a list of display aided special effects that can be slowly scrolled though the click wheel. You are not provided with any focusing mechanism or zooming capability. This is totally unfair on part of Apple.

The lens, microphone and sensor that are used in Nano are the same as the ones that are in iPod Touch and iPhone 3G, but these features allow the Nano 5G to do most of the other iPods and iPhones were unable to do. That is, to create audio video recordings those are of good quality. Nano also boasts to be having a feature that even the iPhone 3GS does not have, that is, Apple has included about 16 different special effects that have the ability to create real time recordings with natural colours and some geometric distortions similar to Apple’s iChat and the Photo Booth Software. The special effects list along with Normal includes, Black and White, Thermal, X-Ray, Cyborg, Sepia, Kaleido, Security Cam, Mirror, Film Grain, Blur, Bulge, Motion, Dent, Twist, Light Tunnel, Twirl and Stretch.

In the normal recording mode, the recordings made are just good, but not excellent. The recordings are in unchangeable H.264 video format with stereo ACC format audio a 30fps. The nano will be able to record between 1.5 hours to 2 hours on a full battery charge and consumes just over one 1GB memory for every hour of recording. The special effects do not have a negative impact over the recording time. Here, nano poses a direct competition to devices such as the Flip camera. Though these dedicated cameras have a better quality of video, they are nowhere near as far as the special effects are concerned.

One of the main features related to video that has not been added to the nano is the ability to edit the video clip and you will not be able to change the settings of special effects in the middle of a recording. The iPod’s inability to take still pictures will certainly be a very bothering issue for most of the users. Overall, Nano 5G’s camera is not bad at all keeping in mind the size of the device.

The voice memo application in Nano 5G:

The voice memo application that was previously available in the Nano 4G has been carried over to the Nano 5th gen 8GB/16GB with a cosmetic overhaul by using the image of a mic of the olden days. The process of recording is just the same. All that you have to do is, press the central action button to start or add chapter markers and then just over the menu button to stop. The recordings can be labelled once they are done. Well, there is no keypad to type, but then you are given the following headings to choose from: lecture, podcast, idea, interview, memo and meeting. The recordings take the form of 128kbps stereo AAC files at 44.1Hkz requiring a recording space of maybe about a Megabyte per minute. The microphone offered is surprisingly good. They seem to be clearer than the one in iPhone. Hence, you need not get any of those inexpensive add-ons that were available with the Nano 4G.

Apple takes the Genius playlist experience a step further with the introduction of a novel feature called the Genius Mixes, which offers extended music playlists categorized around one common genre. In contrast to the Genius playlists, Mixes are seamless to create simply appearing on your iPod as an element of iTunes default syncing process. Then again, you might want be aware of the fact that if you choose to have iTunes set up to manually manage your iPod or prefer to set off the Genius feature of iTunes, you may forget Genius Mixes appearing on your Nano.

Video & Audio features of Apple iPod Nano Fifth Generation:

Apple has not done much when it comes to tweaking the video and audio features for several years. This time around, there were a lot of speculations that Apple will be bringing in a major change by way of support for hi-def video storage.

Video:
The HD video feature is an overdue feature for the Apple family, but this time too, Apple has spoiled the party by taking no efforts. Hence, this 5th Gen model too supports only two video file formats, the MPEG 4 and H.264. The videos are capped at a top resolution of 640×480 pixels. The lack of a wider range of format and resolution support remains to be one of the major drawbacks of the iPods. The video seen in the latest nano is much brighter than the one seen on its predecessor.

Audio:
Sonically, the Nano 5G comes out with flying colours. Apple has managed to completely eliminate the minor hissing sound coming from the amplifiers and hence creating a much cleaner audio that is as close to the audiophile quality as any other iPod. The Nano 5G sounds legitimately wonderful and so, we have no complaints. As you start listening to it, we are very certain that you will get lost in its music. Said that, the nano has got a number of advantages over the iPod Classic, for instance, the inclusion of an interesting setting that is optional named the Audio Crossfade, which enables tracks from various albums to merge into one another as against beginning and ending abruptly. Apple has also made it a point to include the spoken menus and voice over technologies. With the 5th Gen Media Player supporting audio formats like AAC, MP3, AIFF and Apple Lossless, the media transfer via the iTune software is just amazingly seamless.

iPod Nano Fifth Generation Silver Colour

Speaker:

The speaker is not that good. It is good enough for watching movies, but not for listening to music. The sound produced is louder than iPod Touch, but is more distorted and has lesser sound than the iPhones. The fullness in sound is completely missing. Being a free addition to the nano 5G, the speaker is just acceptable, but if you are really looking to enjoy music, then it is better to use a headphone or an external speaker.

Photo playback:

Apple has been making very minor tweaks to the photo playback in each of its models and the Nano 5G is not an exception. It has got one new feature called, the “Ken Burns Effect”. This effects pan and zoom in on the images in a very gentle manner as and when they are being displayed. It also reverts to a Cube effect transitioning from one image to another with a kind of 3D side-shifting cube appearance together with a Flip effect, even as it preserves the Push and Dissolve effects from its previous model. On the side of what has been removed from the model are, Slide, Fade Through Black, and Zoom. However, the ability to randomise the transitions has been retained. The pictures can be displayed both horizontally and vertically depending on the iPod’s accelerometer orientation.

Nike + iPod functionality:

The nano 5G video player  has got some substantial changes made on its Nike + iPod functionality. Being found under the new title called fitness, the new model has got anintegrated Pedometer that is capable of making an approximate count of the number of steps that you have taken, which is entirely based on your weight and motions that are observed during your movement. The feature also keeps track of the calories burnt and time consumed. Though it lacks the Nike+ voice prompting feature, it does allow you to listen to tracks as you walk along with keeping track of walking results along with coordinating with Nike’s server. You have to note that the pedometer is not accurate and its count was off by a handful of steps. You need not get any additional accessory for this feature. A little shoe icon appears next to the battery to let you know that it is working.

Miscellaneous extras:

Nothing has changed drastically in terms of additional Extras in the 5Th Gen Nano in terms of stopwatch, calendar, several integrated alarms, sleep timer, world clocks, contact synchronization, Screen lock feature and a app called Notes for text file display. Well there is this inclusion of 30 different languages translated for the menus by Apple, which includes right to left languages, majority of which are supported through VoiceOver.

What is inside the transparent case:

The latest Apple ipod nano 5Gcomes in the same clear plastic box, the only addition to the casing is an updated reference to iTunes 9 on its rear. The other accessories that come along with the player include the charging and synchronising USB cable, earphones and a dock adaptor. All the supplied accessories are same as that of the previous year except for some of the very minor upgrades. For instance, the case of the headphone plug is now thinner and made out of hard plastic rather than the soft one. The new number 18 dock adaptor is having a dock connector hole on its left side and the instruction booklet is obviously new, depicting the new features such as FM radio and video camera. For the TV output for video again, you have to buy a costly apple or third party video cables.

Impressive battery life:

The battery life of the battery certainly depends on a number of factors, but for the purpose of testing, we will keep a standard. With about 50% brightness and fifty percent volume through the headphones, the nano has an average video life of five hours and fifteen minutes. This is about 20 minutes higher than the last year’s model. In terms of playback life for non-speaker audio playback, it exceeds the 24-hour estimate promised by Apple considerably. With volume on 50% and very minimal interaction, the nano 4G runs for 31 hrs and 5G managed to given an extra 90 minutes. The FM radio application with the live pause turned on, it affects the battery life considerably. But overall, the battery life of Nano 5G has been very impressive.

Warranty:

Apple offers iPod Nano 5G one year limited warranty for parts and labour.

A Happy price tag:

Apple has done a great job by reducing the price of the Nano 5G considerably. The latest version boasts of the same capabilities akin to the Nano 4G with a pricing that is considerably less in comparison to its predecessor. And the price tag on it keeps it as one of the best selling iPods in the market.

Verdict:

The Apple iPod Nano fifth generation has been packed to the grills with great features like a very slim form factor, audio- video features, FM radio, Genius Mix, a better display and a built in speaker.

It is very hard not to be carried away by all the new features of Nano especially its video camera. If you possess some older iPods and just waiting for an upgrade, the Nano 5G is simply the best deal. But you must also keep in mind that there is very little cost difference between the Nano and Touch and this will put you in a deep dilemma. Here we are, to make things simple for you. All that you have to do is, decide between Nano’s slim design, FM radio, pedometer, and video camera and the Touch’s touch screen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and its App capabilities. In our words, Apple iPod Nano 5G is the “Most Attractive IPod Ever”.

Apple iPod Nano 5G (8GB/16GB) – Technical Specifications, Features

Manufacturer Apple
Model Name iPod Nano fifth generation with video recording
Generation Fifth
Dimensions (H x W x D) 90.7 x 38.7 x 6.2 mm
Weight 36.4 grams
Display size 2.2″ diagonal
Display type TFT
Display resolution 240 x 376 pixel resolution at 204 pixels per inch
Capacities available 8GB, 16GB
Holding capacity 8GB: 2000 songs in 128-Kbps AAC format
7000 iPod viewable images
8 hours of video

16GB: 4000 songs in 128-Kbps AAC format
14000 iPod viewable images
16 hours of video

Storage type USB flash drive
Interactivity Spoken menus allow listeners to hear many of the
names of menus, song titles and artists without
viewing the screen
Legibility of the menus An alternative large font can make menus easier to read
Display adjustments Contrast and backlight settings
Caption feature Yes
Voice Over Kit 20 languages
Audio formats supported AAC, Protected AAC, HE-AAC, MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible,
Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV
Audio special feature User-configurable maximum volume limit
Video camera H.264 VGA video with AAC audio
Video resolution 640 by 480 pixels
Fps rate 30 frames per second
Navigation Click wheel
Mac system requirements Mac computer with USB 2.0 port
Mac OS X v10.4.11 or later
iTunes 9 or later
iPhoto 6.0.6 or later
Windows system requirements PC with USB 2.0 port
Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional
with Service Pack 3 or later
iTunes 9 or later
Headphone jack Standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
Battery Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Battery life Music playback time: Up to 24 hours
Video playback time: Up to 5 hours
Charge time Fast-charge time: about 1.5 hours
Full-charge time: about 3 hours
Box contents iPod nano
Earphones
USB 2.0 cable
Dock adapter
Quick Start guide
Warranty One year standard warranty for parts and labour