Review: Apple iPod shuffle

by on March 2, 2005

I am new to the modern iPod world. I had the first 5GB model back in the day (more on that later) but it’s been a long time. A few pieces of this review might register a ‘well duh’ (which is a product of fear) but I don’t have any experience with modern HD based iPods. So I’ll try to spare everyone on the gee-whizness of an iPod+iTunes and the heroics of actually FINDING one of these things (the Apple Store in Indianapolis say they sell out in 2 hours) and go into the review. iPod shuffles are very small.

iPod shuffle Back (mouseover for button descriptions)

iPod shuffle Front (mouseover for button descriptions)

iPod shuffle

So small, in fact, that if one were so inclined, one could apply sauce and swallow it. If one were so inclined. Also, let me just say the skin I am inclined to use is an actual pack of gum. Or one can buy skins from ShuffleArt or Decal Girl or grab these before you see the movie and/or lose all interest.

Back in the day, 2002, my office purchased a 5GB iPod (the day BEFORE the 10GB model came out – meh I say for we had end of the year money that had to be spent THAT DAY) for me and I discovered that 5GB of music was too much. I would fire up my iPod and acquire the feeling one gets when entering a video store. The mountainous wave of choice would drown any semblence of clarity, and I’d have no idea what to listen. Believe it or not, I like being limited in my musical choices. Okay okay – so how does the shuffle fare?

It feels good in my hand and fits well inside my coat pocket as I walk on the snow covered sidewalks in freakish Indiana weather. The controls are a bit pokey, and I’ve noticed the shuffle cuts a sliver of audio off the front of each track. Not even close to being a deal breaker for me, but worth noting. The recent software update gave us shuffle users the new feature of auto pause when the headphones are removed. I can plug my shuffle into my car stereo, a JVC CD Player with 1/8″ Aux input on the front, and listen as I drive to the gym, then into my ears at the gym. Of course when the snow melts I’ll just ride my bike to the gym. Heh. The earbuds sound great, and the iPod shuffle is plenty loud enough to power 3 headphones through an adapter I bought at Radio Shack.

Every button on the unit has 2 functions (save the battery button). Hold mode can be achieved by holding down “Play/Pause” as music plays. Off/On can be achieved by holding down “Play/Pause” while the music is paused. I was forever looking/wanting for the hold function. Alas, it escaped me – twas printed on the quick reference card the entire time.

I have learned to chunk my songs in some type of grouping system – either by type/mood, artist, or album. That way, say if I want to listen to track 60/120 – rather than hitting the forward button 59 times, I flip into shuffle mode, find a song close to the song I want, flip back into Playlist mode and cue up the song I want. If there are songs I REALLY REALLY want to choose, I put them at the top of the playlist. I can also drag tracks onto the iPod shuffle icon and iTunes will copy them to the iPod once it is connected. A handy feature. Also, skip track backwards also works in shuffle mode. That’s doubleplusgood in my book.

I always keep flash drive disk use enabled. This feature is off by default, but you might as well keep it on seeing as how the iPod shuffle mounts, updates, then unmounts every time you make a change to its playlist. You could save the drag to trash/Command-E time though. Of course I feel sorry for PC users (for a gargantuan horde of reasons I won’t go into here) who have to right click the System Tray icon, yadda yadda yadda.

It seems that a Mac formatted iPod shuffle hides the all important iPod_Control folder (think: contains the booty) on the Mac, but is fully visible on the PC, and vice versa. Remember this workaround:

cd /Volumes/iPod_shuffle/iPod_Control/Music/
cp -R F0* /

The One-Sentence Verdictâ„¢

The iPod shuffle, although not for everyone, is a brilliant piece of design that sounds great and works smoothly by itself and with iTunes.

Pros: Price, extremely intuitive controls, stupid-small size, still an iPod
Cons: Controls a bit pokey, toggle switch too easy to turn off, not actually made of gum
Rating: 9/10

The Facts

Product: iPod shuffle
Company: Apple
Platform: Mac/Win
Price: $99.99 (512MB), $129.99 (1GB)

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