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Review: iPod nano 5th generation gives you 16 video recording modes

Apple recently rolled out their latest iPod lineup and IMHO the most interesting device announced was the new 5th generation iPod nano. I had no plans to purchase a new Apple product, but couldn't pass up a few of the new key features of the nano, including the pedometer, FM radio, and video camera. The new nano is available in nine different colors and I went with the orange one since I wanted a color that stood out a bit from my other devices. You can check out my image gallery, along with a video walk around the device and a video that includes each of the modes in the video camera.

Apple recently rolled out their latest iPod lineup and IMHO the most interesting device announced was the new 5th generation iPod nano. I had no plans to purchase a new Apple product, but couldn't pass up a few of the new key features of the nano, including the pedometer, FM radio, and video camera. The new nano is available in nine different colors and I went with the orange one since I wanted a color that stood out a bit from my other devices. You can check out my image gallery, along with a video walk around the device and a video that includes each of the modes in the video camera.


Image Gallery:Check out some product photos and a comparison of the iPod nano 5th generation with the 2nd generation iPod and Zune 4GB.
Image Gallery: iPod nano in the box
Image Gallery: iPod nano video camera

Available options and box contents

The nano is available in nine colors in both 8GB and 16GB capacities. The 8GB model is available for $149 and the 16GB is $179 so for just $30 more you get double the capacity.

Inside the box you will find the nano, stereo earphones, USB 2.0 cable, dock adapter, and Quick Start guide. The box is clear plastic and is the minimum size needed to hold the nano and accessories.

Initial impressions

The iPod nano comes in polished anodized aluminum and feels great in your hand. It is lighter than I thought it would be and I like the tapered edges that make it feel smaller than it actually is. Before I loaded any music on the device I plugged in my headset and turned to the FM radio, which worked very well. I then loaded up some music and was pleased to hear the speaker loaded on the device works adequately for those times when you don't have a headset or want to share your music. I was pretty amazed to see how much Apple was able to pack into such a small form factor and look forward to using the nano.

Specifications

Specifications of the iPod nano 5th generation include the following:
  • 2.2 inch 240x376 pixel resolution display
  • 8GB or 16GB internal flash memory capacity
  • Video camcorder that records H.264 VGA video, 640 x 480 pixels, up to 30 frames per second with AAC audio
  • Internal mic for voice recording
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • 3.6 x 1.5 x 0.24 inches and 1.28 ounces

Walk around the hardware

The 2.2 inch display takes up the majority of the front of the nano with the click wheel centered in the space under the display. The display looks great and videos are very watchable on such a display.

There is a hold switch on the top and nothing on the left and right. The iPod port and 3.5mm headset jack are found on the bottom of the nano.

You will find the new video camera on the back (lower left) of the nano. It is placed in a rather odd location so you will have to make sure to keep the fingers from your right hand out of the way when holding in landscape mode to capture video.

Video camera

From what I understand the video camera hardware on the new nano is the same as the iPhone 3GS, in terms of video. The iPod nano does not capture still images, but does a decent job with video at 30 frames per second in VGA 640x480 pixels resolution. It cannot really compete with the higher quality compact digital camcorders like the Flip minoHD, but it does well and if your nano is always with your then it can be more useful.

In addition to capturing video in normal mode, Apple modeled the iPod nano camera after the Nintendo DSi with several different capture modes. There are 15 additional modes on the nano, including Sepia, Black and White, X-Ray, Film Grain, Thermal, Security Cam, Cyborg, Bulge, Kaleido, Motion Blur, Mirror, Light Tunnel, Dent, Stretch, and Twirl. Check out my video below to see clips from each mode.

The camera placement isn't really that optimal, but I understand there are space constraints on the nano and this may have been the only place left to pack in the video camera. It only takes a bit of practice to work it without blocking the lens and is not that big of a deal.

FM radio

I know a lot of people who couldn't care less about the FM radio, but I personally listen to a few stations here in Washington and find music on the radio to be enjoyable and varied for my enjoyment. The FM radio in the iPod nano isn't just a standard FM radio either with the ability to pause your music and then go back up to 15 minutes to start playing it again. You can also fast forward to catch up to the live broadcast if you desire.

The FM radio supports RDS so you will see the song and artist on your nano. I have been using Shazam quite a bit to tag music I hear on my car's FM radio and with the new nano you can simply use the click wheel to tag the song. iTunes creates a list of all your tagged songs so you can later preview them and make purchase decisions when you sync to your Mac or PC.

Pedometer

One of the other primary reasons I bought this nano was for the pedometer functionality. I am restarting my exercise regime and thought this pedometer could serve as a replacement for the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit. I discovered that you can access a new Nike+ Active beta test site that shows you the data collected from the pedometer, but it is missing a few advanced workout features found on the Nike + kit. You still need to connect the Nike+ adapter to the nano and place the sensor in your shoe to get the maximum workout support.

The Nike+ Active site shows you the steps you have taken in relation to real-life objects like mountains, skyscrapers, etc. You can set hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly step goals and track them on the site too. Calories burned are calculated using the integrated pedometer. When you connect your nano with pedometer data on it you will be prompted to sync it to the Nike+ site.

It seems to me that Apple could enable this nano to work with the full Nike+ capability without having to attach the adapter and I am not sure yet if I am need this advanced capability. I need to read more reviews and experiences about the Nike+ kit to make that decision.

Other features

I never realized the new nano had an integrated speaker until I played a song without having my headphones fully plugged in and am finding this to be a handy functionality where I can easily listen to a podcast in my car with the integrated speaker. It isn't going to blast out the neighborhood or anything, but is nice to have for listen to your music in a hotel room or in the car where you do not have any other adapter or FM transmitter.

It is also nice to have an integrated microphone on the nano so you can quickly record voice notes/reminders while you have your nano with you.

You can enable VoiceOver so that songs are announced when they start playing. Genius is also integrated in the nano to help create optimized playlists for you.

Like I said, I never planned to buy a new iPod prior to the announcements, but am very pleased with the iPod nano 5th generation and plan to spend a lot more time with it out running. I bought an arm band case to use with the nano so I can easily take it with me when I hit the road.