The new Nano actually has a high-resolution display, even though it's so tiny it would have a hard time peeking around a potato chip.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
New iPod has a superb screen, but it's sooo tiny

March 9, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   Some guys have all the fun. Steve Jobs drove Mac fans bananas in January when he showed off the new MacBook Air, a notebook computer so thin you could shove it under a door.
   Nice try, Steve. I know what you're trying to do. You're scheming to get me to buy one of those 3/4-inch thick computers. A laptop that slides under a door and fits into a standard office manila envelope is almost too cool to pass up.
   But I chose something even cooler and thinner. It's a new iPod called the Nano. It's the smallest iPod Apple makes that will still show pictures and videos. It costs $150 with 4 gigabytes of storage or $200 with twice as much capacity.
   The Nano (which Apple quaintly spells without a capital "N") used to be even smaller, but the older version's screen would have been too tiny even in Lilliput. Apple made the new screen not only larger -- and, yes, I know "larger" is a relative term -- but much denser, too. It's actually a high-resolution display, even though it's so tiny it would have a hard time peeking around a potato chip.
   Apple calls it a 2-inch screen, but of course that's a number you get by measuring across the diagonal. We don't watch TVs and iPods with our bodies half-slanted -- your neck would really hurt after two episodes of "Lost" -- so I took my ruler to the screen and got a mere 1 3/4 inches across by 3/4 inch high. That's a mighty small thing to stare at, folks.
   But the Nano is just plain petite all around. It's smaller than a credit card, thinner than a stack of three nickels and adorned with an aluminum and stainless steel case. (You can buy one like mine, with an aluminum-and-chrome look, or you can choose cool colors.) It has only one control, a "click wheel" that responds in four or five different ways, all of them intuitive.
   Like all other iPods, the Nano is part of a system made up of your computer (it can be Windows or Mac), your iTunes software and the iPod itself. You can listen to your music or watch your videos -- Apple sells and rents TV shows and movies -- right on your computer without using your iPod, something a lot of non-iPod users don't seem to understand. (An iPod isn't even necessary for the audio and video entertainment in iTunes.)
   When you plug the iPod into your computer to charge up, using a thin white cable, your computer's iTunes software automatically "charges" the audio and video in the iPod, too. iTunes checks the iPod to see if it has all your latest TV shows, movies, music and even photos, and then synchronizes the iPod so it matches the content of your computer.
   Like its big sisters in the iPod line, the Nano also synchronizes your computer's calendar and contacts. Having a datebook and phonebook with me at all times was a real boon.
   Sound quality was fine and video quality was surprisingly good. Apple packs a pair of its trademark white earbud headphones with the Nano, but I used the better-sounding $5 earbuds I wrote about last year. (See www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec080507.html.) The Nano can also be connected to a TV so you can show your videos or photos on a much bigger screen, but the cable to do that costs $50.
   My 8 GB Nano was able to hold hundreds of my favorite Leonard Cohen and Arlo Guthrie songs along with a half-dozen TV shows and a movie. I'd much rather watch a bigger screen, but I'll admit that having an iPod that can fit into my wallet's credit-card slot is ultimately, and satisfyingly, cool.