The Shuffle is very small and light but still possessing a reassuring ruggedness. The feeling is that if this is dropped onto concrete it might scuff, but it’ll still keep on working without fault. Which is good.
No screen means extremely long battery life, so no worries there. Recharging is reasonable too, with 80% capacity reached in two hours and a trickle charge top up for another two. For my use, one charge should last for a whole week before needing a recharge. This makes it perfect for real on-the-go listening.
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Sound quality is quite simply amazing, and at the end of the day, that’s what really matters. Bass is there. Treble is there. And so is everything in between. The iPod wins out over any other brand simply because sound quality is right at the very top of the tree.
Integration with iTunes is very good too, though personally I’d prefer not to need Yet Another Program on my computer just to copy files from one disk to another, no matter how clever iTunes is when it comes to playlists and the like. At the end of the day it’s just another file viewer, albeit one with a few clever tricks up it’s sleeve. While I do like iTunes (really, honestly I do), I don’t like having no choice whether to use it or not. As an aside – Anapod offers one possible solution to this. I’ll be looking into that over the next few days.
The Shuffle interface is about as simple as it could possibly be. Flick the switch at the back to turn on, one more push down for random play. The buttons at the front control play, pause, volume and changing tracks. That’s your lot, and I applaud it’s pure simplicity. It’s a refreshing change from overly cluttered interfaces, pretend graphic equalizers and the like. There are a few nice touches in the way it works though. The Shuffle remembers track position when it’s turned off and re-starts from the same place when restarted. That’s perfect for those long audiobooks and full album rips. Also it’s possible (though iTunes) to select which tracks not to include in the shuffle mix, so you won’t accidentally end up listening to an 8 hour long audiobook after ZZ Top.
So, sound is excellent, interface is great, battery life is very good, so what’s to criticise about this tiny marvel?
Just one thing. Transfer speed. Through iTunes and my old USB 1.1 ports transfer speed is truly awful. This might be an excuse to drop a USB card into the box, though I suspect the culprit is iTunes again rather than the hardware. Again, something see if Anapod fixes first before I start ripping guts out of machines Either way, it’s an easy fix.
So there you have it. First impressions always count, and these are favourable. I like the iPod. It’s official.