Nano's With 4gb, Classics With 160gb, Touch's With 8gb, An Explanation of Why Apples Ipod's Vary So Much In Music Capacity (and price...)
So you're sitting there trying to decide which Ipod to buy. You'll be using it mostly for music, but may fancy watching a few videos or films on it too. Which one to buy? The specifications are so different - how is it possible that Apple can sell a 160gb Classic for just over £200, yet the new Touch model, with the much less 16gb of storage goes for £250? It just doesn't make sense at first, why can't they just all have huge memory?
The answer lies in the type of memory that the different Ipod's use, and how this effects costs, battery life, speed and durability. So in this article we'll look at the different types of storage used, what this means in terms of usability, and then round things off with a reality check about these storage figures and how much music / video you can actually take with you in your Ipod.
If we compare the Ipod Classic and Touch we have the biggest differences in capacity. At the time of writing the Classic comes in 160gb and 80gb flavours, with the Touch having 16gb or 8 gb. The reason for this is that the Classic uses Hard-Drive based memory, a tiny version of the drive you have in your pc. This gives excellent storage ability, is relatively cheap, but is slower, does use more battery power and is arguably less durable, because it does have moving parts. The Touch on the other hand uses Flash based memory, just like in a USB memory stick. This has the advantage that it is very fast, uses less power, has no moving parts, but it is expensive and doesn't come (yet) in capacities to rival mini hard-drives.
The Touch needs flash-based memory because of the large screens power requirements and the speed at which it needs to operate. Bundle in the wi-fi sucking juice out of the battery and if Apple had used a hard-drive the use time would have been unacceptably short, or the device a lot chunkier than it is. Being primarily a music player the classic isn't really effected because it has a much smaller screen and doesn't have so much of a need for speed. The battery usage for the Classic using music is about 40 hours, and the Touch 22 hours, so we can see that even with Flash memory the Touch's extra features really drain it's power source. But lets keep this in perspective - we're still talking about a whole days listening time between charges, so it shouldn't be a problem. Even if we look at video playback time, which is 5 hours on the Touch, are you really going to be sitting there and watching that much content in one sitting?
Now for a reality check in terms of what all these gb's mean in terms of real music storage. The 16gb Touch can store 3500 songs. That's about 230 albums, or about 175 hours (7 days!) worth of listening. That is a lot of music. Now I know if you load videos on it they eat heavily into the capacity, but as long as you compress them properly they will take up a lot less space. So if you thought that 16gb wasn't enough, think again.
The 160gb Ipod Classic figures are unbelievable. 40,000 songs, It would take you 83 days of continual use to listen to all of those tracks. This model has to be for those who want to take all of their music collection, and everybody who lives on the same street as them, with them. An amazing device, but you have to ask if you'd use all that space, or would the extra goodies of a Touch, with Wi-Fi, web-surfing, touch control, huge screen, etc, be more use?
Now lets talk about durability. An Ipod is a portable media player - so it's going to get knocked around and bashed occasionally, no matter how well you look after it. Obviously you're going to buy a case with your new Ipod, but lets think in terms of which Ipod will be the most durable. Apple offer a standard 1 year warranty, or you can buy one of their "Protection Plans" for about £40. This extends the warranty to two years - and importantly also covers the battery, which most third party "extended guarantees" don't - but it is not insurance against accidental damage - you'd have to buy an extended guarantee for that, eg Amazons 3 year warranty for £42. This covers accidental damage at home, but doesn't cover the battery or normal wear and tear.
So, as you can see it's important to factor in durability too. Take a look at this video:
As you can see the screen of the Touch is very tough. (I understand the back is still prone to scratching, so you'll still need a case.) Another argument for the durability of the Touch is that it has no internal moving parts. No hard-drive to wear out and fail, or easily damaged if working while dropped, it uses Flash memory. No touch-sensitive click-wheel to wear out, there's just your finger moving across optical grade glass.
If you don't mind replacing your Ipods every few years then this doesn't matter, but I think they are a very hefty investment, and I'd want mine to last at least five years.
My conclusion would be that the toughest (and most expensive) Ipod could also be the best long term buy - the Touch. It is less likely to break down over the years, but I would recommend buying Apples extended warranty to cover the battery. A cheaper alternative would be one of the new Ipod Nano's. These too are flash-based, so the only things you have to worry about are the click-wheel and battery. Remember, an 8gb Nano can still store 2,000 songs and run for 24 hours between charges, but the Nano is much more prone to scratching. The Ipod Shuffle uses Flash memory as well, but doesn't really have the features we want in an Ipod, like a screen!
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