By Walter S. Mossberg
Grab a standard American business card. Now, get a pair of scissors and trim the long side of the card by 20%. That's all the space you need to hold over 1,000 songs, plus audio books, podcasts and photos if you buy Apple Computer's newest iPod model, the gorgeous and sleek iPod nano.
This latest iPod was publicly revealed yesterday at a razzle-dazzle marketing event orchestrated by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. But I have been testing a nano for the past few days, and I am smitten. It's not only beautiful and incredibly thin, but I found it exceeds Apple's performance claims.
In fact, the nano has the best combination of beauty and functionality of any music player I've tested -- including the iconic original white iPod. And it sounds great. I plan to buy one for myself this weekend, when it is due to reach stores in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Available in classic iPod white, or a lustrous black (my favorite), the nano is not only small, it's stunningly skinny -- about the thickness of five credit cards stacked on top of one another. That means it can be carried easily in even the snuggest of clothing and the smallest of purses, and worn comfortably during exercise. You could even carry it in a wallet, if you were sure you wouldn't sit on it.
Yet the nano, which starts at $199 in the middle of the iPod range, contains key features previously available only on the largest, costliest iPods. These include a sharp color screen, the ability to display the album covers for the songs it's playing, and the ability to store a user's photos and display them in slide shows accompanied by music.
Also, despite its small size, the nano holds plenty of songs and can play them for a long time. The base $199 model has two gigabytes of storage, which Apple says can hold 500 songs. A second model, at $249, has four gigabytes of storage and can hold 1,000 songs, Apple claims. The company says this slip of a player somehow packs in a large enough battery to play continuously for 14 hours.
In my tests, I found that the nano's battery lasted a bit longer than Apple claims -- 14 hours and 18 minutes. And I was easily able to pack around 1,200 songs, plus a couple dozen photos, into the $249 model, because most older pop and rock tunes tend to be shorter than the notional song Apple uses to calculate capacity.