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5th generation ipod

system requirements: pc with usb port running windows 2000 sp4 or windows xp sp2; mac with usb port running mac os x 10.3.9

the ipod no longer comes in the traditional "cube" packaging, instead coming in a box similar to that of the nano. a thin, black box with photos of the ipod on the front, back, and sides. inside you'll find the ipod itself and an unfortunate lack of accessories. inside was a software disc and Apple stickers, a usb dock connector cable, a universal dock adapter, headphones, headphone covers, and a thin ipod case.

noticeably absent are the dock, remote, wall charger, and av cables which can be purchased individually or bundled with your new ipod at the apple store. the av cables are a must-have and can be found for around $20 online or at a retail store.

the most noticeable physical update is that the lcd is larger. it's been upgraded to a 2.5" lcd from the previous 2" lcd and the effect is great. the screen is only marginally bigger, but it feels considerably different.

besides the increase in lcd real estate, the other thing changed on the layout is a smaller scroll wheel. the old model's scroll wheel measured approximately 41.67mm across while the new one is 38.10mm. the reasons behind the decision to make the scroll wheel smaller are not readily apparent, but i'm thinking it has something to do with apple's move from the old synaptics-designed part to an in-house design. this new ipod is undoubtedly the first full-size ipod to make use of apple's own in-house scroll wheel design. we first saw this deployed on the nanos and the new design might've been apple's opportunity to tweak the physical dimensions of the part.

the next thing changed is the thickness and physical design of the ipod housing. there are a few subtle differences that set this model apart from the previous ones. first up is the thickness. steve jobs made a big deal about how thin the new models are. comparing this new model to the old 40gb model made it readily apparent just how much apple had managed to squeeze out of the new design. the new model is approximately 39% thinner than the fourth generation 40gb model (which is pretty darn thick) and 28% thinner than the 10gb, third-generation model.

the other apparent design change is the shape of the case. previous models had rounded edges on both the front and rear faces. this has changed on the latest iteration. the front face is now completely flat and, oddly enough, reminiscent of the original ipod. The face material of this new ipod is dual layered with a clear resin on top of white plastic. this differs from previous models which appears to be composed solely of the bright white resin. this change has probably been made for a number of reasons:
1. the lcd is now covered by a hard, clear resin instead of the plastic lcd cover of previous models. this will prevent lcd damage and makes for a clearer looking screen
2. with the advent of black ipods, apple can produce faces of different colors, and coat them all with this clear outer covering, for a uniform look.
3. this brings a visually consistent look to the ipod lineup, bringing this model in line with the ipod nano. now the ipod looks almost identical to its smaller cousin, except slightly larger and with a curved rear housing.

the final change to the design of the ipod is the relocation of the headphone jack, which is now positioned opposite the hold switch. this is a departure from the headphone jacked located in the center of the device, and will make a number of accessories designed for the old ipod either incompatible or awkward, at best.

pne change that has caused a lot of uproar from long-time mac users is the lack of firewire support on these new ipod models. the technical specifications for the ipod omitted any mention of the traditional interface transport, instead opting to mention usb as a requirement. it appeared that all hope of firewire support had been lost and my trials with the new ipod prove that assessment true. upon connecting the new ipod via firewire, you'll see the same screen you get when you try to connect the nano via firewire.

most speculation concerning the lack of firewire support in the new ipods center around the space needed to package the firewire chipset within the device. most people who seem to be in the know have said that the amount of board space needed to implement firewire vastly outweighs a similar usb implementation. eliminating firewire altogether seems to have been one of the many tradeoffs apple had to make to achieve a smaller and lighter device. this may not be much consolation to those users with old usb 1.1 ports, but for many mac and windows users, this change shouldn't affect them much.

the biggest feature of the new model is that it now plays videos. while this isn't the only update to the ipod, it is by and far the most anticipated to date. steve jobs criticized portable video devices in the past and more recently noted that "no one has been successful with that yet," so one might expect that apple has done something radical with video playback that no one has ever thought of before, right? well, not exactly.

it plays video, and that's about it. imagine your average ipod photo with the ability to play video on a slightly larger lcd or output that video to your tv and you've got it covered. the new ipod does nothing technologically revolutionary or different from how other, similar devices (like the psp) do video.

however, if one were to delve deeper into what Jobs really meant by his comment about no one doing video right, you might come to the conclusion that he was referring to the supply chain and the ease of use of getting videos onto those portable devices. for all of the psp‘s widescreen glory, you cannot (yet) output that video to an external display. you cannot hook your psp up to your pc, open a psp video store. psps have umd videos, and they're selling all right, but they're ridiculously expensive for what you get and carrying around a pack of umd discs is—to me—extremely annoying.

for the new video content, there is a new "videos" menu available on the ipod, and under that are options for "video playlists," "music videos," "movies," "tv shows," and "video podcasts." items like "tv shows" don't appear until you've bought one from the itms and updated your ipod with it. within those, they act exactly how you'd expect. apple has made the interface for playing movies extremely similar to playing music. click the middle wheel once and you control the volume with the scroll wheel. click it again and you're scrubbing through the video.

seeking to different points in the video were a little less responsive, but it wasn't more than 1 or 2 seconds. one of the nicer features is that if you quit playing a video somewhere in the middle, the ipod will bookmark the video and remember where you left off when you pull it up later.

the new ipod plays videos, obviously, but it only plays videos of a specific format and codec. from the specs on apple's website:
h.264 video: up to 768 kbps, 320x240, 30 frames per sec., baseline profile up to level 1.3 with aac-lc up to 160 kbps, 48 khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats

mepg-4 video: up to 2.5 mbps, 480x480, 30 frames per sec., simple profile with aac-lc up to 160 kbps, 48 khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats

this means that anyone encoding their own video for use on the ipod will have to restrict their movies to these specifications. apple has made this fairly straightforward by integrating a new "export to ipod" option in auicktime that trickles down to any other application taking advantage of qt7 for video export.

one interesting note in the specifications for the new ipod is the mention of upgradable firmware that will allow apple to decode audio and video codecs other than those that come standard with the device:
"upgradable firmware enables support for future audio formats" and "upgradable firmware enables support for future video formats"

whether or not this means we'll see ogg on the ipod some day or some obscure video format remains to be seen, but it's nice to know that apple is thinking about this, even if they're probably thinking about upgrading the devices with their own, drm-enabled future formats.

the ipod presents a few configuration items specifically related to the video output. you can specify if the output should be in ntsc or pal or if the output should be in widescreen or not, and if tv output should be disabled altogether.

the inclusion of a "widescreen" option is puzzling, since the ipod cannot display video beyond 320x240 in h.264 and mepg4 in 480x480. perhaps this setting has something to do specifically with how widescreen televisions expect their video input.

one question raised was if the entire ipod interface was displayed on the screen when the device is connected to a television. this is a qualified "no." what was being displayed on the screen during the stevenote last week was nothing more than clever trickery. the only time anything is output to the screen is when you start a photo slideshow (you have to specifically tell the device to output to tv) or when you begin playing a video (again, you have to specify).

the other big question is the issue of scratching. there's been a hullabaloo over crazy scratching on the ipod nanos, and now that the ipod is constructed in a similar manner (and also comes in black), people are afraid that this new ipod will also be a scratch magnet. that may be why apple includes a soft carrying case with this model.

this ipod update also brought the ipod up to speed with the nano in terms of applications. it was only a matter of time before the ipod got all of the new applications that we saw for the first time with the nano and they look ever better on a larger screen. the first new application is the screen lock, which will be useful to those of you who are reluctant to store your entire schedule and contact database around where anyone could steal a peek.

the second new application is "world clock." this feature allows you to define several different time zones that you'd like to monitor and have their date and time, along with a graphical depiction of an analog clock listed on the screen.

the final new application is the stopwatch which allows you to time whatever you find needs timing in your life. the timer keeps records of your previous "sessions" and gives you a list of detailed statistics about the laps you recorded.

hard disk is toshiba 30gb, model mk3008gal, which just rotates off the main circuit board. the second thing you notice is that the battery in this model is super compact. it's actually affixed to the metal backplate and sits above its own power management circuitry and right next the headphone port and its driver circuitry.

with the hard drive pulled away from the main board you can plainly see most, if not all, of the major chips on this device. in the photo below you'll notice the portalplayer 5021C-tdf chip which is the same chip that powers the ipod nano. also similar to the nano is the 32mb of samsung (534-k9wag08u1m) sdram that serves as the device's buffer memory, the power management chip philips cf50607.

new, however, is a prominently placed broadcom "videocore" chip, the "bcm2722" which does all of the heavy video lifting. this component replaces the wolfson audio codec used in the nano and and adds video processing and output. broadcom put out a press release about this specific chip today, saying:
the increasing popularity of high-end multimedia features in mobile phones and other portable devices has created demand for enhanced video and camera capabilities at price points accessible to mainstream consumers. the new broadcom processors, the bcm2722 and bcm2724, boast an impressive array of multimedia features including 5 mega-pixel digital camera support, mpeg-4 vga or h.264 cif video encoding/decoding at 30 frames per second and tv output. both the bcm2722 and bcm2724 provide high-quality video, gaming and music capabilities to mid-range mobile phones by integrating 32mbits and 64mbits of embedded sdram, respectively, with the videoCore processor in a single package

this unit is the heart and soul of the video output layer of the ipod. it does the tv output and decodes and displays the video content. this chip natively decodes h.264 and mpeg4 video up to 640x480 which is noticeably higher than what apple's specs state are the maximum allowable video resolution.

here's a listing of the components within the device and their model numbers.

* lcd: unknown manufacturer, model no. 1wx510015194, 320x240, .156-mm dot pitch, 2.5"
* battery: unknown manufacturer: model no. 5h27086
* cpu/media decoder: portal player 5021C-tdf (audio decoding)
* video decoder/driver: broadcom videoCore bcm2722 (video decoding, audio encoding, lcd and tv out driver)
* power management: philips cf5067
* voltage regulator: national semiconductor lm34910 high voltage (40v, 1.25a) step down switching regulator.
* audio codec: wolfsom wm87588g (audio decoding, mixing, driving)

this new fifth-generation ipod shares a lot of technology with the nano and tacks on a new generation of mobile video, audio, and image processing technology with the broadcom videocore chip. as is becoming the norm with apple engineering, this ipod is a work of art when it comes to the spatial organization of such a complex device.

this update to the ipod has been long coming. the design of this model was set in stone the day the nano hit the shelves. now that apple has updated the look and visual feel of the full-size ipod, its "high end" offerings have a consistent style. apple's addition of video playback was a logical, and by some accounts, boring, update to the device.

this is, like it or not, the next logical update to the ipod and apple doesn't look like it wants to innovate beyond continuing to make the device smaller, lighter, and thinner. unfortunately, there's a limit to how small Apple can go here and at that point they'll either start to stagnate.

for now, apple is jumping on the video bandwagon, despite steve jobs' being dismissive of it not so long ago. apple has tailored the ui for video and getting tv shows and music videos on to your ipod with minimum effort as long as you're happy with the small selection of abc/disney titles currently being offered.

looking at the ipod from the vantage point of someone who's on the lookout for their first and primary digital music player player, i'd say its a fantastic deal. a lot of people will never collect 30 gb of music on their pcs anytime soon, and the 5th generation model is light, thin, and does just about anything that anyone would want to do with their digital audio player.

* amazing form factor (thinner, lighter)
* plays videos wonderfully
* new features (screen lock, world clock, timer)
* new bezel material
* bigger lcd
* can record 44.1khz encoded stereo audio.

* lack of traditionally included accessories (dock,remote,wall charger,av cables)
* low video output resolution for the videophiles
* is incompatible with some older accessories
* no Firewire support
* included case has no belt clip, looks like a bad summer camp project.

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