Apple's new and improved iPod

Apple's latest iPod may cost a lot, but it boasts a great screen and tons of storage

Refinement: that's what you get out of Apple's latest iPod, which comes with a brighter screen and an extra 20GB of storage. I tested the US$349 iPod -- the 80GB flagship of the revamped line--and found a music player that's about as good as there is.

For music playback, not a lot has changed. The iPod remains an excellent MP3 player, and its sound quality continues to be among the best around. The latest version adds gapless playback, which eliminates the pauses between tracks for a smoother listening experience. In our lab tests, its audio quality earned very good scores. I did notice a slight hiss when listening to the iPod through a pair of Shure's high-end E500 PTH headphones, however.

Apple's familiar ClickWheel lets you navigate your music library with ease, scrolling through individual items and then through letters of the alphabet as you accelerate. A new search feature lets you scroll to select a few letters to pick out a song, artist, or album, a welcome feature since with 80GB of storage, this device features 20GB more space than most competitors.

The unit's enchanced 2.5-inch, 320-by-240-pixel screen looks great. Videos were very watchable on the display--and they're easier to get. The new iTunes 7 features a movie store with an impressive array of releases available for US$10 each, in addition to its growing library of TV episodes.

Unfortunately, at press time iTunes 7 was having problems: I experienced occasional crashes on both a PC and a Mac. That and the small but noticeable hiss I picked up were the only blemishes I could find with the new iPod.

Apple iPod (80GB)
Rating:79 -- good
Verdict:Apple's latest iPod may cost a lot, but it boasts a great screen and tons of storage.
Price when reviewed:US$349

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