- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2005

The little boy, who could not have been more than 8 years old, walked in the door, and his eyes widened. “I’ve never seen them that small,” he exclaimed. He was right: They never made them that small, before now.

It’s so cool, it’s hot. Saturday night, a salesman at the Apple Store at Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery Mall said the store was “almost all sold out” of the IPod Nano, the $249, 4 gigabyte digital jukebox that also will play games, show photos in color and impress your friends.

To hear the accolades, you will have to take the headphones out of your ears long enough to listen to them.

The 4 GB model will hold 1,000 songs. Spend $50 less and you can get a 2 GB model that holds 500 songs, though logic would suggest splurging to get the higher-capacity unit.

The Nano, which replaces the IPod Mini, sports a color screen and a great sound, and is incredibly small. It measures but 3.5 by 1.6 by 0.27 inches and weighs a mere 1.5 ounces, yet it holds all that music, or audiobooks, or podcasts, or whatever.

Because of its size, the $39 accessory that hangs the Nano around your neck and provides earphones may be more than an option if you want to keep this one around.

There seems to be little, if any, difference in sound quality between the Nano and a traditional IPod. Hook up the headphones directly to the unit so that the pre-amp is enabled and you’ll hear Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” loud and clear. The Nano rocks, or plays the classics, jazz or whatever. Its sound is phenomenal.

What’s not to like about this tiny player?

The display screen is smaller than the one on regular IPods; you can’t see all of a song title if it is more than two or three words. On the larger IPods, more words are visible.

Some will object to having the headphone jack on the bottom, something I think was done primarily to accommodate the lanyard headphones, but that’s not a big impediment for me.

Apple shuts out the Windows Media Audio, or WMA, format, so some prerecorded items won’t work unless you use a third-party program to convert WMAs to MP3. But there’s so much available for the IPod through Apple’s ITunes service, including free audio items such as podcasts, that the format question might well be moot for many users.

These observations are based on spending a few minutes — nanoseconds? — with the Nano, and not a usual review period, which I hope will come shortly.

However, having experienced most of the major steps in the IPod evolution to date, it’s easy to make some judgments based on that initial experience.

This is a good product. It promises decent battery life of about 14 hours, and it’s solid-state — everything is stored on flash memory — so there should be no skips or pauses even when jogging or hitting a bump in the road.

The price may seem steep, but is on a par, I would argue, with the $150, 1980 price of the original Sony Walkman, which could play only the songs you had on a cassette tape. The 4 GB Nano holds the equivalent of as many as 85 or 100 music cassettes or compact discs.

More on the Nano later; for now, let’s say it’s worth investigating, and perhaps buying if the Apple Store still has some in stock.

E-mail [email protected] or visit https://www.kellner.us.

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