- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2005

Just about a week with Apple Computer’s IPod Nano, the $249 music player that is smaller than a business card and about as thick as a No. 2 pencil, convinces me that, sometimes, first impressions can indeed be valid.

This is a remarkable device: great — no, stunning — sound from its compact size and it offers tons of features. It’s easy to set up, logical to program and use, and it will replace nearly 14 of the six-disc CD-changer cartridges, at $30 each, I would have to pack in my car to equal the IPod Nano’s 1,000-song capacity.

There are positives and negatives about the Nano, but on a dollar-for-dollar basis, I don’t believe there is a better bargain in portable audio today. What’s more, there are enough accessories out there to allow you to move music from your computer to your car to your office and back to home.

The Nano can become the center of an entertainment “plan” that brings the music or spoken word with you to be heard where and when you want or need it. Just as having a book in your briefcase means a productive use of waiting time, the IPod Nano can turn commuting and other hours into useful time as well.

Is the Nano easy to set up? I’ll confess that I already use ITunes, Apple’s popular music-management software. But even if I didn’t, the Nano comes with a disc of the program and once logged in, the Internet can find you the latest update.

Once installed, ITunes will organize the existing music on your hard drive, help you load in your own CDs and show you how to create “playlists” of music. All the songs can be downloaded to your Nano, as well as those purchased from the ITunes Music Store.

While it could be argued that the IPod concept is designed to drive customers to the ITunes store, from which music is bought at 99 cents a song, many of us will be able to benefit from just having another way to store and use our own music and audio.

The vast number of “podcasts,” mostly free audio broadcasts available through ITunes and other online sources, can combine easily with our own holdings to provide enough content without spending a dime.

Either way, the Nano can hold plenty of music: I have 231 songs on mine, so far, and between that, my contact list, some photos and a couple of calendar items, I have used only 1.1 gigabytes of the 3.7 GB listed capacity. It’s not too difficult to imagine placing another 240 or so songs, which would represent another 20 albums or so, and still having plenty of room for more. Those with several hundred or even several thousand CDs likely will want to get a larger capacity IPod if you want to carry your entire inventory in your pocket or purse.

The photo display is small on a 1.5-inch color LCD screen, but it’s visible enough for me to enjoy the snapshots. One (of the many) potential IPod Nano accessories deserves mention. Griffin Technology’s $79.95 “RoadTrip” plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter, has the necessary connector for the Nano and other current IPods, and broadcasts the player’s music to a spare FM frequency on your car stereo. The sound quality is good overall, but I sometimes have heard some interference. A plus is that the RoadTrip will recharge your IPod battery as you drive. Details can be found at www.griffintechnology.com; the IPod Nano can be ordered online at www.apple.com.

• E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us.

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