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Apple iPod Photo

One of the first in Europe - and we had a look With only one iPod Photo in Europe at the moment, we were invited to have a first-hand look at the new model before it hits the shops in the UK in the next couple of weeks. So should you be ditching the fourth-generation model straight away, and is this just the first step in things to come? asks Stuart Miles.

Apple iPod PhotoOn the surface you can't really tell the difference between the fourth-gen. iPod and the iPod Photo. The styling and size are essentially the same. Admittedly the Photo is a bit thicker, but aside from this you could easily be looking at a fourth-generation machine. Even the video-out port that allows you to connect it directly to a television to view the slideshows has been hidden in the headphone jack socket.

Turn the unit on and the interface, albeit now colour, is again the same. Apple says that it took the UI back to the drawing board, but really it's just the same, only in colour. Of course, aside from the main reason for the colour screen, it does have some side effects - ie. Solitaire is now colour as is are the contacts and calendar listings. If you've transferred tracks over from iTunes, you now get to see the album art.

Getting to the reason behind the colour, the iPod Photo allows you to view images. As a photo viewer the iPod Photo does a reasonable job. Images can be viewed 25 at a time in miniature thumbnail size and then selected to be viewed full screen. The interface for viewing them is virtually identical to music. However, you must group images via slideshows to be able to view them. This is done via iPhoto on the Mac, or Photoshop Elements or Album on the PC, and images can be skipped or paused when viewing the slide shows. Music can be added at any point to the slide show and at least it means that you can spruce up your slide shows before you bore your friends to sleep.

Images that are transferred to the iPod Photo are saved in three sizes, one for the multiple thumbnail indexing screen, one for viewing on the 2in iPod screen and one for viewing on TV. Annoyingly the television screen image has been formatted to suit 4:3 ratio TVs rather than the increasingly popular 16:9 widescreen machines. This means that you will of course get large black bars down the sides when viewing on anything other than a 4:3 television.

Because you have to sync with iTunes to get the pictures on your iPod Photo, it means that Apple can control the image size and in turn means that you can store 25,000 images on both the 40GB and 60GB models. Those 25,000 shots, according to Apple, represent 100 photos a month for the first 18 years of someone's life and also happens to be the limit of the catalogue currently on iPhoto. It also means that with the 60GB version, there's still room for an additional 8000 music tracks.

On the downside, the synching also means that you can't simply connect a digital camera to the player and view the images on the larger screen nor, because of the resolution, print images directly from the iPod via PictBridge. It's certainly a couple of tricks we think Apple has missed, but they are keen to promote that the iPod Photo is for carrying around your photos not simply doubling up as a portable hard drive when out and about with your camera.

Attempting to answer the critics on battery issues, Apple is stating an increase of three hours for the music side of things bringing the total life on one charge to 15 hours - five hours for viewing images.


So is it worth the extra money to turn your iPod into a photo booth for your family album? First impressions put us in two minds. On the one side, you've got an iPod that can view images on a small 2in screen not much bigger than most camera backs or camera phones, but on the other you've the ability to plug it in to your television and view your digital snaps anywhere, just as you might take around a pack of photos to a friend's house.

What's stopping us getting over-excited? One, to view the images properly you really need to view them on a television and two, to view images on the television you need to carry around a long cable with three phono plugs in your pocket, which suddenly makes this a rather bulkier package than just your music-playing iPod.

Apple iPod Photo
Pros — View images on the move, output to television.
Cons — Need to carry the television cable around with you.
Price £359 (40GB), £429 (60GB)
More info The Apple iPod Photo website

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