Apple 2G iPod Shuffle
Two years on, still going strong
Just tap the centre of the ring to play. There are only four other controls - volume up and down, and track skip forward and back - you need during playback, so even if your Shuffle's not correctly aligned, it's not going to be any struggle working out which button you need to press to trigger a given function.
The base of the Shuffle has two more switches: one to flip between shuffle mode and in-sequence playback, and the power slider. We'd like these to be slightly longer, to make them easier to push back and forth, but they're easily slid with a fingernail. Having a physical on/off switch also means there's none of the power leakage you get with soft-touch power controls.
Loaded up with songs and charged, the Shuffle's ready to go. We've heard much better earphones than Apple's standard buds, but we've hear a lot worse too given away with MP3 players. Apple's set will suit casual listeners, and we'd defy any but the sniffiest 'real music lovers don't accept lossy compression' brigade to not get on with the Shuffle's sound quality itself.
Complain about other iPods, but bizarrely perhaps, the Shuffle offers one of the best sonic performances of the lot. It beats our first-gen iPhone and our old Nano, for example. Songs have more clarity and more immediacy on the cheap model.
If you've not seen a Shuffle before, there's no screen, but that's not what the player's about: it picks the songs, not you. Unless, of course, you set to to play every track in order. We've been using our review unit in the car, connecting it to the hi-fi and just letting it get on and pump out tracks at random.
It may not be the best value iPod around, but the Shuffle is among the ones at the front when it comes to sound quality. It's still a great player to keep in a bag or in the car for those occasions when you don't have your main music player or phone to hand, or you just want a simple, easy machine for random playback or casual listening.
It has to be said, there are rather cheaper players out there if you look, but few if any from well-known brands. Thirty quid is the going rate for 'name' 1GB players, give or take a couple of quid depending on who you buy it from. But we think the Shuffle's worth the premium, for its metal casing and that oh-so-useful clip.