iPod Shuffle + iTunes Mini-Review

iPod Shuffle

I got myself an iPod Shuffle for christmas. My previous mp3 player was an aging FrontierLabs NexIA, so the gift was a welcome surprise.

The iPod Shuffle is a tiny 1GB mp3 player. It has shuffle and sequential modes, no screen, and options for play, pause, forward, backward and volume up/down. To add mp3 files to the player, one can only use iTunes.

The player does exactly what it says on the package, and does it so well that I’ll have to declare it the best dedicated mp3 player of its size. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was iTunes only, it would get six hearts.

iTunes

iTunes is Apple’s main music application. It plays music, creates playlists, subscribes to podcasts and of course it gives you access to the iTunes Music Store, which sells both music, videos and iPod games.

I have learned, that one either loves or hates iTunes. Both feelings, I believe, are grounded in the fact that iTunes does things differently than most other media players. This goes for handling music, managing playlists, syncing players and subscribing to podcasts. The latter, podcast subscriptions, it does particularly well. The former, not so much.

It may be that iTunes doesn’t work as well on Windows as it does on a Mac, but for me, playing music in iTunes is slow and bulky – the forced-upon chrome skin feels like it’s simply slowing down things. Playlist creation feels like an exact science in iTunes. Syncing the iPod works well, once one gets the hang of it, but I really believe this feature would be more worthwhile had I used iTunes as my primary player and hence gotten the benefit of statistically created playlists I could sync to. Basically, iTunes does most of what I would want from such an application, but does none of it as simply, quickly or easily as alternatives such as Winamp or Foobar2000. For me, the podcast area is where iTunes really shines. For that, I give 2 hearts. For the lack of global hotkeys, the annoying background services and general bulkiness, I’m keeping the remaining 4 hearts, at least until version 8 comes out.

10 thoughts on “iPod Shuffle + iTunes Mini-Review”

  1. Gareth says:

    Another good thing about the shuffle is its virtually indestructible, my sister put her’s through the washing and tumble dryer and its still as good as new.

    I find the podcast section in iTunes to be really annoying, would it kill them to let me organize my podcasts into separate folders for news, comedy etc..

    Also playing video podcasts makes the whole interface incredibly slow and unresponsive.. probably because my iTunes use 160mb+ just idling.

  2. Jonas Rabbe says:

    I am actually pretty much indifferent about iTunes. It works fine for synchronizing with my iPod, for streaming music to our stereo over our airport express, and I think it works quite well for creating playlists. Like much other software these days it feels quite bloated, not in features but in memory use. I would like apple to make an iteration where the only improvement was memory use and responsiveness. The only thing that really bugs me is that I can’t make very smart playlists. I end up having to make two playlists and then combine them if I want to mix my logical operators.

  3. Kevin Cannon says:

    I don’t think you can really compare iTunes to Winamp or Foobar2000.

    They’re both music players. iTunes is a music library application, it’s designed at managing a large music collection – not playing an album or two. iTunes has a particular way of working, and you have work with it. If you try fight it, the experience will be awful, but if you look at the way it suggests you work. then it’s a dream. CD-Ripping, tagging and file organisation is all handled transparently, and put in a nice file structure. Burning CDs and creating playlists is easy once you get used to it’s workflow.

    With iTunes you have to learn to do something new. People who are overly invested in organising their own files tend not to like it because they can’t give up the control, but if you do, you find it’s quite a rewarding experience.

    I’d suggest giving it a second shot bearing in mind how iTunes works. I think you may be pleasantly surprised.

  4. Daniel P says:

    Have you tried ml_ipod ?

    It works fine for the 5.5g ipod, and the old shuffle.. Not tried on the new one.

    I’ve had the 5g since it came out, and i think i would have gouged my eyes out by this point if i had to use itunes with it.

    I like having some control over my files.. Plus the whole embedding images into every music file just bothers me.

    (edit: Oh, and there is one that ships with winamp.. But ml_ipod is better)

  5. Joen says:

    I find the podcast section in iTunes to be really annoying, would it kill them to let me organize my podcasts into separate folders for news, comedy etc..

    I guess folders would be a welcome feature. Until just recently, I didnt’ subscribe to more than say 4 podcasts, and as such it wasn’t a problem for me.

    The only thing that really bugs me is that I can?t make very smart playlists. I end up having to make two playlists and then combine them if I want to mix my logical operators.

    How does that work, exactly?

    I don?t think you can really compare iTunes to Winamp or Foobar2000.

    They?re both music players. iTunes is a music library application, it?s designed at managing a large music collection – not playing an album or two.

    Well, I don’t think that’s entirely fair.

    In the case of Winamp, it has a media library that can index and organize your music collection. It can even burn and rip if you buy the pro version.

    In the case of Foobar2000, which is currently my player of choice for it’s SPEED and tabbed playlists, it also has an extensive media library, including feaures such as “remove duplicates”, or “remove dead items”. It even has a plugin architecture that lets you replace the entire media library with a 3rd party one.

    I?d suggest giving it a second shot bearing in mind how iTunes works. I think you may be pleasantly surprised.

    Perhaps you are right, but the lack of global shortcuts (i.e. Ctrl + Alt + Arrow Down turns down the volume, Ctrl + Alt + Home pauses the music, even if I’m in Photoshop) makes that impossible for me.

    Have you tried ml_ipod ?

    Interesting. No I haven’t. I will ASAP! Thanks for the tip!

  6. Joen says:

    Forgot to mention:

    Gareth, even if the podcast support in iTunes isn’t all dandy, I still think it’s the best one for the job. I guess that means it’s a pretty bleak market.

    As for the Winamp pro features of burning and ripping, I don’t trust either of those when presented in a media app. I rip using Exact Audio Copy (so I can see a log of whether the files were actually correctly ripped).

  7. Gareth says:

    Gareth, even if the podcast support in iTunes isn?t all dandy, I still think it?s the best one for the job. I guess that means it?s a pretty bleak market.

    you a probably right, although podcasts are just RSS feeds, so I find using something like netvibes works pretty well. I even wrote a simple php app to send podcasts to my nabaztag ( http://www.nabaztag.com ) that i think works just as well as itunes, if not better.

  8. Jonas Rabbe says:

    Say I wanted to create a playlist of all the music I had which was rater 4 stars or higher, but only the music that had the genres metal or rock.

    Logically, this would be (music rated > 3 and (metal or rock)). Unfortunately you can’t mix and and or. What I ended up having to do is make a playlist that contains all my metal and rock music. Then I create the playlist I wanted using the logical expression (music rated > 3 and playlist is Metal & rock).

    Apart from this shortcoming the smart playlists are pretty strong. Almost all my playlists are some kind of smart playlist.

    One thing worth noting is that iPods do not update the playlists until they are synchronized. For example, if you have a playlist that contains much that hasn’t been played in the past month. Playing a song on this playlist on your ipod does not mean it dissapears from the playlist on the ipod. Once you synch the ipod, however, they playlists are updated.

  9. George says:

    Perhaps you are right, but the lack of global shortcuts (i.e. Ctrl + Alt + Arrow Down turns down the volume, Ctrl + Alt + Home pauses the music, even if I?m in Photoshop) makes that impossible for me.

    You don’t have a keyboard with special music control keys? I can see how that would be pretty frickin annoying.

    I agree with what the other guys have said. iTunes is a program that rewards the time investment you put into it. If you have a music collection that’s tagged and rated, then it becomes totally awesome. If you don’t, then yes, it just gets in the way and makes you wonder why you’re not using Winamp.

  10. Joen says:

    You don?t have a keyboard with special music control keys? I can see how that would be pretty frickin annoying.

    That’s right.

    If you have a music collection that?s tagged and rated, then it becomes totally awesome.

    I can imagine.

    I’m thinking iTunes 9 might be the magic number.

Comments are closed.