iPod for Windows Mini-review
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edog

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I just got my iPod for Windows (20 GB version) today. In the SF Bay Area, one can get them at CompUSA and Fry's Electronics. So, here's a short review for those of you who, like me, were anxiously waiting for an officially supported iPod for Windows.

Test system

- Athlon XP1700+, 512 MB RAM (ASUS mb)
- Windows XP Pro
- Adaptec FireConnect Pro 4300 FireWire PCI card
- iPod for Windows 20 GB version
- Etymotics ER-4P

Contents

- wired remote control
- stylish, slim AC adaptor
- 6-pin to 6-pin firewire cable
- 6-pin to 4-pin firewire adaptor
- a mesh pouch
- a hard case with a belt clip
- CD with iPod drivers and MusicMatch Plus
- instruction manual
- the iPod itself, of course

Setup

Setup was super-simple. After installing the firewire card, I connected the iPod to it. It immediately started charging. Then, I installed the included software and EphPod.

Please be careful when selecting a PCI firewire card. Not all firewire cards are created equal. Lots of people have had a whole lot of pain with questionable cards. The Adaptec card I have is very solid, and it was a great deal too ($40 - $20 mail-in rebate).

Amenities

IMHO The included "cases" are not very good. The hard case doesn't completely cover the sides of the iPod. That allows for some potentially nasty scratches even when the iPod is in its case. The pouch is pretty much useless.

I also think that the material used in both "cases" is a bit rough. Furthermore, neither case allows you to see the LCD or use the touch wheel while the iPod is in the case. I've already ordered an alternative.

The remote control is pretty nice. However, I thought mine was non-functional at first. Fortunately, all I had to do was push the remote control plug in all the way. Otherwise, you'll get sound, but the remote will not work.

Software

The iPod for Windows comes with MusicMatch Jukebox Plus. I personally think that this program is bloated (34 MB!) and inefficient. So, one of the first things I did was to disable MusicMatch (uninstalling it will disable the iPod drivers!) and install EphPod. EphPod is much simpler and it's free. Unfortunately, one has to run MusicMatch to disable it. By that time, it's already hijacked all of your file associations.

Transfer speed

I've only had it for a couple of hours, but it's already more than half-full. I think I spent less than 40 minutes doing the actual transfers (not sure though). In any case, I love FireWire!

Sound

We all know the iPod is really cool looking and super-portable. Fortunately, it also sounds great! For portable equipment, I've used:

- Panasonic SL-CT780 PCDP
- Sony MZ-R55 MDR
- Sony MZ-E95 MDP
- Sony MZ-E900 MDP
- RioVolt SP100
- RioVolt SP250
- Personal Jukebox PJB-100 (20 GB version)

The iPod sounds better than all of those unamped (I'm focused on ultra-portable use). The extra juice in the amp really makes music sound substantial. The sound seems pretty accurate to me, after listening to it for a couple of hours. This is the best sound I've heard from something so small.

One great thing about the sound is that there is no hiss. So many MP3 players out there have hiss. My PJB-100's hiss was very bad, because it uses a bad digital volume control. I had to crank up the internal volume control and use an inline Radio Shack analog volume control to make the hiss go away. Such a hack should not be needed for an expensive device. The SP100 and SP250 were very hissy as well; I returned the SP250 because of that.

So, us Windows users finally have a great sounding MP3 player that's also the most portable, nicest-looking (IMO) MP3 player out there.
 
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aznhoward

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"The pouch is pretty much useless. "

I think the pouch is used to carry your ac adapter, firewire cable, earbuds, etc. rather than the iPod itself...
 
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edog

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Quote:

Originally posted by aznhoward
"The pouch is pretty much useless. "

I think the pouch is used to carry your ac adapter, firewire cable, earbuds, etc. rather than the iPod itself...


Cool... that's actually pretty useful then. I just wish Apple had shipped a more useful case with the iPod though. At least the replacement cases aren't too expensive.
 
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zhtham

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got my win ipod 20gb few days ago, still haven't unpack it yet, waiting for my firewire card. I don't want to scratch it without a proper protection. Am thinking of getting iSkin


I was uncertain if i would want to keep it, but after your review and several re-visit to Nomadness, i finally decided to keep Ipod instead of trading it for a Nomad Jukebox 40gb. i'd really like the extra 20gb, but Creative screwed-up big time. I'm taking my business somewhere else all becoz of their unstable product!


Z.
 
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jmelcer

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Edog

You say that the iPod sounds better than your other portables - including MD players - unamped.

Could I ask what bitrate you are ripping your MP3s at, and what encoder you are using? Also, do you use SP Atrac encoded files (rather than the LP Atrac3 files) with your MD players?

I have been mulling over an iPod purchase for weeks now, put off by the relatively poor sound of my PJB-100, compared to my Sony MZ505 MD player. This is also through some Ety 4ps. I had assumed that the MD was superior because of the ATRAC encoding process (compared to even 320k MP3s). However, your review implies that my experience with the PJB-100 may have been because of the player itself, rather than the MP3 encoding process in general.

Also, does the iPod sound clearer than the PJB-100, using the same MP3 files, i.e. is there more detail to the sound?

Thanks in advance

Jerome
 
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CaptBubba

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Will the Ipod charge when using the 4-6 pin cable? Or do you not know?

Just a little off topic perhaps...
 
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Watchdog

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Quote:

Originally posted by CaptBubba
Will the Ipod charge when using the 4-6 pin cable? Or do you not know?

Just a little off topic perhaps...


Had lunch at the Sushi bar the other day and the guy next to me had the iPod for Mac. I think it was the 10GB model, maybe the 20GB, I'm not quite sure. I know it wasn't the 5gb, because he sold it to buy a newer larger one.

He claimed that the Apple version uses the 6 pin cable and charges while music is transferring, while the Windows version uses the 4 pin and thus does not charge while transferring music. You have to plug in the adaptor to recharge


I haven't had anyone verify this, but that's what the guy told me.
 
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edog

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Quote:

Originally posted by Watchdog


He claimed that the Apple version uses the 6 pin cable and charges while music is transferring, while the Windows version uses the 4 pin and thus does not charge while transferring music. You have to plug in the adaptor to recharge


I haven't had anyone verify this, but that's what the guy told me.


This doesn't make any sense to me. My iPod charges perfectly using just the 6-pin to 6-pin cable (no AC adapter), because my firewire card has a 6-pin connector and thus provides power through the cable. As I understand it, 4-pin connectors transfer data but not power. The extra 2 pins in a 6-pin connector are responsible for transmitting power. I think the main reason Apple ships the iPod with the 4-pin convertor is that some firewire cards only have 4-pin connectors (mainly those found in laptops).

Here is a more detailed explanation from Usenet.
 
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grinch

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wow that sounds awesome. and i'm so happy to hear that the adaptec cards have 6-pin firewire! charging it with the adapter and then transferring was really going to suck.

i can see what is on my christmas list, the portable audio geeks dream:

20gb ipod for windows
ety 4p
adaptec duoconnect pci card (usb2.0 and firewire)
 
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Watchdog

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I have a couple of questions

Edog: Have you used the calendar function at all? How useful is it? I'm trying to justify the cost of the iPod to myself by rationalizing that the calendar function will be quite useful. I thought I might have read somewhere that the Apple and Windows versions differ in the calendar but I'm not quite sure.

Grinch can you tell me a little more about this adaptec card? Any advantage over just having USB and firewire ports when you buy a new computer? Or is the advantage only applicable when you upgrade an older computer?
 
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grinch

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Quote:

Originally posted by Watchdog
Grinch can you tell me a little more about this adaptec card? Any advantage over just having USB and firewire ports when you buy a new computer? Or is the advantage only applicable when you upgrade an older computer?


umm.. here is the product page for it:
http://www.adaptec.com/worldwide/pro...re+Combo+Cards

the reason why i want it is my computer is almost two years old (but still kicking your computer's ass!) and i only have two usb (1.0) ports. i figure if i'm going to buy a new firewire pci card, i might as well get one that has both usb2.0 AND firewire ports. another reason why i liked this card, is it has 6-pin firewire ports so i know it can charge the ipod while it's plugged in (spec says up to 18w!). from what i have read, not all pc firewire ports have this.

i have no idea whether or not your computer will have them.. but if they don't, then yes there would be some advantages to using an adaptec card.
 
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edog

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Quote:

Originally posted by Watchdog
I have a couple of questions

Edog: Have you used the calendar function at all? How useful is it? I'm trying to justify the cost of the iPod to myself by rationalizing that the calendar function will be quite useful. I thought I might have read somewhere that the Apple and Windows versions differ in the calendar but I'm not quite sure.


I don't think the Calendar stuff is fully functional yet. I believe there is a way to manually update the calendar through EphPod (which is free), but I don't know of a way to sync the calendar with the Palm Desktop or MS Outlook.

Quote:

Grinch can you tell me a little more about this adaptec card? Any advantage over just having USB and firewire ports when you buy a new computer? Or is the advantage only applicable when you upgrade an older computer?


The Adaptec cards provide power through the firewire connection. Also, many older PCs don't have USB2 or FireWire. Some of those that do don't have powered firewire connections, or have an insufficient amount of power for the iPod.
 
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leon

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Watchdog,

My iPod is the Mac version, but... :p

I exported my Palm datebook in the vcal format, which supposedly can be done in windows too, and copied that to the iPod. In calendar view, you click on the date, and the next screen shows you the starting time of your events. It doesn't show you the end time or the accompanying note, unless you click on an event and it enters a separate screen. "No time" Palm datebook events are shown as 12:00am.

There's also third-party apps for storing text with the iPod (I got PodText for free), and I like the font, but there's a limit to the size of records on iPod - articles get sliced up.

Hope this helps
I put a big scratch on my iPod today


Now, someone asked about sound quality...I'm gonna be forward and chime in.

The iPod sounds "better", in the same way an MD player with higher amp output, will sound better than one with lower output. The iPod sounds best with EQ off: it's a very... clean, wholesome sound, the kind that conjures the thought of "what more could I ask for" with a nice pair of phones.

ATRAC typically sounds "brighter", more "glittery" with emphasized highs and lows. The MP3 sound seems more mellow, and I wasn't used to this when I first got the iPod. I have tracks in 160kbps, 160 min. VBR, 192 min. VBR, 320, and wav... the 320 and wav really do sound "complete", and I haven't formed an opinion of the rest yet *sigh*

Some things happen with MP3 encoding that don't really occur with ATRAC recording: clipping, for example (why would an MP3 ripped from the CD be clipping by default, blah!). Not the iPod's fault, but it might make the user experience a little bumpy if you're switching from MD. And remember you can't have custom EQ settings on it (yet - hope Apple fixes this with a software update).
 
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Taphil

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The calendar feature works fine. Just export (go to file, save as) events from Outlook as a vcal (*.vcs) file, and then copy it over to the iPod's Calendars folder. It's the same for the contacts feature, just export them as vcard files and copy them to the Contacts folder.

The firmware and hardware for the Mac and PC iPod is exactly the same. It's just the software to get music and extra stuff onto the iPod that is slightly different.

Almost all PCI firewire card have 6-pin ports and will supply power to the iPod. 4-pin ports can be used with the iPod as well with the included adapter, but you'll have to charge it from the included wall adapter.

Generally, it's considered better to use the wall adapter to charge the iPod. Keeping it plugged into the compuer keeps the hard drive running constantly, which may generate a lot of heat and unnecessary use.
 
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MacDEF

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Quote:

Originally posted by leon
ATRAC typically sounds "brighter", more "glittery" with emphasized highs and lows. The MP3 sound seems more mellow, and I wasn't used to this when I first got the iPod. [snip]
Some things happen with MP3 encoding that don't really occur with ATRAC recording: clipping, for example (why would an MP3 ripped from the CD be clipping by default, blah!)


One of the weaknesses of MP3s is that none of the current encoders are really good at getting the highs right
One area where ATRAC really has an advantage.

Quote:

And remember you can't have custom EQ settings on it (yet - hope Apple fixes this with a software update).


I believe you can have custom EQ settings, but you need to set them on the computer -- they then transfer over when you sync. You can't set them from the iPod itself yet.
 
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