Sunday, May 01, 2005

My iPod Shuffle Review

I like to run, generally somewhere between 3 and 5 miles. I used to bring my old 2nd generation 10 GB iPod with me, but I'd have to carry it. Over 5 miles that gets very annoying—I'd end up switching hands after every song. Plus, I'm only going to run for like 45 minutes, so I really don't need 200 albums with me.

So I started looking for small, flash based mp3 players to suit my needs. I wanted at least 512 MB. I wanted an easy to use USB device that I could also use as a jump drive. Ideally, I'd get something that wouldn't require me to remove the DRM off of the songs I'd bought from iTunes.

Looking at lots of devices, I started to figure out what I didn't want, as well. I didn't want a device that required batteries. It needed to be rechargeable. My old Rio had that before I toasted the audio out jack, and that device is like 5 years old. I didn't need flashing lights or a huge LCD display, just something simple.

A few trips to Best Buy and Target and a few visits to some websites for research and I had pretty much settled on the iPod Shuffle. The Shuffle is flash-based, has half a gig of memory, powers itself off of the USB port, and is tiny. The only disadvantage is that there's no display.

After using it for about a week now, I'm more than satisfied. I'm going to be able to throw a ton of music on there, while still having enough room to transfer some files back and forth to work (for instance, my RSS Bandit data files so I can sync my RSS feeds between home and work). It obviously is able to play my existing iTunes Music Store files.

And I've found the lack of a display isn't a big deal to me.

When I'm running, I could care less what song is playing. If I hit one that doesn't suit my mood, I just skip to the next track. All I need is access to volume and the track skip button. The Shuffle suits my needs perfectly. I've also been using it to throw some podcasts on there, if I'm going for a slower paced jog or maybe a long walk to the store or something. In those cases, I just move the podcasts to the top of the playlist in iTunes and then set the device to sequential play (rather than the normal shuffle/random play). Click the Play button three times and I'm zipped right to the start of the playlist to listen to my podcasts. Pretty simple.

If I can figure out how to make my podcast client (Doppler) automatically shove the things onto the Shuffle at the top of the playlist, I'll be in heaven.

There's another great feature of the Shuffle that I found accidentally—the Shuffle automatically pauses when the headphones get pulled out. Coming back from a long run, I was taking the Shuffle off of my arm. To do so, I needed to pull the headphones since I run them up my sleeve to keep them out of my way. I used to do this with my normal iPod. I'd just yank it, shove the headphones back in, and miss the 10 seconds of the song. The Shuffle automatically pauses, which is a fantastic thing for someone who is a complete klutz and often knocks the headphones out by accident.

For $100, the 512 MB Shuffle is a great flash based mp3 player, whether you're looking for something to run with, or just a cheap, solid mp3 player.

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