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ATPM 9.08
August 2003



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Review: iPod (30 GB)

by Eric Blair,


Developer: Apple Computer

Requirements: Macintosh with built-in FireWire and Mac OS X 10.1.5; or PC with FireWire or USB 2.0 and Windows ME.

Recommended: Mac OS X 10.2

Price: $500

Trial: None

In the world of sports, it is often said that defending a championship is harder than winning it in the first place. Most everyone wants to be the best at what they do. Furthermore, they know that to be the best, you have to beat the best.

It’s been almost two years since Daniel Chvatik poked and prodded the original iPod and proclaimed it to be “Excellent.” Since that time, Apple has tweaked the iPod here and there, adding a solid-state scroll wheel, larger drives, and some new software features, but mostly keeping the iPod the same. While competitors were playing catch-up with the original iPods, Apple was quietly working on the next generation of iPods.

If you want to know the ins and outs of the iPod, I suggest you read Daniel’s review. For the most part, I will be focusing on what Apple has come up with in the mean time.

3G iPods

First and foremost, the iPod is a portable music player. The first and second generation iPods were already widely considered the best portable music players available. How was Apple supposed to improve on something that did a relatively narrow task so well?

After using a 30 GB iPod, I see that the answer is “Add More.” After doing that, “Add Less.”

The first difference that most people will notice is that the front of the iPod has been redesigned. I was actually a little surprised when I saw this because the four control buttons around the central scroll wheel had become a bit of trademark of the iPod. Instead, the new iPods have four touch-sensitive buttons between the screen and the scroll wheel. The buttons are, from left to right, previous track, menu, play/pause, and next track.


Some people voiced concerns when they saw the iPod’s new button layout. There were concerns that the it would not be as easy to operate one-handed. I have fairly normal-sized hands and haven’t found this to be a problem. Also, the buttons have enough of a lip around them so you can usually feel for a particular button without pressing the wrong one.

The four new buttons also work in concert with the iPod’s backlight. When the backlight is on, the button labels glow red. When the backlight turns off, both the screen and the button labels slowly fade to dark instead of cutting out immediately. It’s a nice effect.

Once you get beyond the redesigned front panel, you will start seeing some of the other changes Apple made to the exterior of the iPod. On the top of the iPod, the headphone/remote control port has been redesigned, the hold switch is smaller, and the FireWire port is gone.

Looking at the bottom of the iPod reveals the Dock connector that replaces the FireWire port. The Dock connector has several advantages over the FireWire port it replaces. It’s smaller, which means it fits easier onto the 10 and 15 GB iPods (which are slimmer than the 30 GB model). It connects to the new Dock, supports audio-out, and supports syncing via USB 2.0 (Windows-only).

Software-wise, the new iPods runs version 2.0 (2.0.1 as of this writing) of the iPod operating system. New features of 2.0 include support for AAC files, On-The-Go Playlists, Notes, customization of the main menu, and two new games. Since ATPM first reviewed the iPod, Apple also added Contacts, a Calendar, an Alarm, and support.

As most of you probably know, AAC is the format that Apple uses to distribute songs via the iTunes Music Store. In theory, AAC files sound better at lower bit rates than MP3 files, so it is possible to store more songs on your iPod if you encode your music as AAC files. As you would expect, the iPod supports both the protected and unprotected flavors of AAC.

The On-The-Go playlist lets you generate a temporary playlist as you listen to your iPod. You just scroll to a song, album, or artist and hold the center button for a few seconds and the selection is added to your playlist.

There is only a single On-The-Go playlist on your iPod and it is erased whenever you sync with iTunes, so you should still create your permanent playlists at your Mac. Once a song is added to your On-The-Go playlist, it can only be removed by clearing the whole playlist or syncing your iPod. Since you can easily skip any song you don’t want to hear, this isn’t major.

Notes is a light-weight text reader for the iPod with some surprising features. It supports some basic formatting via HTML tags. You can also link to other notes, folders, or songs. In the case of songs, the linking can be by track name or a number of different attributes.

Main menu customization lets you decide what is shown at the root level of the iPod. If all you care about is listening to music, you can hide any of the other options. If you really like Games but don’t care about any of the other items in Extras, you can add Games to the main menu and hide the Extras item. The only item that can’t be removed from the main menu is the Settings command.

The two new games are Solitaire and Parachute, joining Brick, which was first present in the iPod as an Easter Egg. Solitaire is actually Klondike, which seems to be the version of solitaire that everybody knows. It’s a little odd to play with a scroll wheel, especially when you’re moving from one side of the screen to the other, but it is a good way to pass the time. In Parachute, you attempt to shoot down helicopters and paratroopers who are trying to destroy your base. Combined with Brick, these games provide some level of entertainment, but they do tend to pause from time to time when you are changing tracks.

I’ve covered the “Adding More,” so now on to the “Adding Less.” Even with these new hardware and software features, Apple managed to reduce the size of the new iPod. Though a hair taller (.08 inches, to be exact), the 30 GB iPod is .03 inches narrower and .05 inches slimmer than the original iPod. It also comes in at 6.2 ounces, slightly less the original iPod’s 6.5 ounces. These are the measurements from Daniel’s review of the 5 GB iPod. If I remember correctly, the 20 GB iPod was slightly larger than the 5 GB model to account for physical differences in the hard drives, but I don’t have those figures handy.

One side effect of the iPod’s trimming is a shorter battery life. The original iPod was rated to get 10 hours out of a charge whereas the newer iPods are only rated for 8 hours. This rarely bothers me since I usually make it through a whole day at work without recharging—the only times I really need to reach for the charging cable at the office is when I forget to charge the iPod the previous night.

The Dock

The Dock is easily one of the more talked-about features of the new iPod. At the bare minimum, the Dock lets you get your iPod off the table while you are charging it so you won’t scratch up the metal backing. I also find it easier to put the iPod in the Dock and remove it as opposed to connecting and disconnecting the Dock cable directly to the iPod. This is partly because the Dock is stationary and I don’t have to hold it while I’m inserting the iPod, and partly because the Dock cable has two release buttons you need to press to disconnect it from the iPod (or the Dock, for that matter).

A docking station alone would be welcomed by many iPod owners for the reasons I mentioned, but Apple went one step farther by adding a Line Out jack to the rear of the Dock. The Line Out jack makes it simple to connect your iPod to you existing stereo system or powered speakers without having a cable dangling from the top of your iPod. Also if you can keep a Dock next to your stereo, you never need to plug and unplug cables when you want to grab your iPod and go.

Since the Dock connects to your computer via the same cable as the iPod, you can also plug the Dock directly into the wall. This is useful if you will be using the iPod as a stereo component for an extended period of time.

The one problem I’ve had with the Dock is the port layout on the back—I do not think it’s possible to unplug the Dock cable while something is connected to the Line Out jack. There just isn’t enough room to fit your finger between the jacks to press the release on the Dock cable.



When the original iPod was released, I was skeptical. It sounded like a good idea, but I wasn’t sure if it sure if it would fly with a price tag pushing $400. It turned out Apple was right and people came flocking. Now, whenever a new music player comes along, reviewers inevitably see how it stacks up against the iPod. Occasionally, the players have something the iPod lacks, like an FM tuner or built-in car adapter, but the reviewers almost always proclaim that the challenger falls short of the iPod.

Now, in that fine tradition, I declare that the 30 GB iPod not only challenges the original iPod, but bests it. It only took two years for somebody to beat the best, but it appears that Apple once again has a winner with the newest iPod.

Reader Comments (33)

Beau · November 16, 2003 - 16:38 EST #1
You're completely right. iPods are the best and the 30 GB is awesome.
Anthony Angel · March 22, 2004 - 07:01 EST #2
The new iPods will not work with OS 9.

Tey will load as an external drive but it is impossible to add music files to the iPod player, you can add the files but can't play them. I've tried every trick available to get files into the iPod_Control folder. Rather disappointing really.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · March 22, 2004 - 09:44 EST #3
Anthony - try iPod Free File Sync.
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · March 22, 2004 - 11:19 EST #4

Yes, according to Apple, Mac OS X 10.1.5 is the minimum version required for using an iPod with a Mac.

Lee's suggestion may work, but I have no experience with using iPods on OS 9.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · March 22, 2004 - 11:29 EST #5
Actually, as I looked at at closer, it's a utility designed to move files from the iPod to an OS 9 computer and iTunes 2. I'm just thinking that you could probably use it to move files into the iPod as well. Perhaps not as conveniently as using iTunes 4 on Mac OS X, but still possible.
anonymous · December 24, 2004 - 12:08 EST #6
I love the 20Gb iPod. Its the best. Got everything I need.
Courtney Iocco · July 15, 2005 - 13:28 EST #7
I think ipods are the best thing ever I am making a collection of ipods and I have 20 ipods I love these things they are the best things. All of my friends and I will go out shopping after school and we will listen to our ipods all of my friends have ipods too these things are so great. I LOVE IPODS!!!!!!!!!!
Neo · July 18, 2005 - 06:42 EST #8
Hi Courtney,

Do you think Ipods are can keep collecting them as long as you want.

I think you can donate that extra money you have at your dispossal to some charity.
ol · September 2, 2005 - 09:06 EST #9
Hmm nice review
stacy · December 7, 2005 - 18:22 EST #10
can u used limewire instead of itunes? or some other thing besides itunes?
ATPM Staff · December 7, 2005 - 19:51 EST #11
Stacy - you can use any means you wish to obtain MP3 files, but you must use iTunes to manage and sync music to your iPod.

Don't forget that the iPod nor iTunes supports Windows Media files, although iTunes can convert them to supported formats as long as they aren't protected/DRM Windows Media files.

We must also insert the obligatory "don't steal music" message that apps like Limewire (let's face facts) are largely used for.
mrityunjay saksena · December 20, 2005 - 04:35 EST #12
simply awesome!!
undertaker · December 24, 2005 - 13:01 EST #13
is there any way that u can put video on a 4th generation 20gb. ipod? also i would like to know if u could download access games for it.
ATPM Staff · December 24, 2005 - 20:58 EST #14
Undertaker - no, you cannot do video on a 4th generation iPod. Video is only supported on the current 5th generation iPods.

You can, however, install additional games. Simple do a Google search for "ipod games" and you should find plenty. For example:
Ray Fike · December 25, 2005 - 11:36 EST #15
I hesitate opening my new i-Pod after reading a review about how costly they are to repair and how often they break down. Do you suppose there is less frequency of this in the new 30 gb i-Pods?
ATPM Staff · December 25, 2005 - 11:38 EST #16
Ray - open it. You already have a full one-year warranty on it. Any serious probably are sure to surface within that time. After that year, problems generally coincide with how well you treat it.
Kavai Ugali Ujang · February 15, 2006 - 05:45 EST #17
I live in Liberia and love iPods so much. Despite the distance from the home of iPods, I always try to be updated with them. My first iPod was the 60GB one without video and as I write a 30GB one is on its way from the US to me in Liberia. I had to even pay extra money so the company could engrave and give it to the person bringing it to me as soon as possible. I would like to put most of my music video from CDs into my iPod, but they all in .DAT format. Can the iTunes software convert them automatically?
ATPM Staff · February 15, 2006 - 10:39 EST #18
Kavai - .DAT format? That's not a music format. It's a Windows data file. Here at ATPM, we do not have Windows support available, but as I understand it, a .DAT file simply holds information used by a Windows application.

Here are the iPods compatible formats:

Mac: AAC (up to 320 kbit/s), MP3 (up to 320 kbit/s), MP3 Variable Bit Rate (VBR), WAV, AIFF, Audible.

Windows: AAC (up to 320 kbit/s), MP3 (up to 320 kbit/s), MP3 Variable Bit Rate (VBR), WAV, Audible.

In addition, on the Windows platform, you can drag in unprotected Windows Media Audio files and iTunes can convert them to one of the supported formats above. It will not however convert DRM-protected WMAs nor will it play the WMA directly.
Kavai · February 15, 2006 - 11:54 EST #19
I know that ".DAT" is not an audio format. It is a video format for VCD movies. What I want to know is that whether the iTune software can automatically convert this video format to MPEG-4 for use with my 5th Generation iPod with Video compatibility.
ATPM Staff · February 15, 2006 - 12:53 EST #20
Kavai - apologies—you did say video, didn't you.

You haven't confirmed whether you're on Windows or Mac platform. ATPM generally has little to no support available for Windows issues, but I did find this Windows utility for converting to iPod video. Perhaps VCD support is included:

For Macintosh conversion, maybe ffmpegX can do it:

In either case, you'll want to convert to mp4 h.264 format.

I found some information on this page that may be of some help.
Kavai · February 16, 2006 - 05:10 EST #21
Thanks guys!! The links you gave me were very helpful in what I was talking about. They provide softwares for converting between different video formats.
JimmySprinkle · March 17, 2006 - 19:23 EST #22
Hey, to the person who asked about videos on a 4th generation iPod, it is true. While searching around, i was able to find nction is installed, and though it is in black and white,(assuming you dont have a nano or a Photo), it never caeses to amaze my friends. Do a google serch for ipodlinux, and read around the forums. Good Luck
Mary G · July 7, 2006 - 06:46 EST #23
Just finished copying cds to my new 30GB ipod. Find that it doesn't actually hold 7,000 songs but instead holds 3,700. I realise that copying cds takes more than downloading music but did anyone else come across this?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · July 7, 2006 - 11:04 EST #24
Mary - my old 3rd generation 30gb was well over 6,000 songs before I upgraded to a 60gb 5th generation.

You're not exactly correct about CDs taking more (space?) than downloading music. If you encode a CD at the regular AAC format settings, then it should be exactly the same size as music purchased from the iTunes music store. Now, if you are using MP3 format and/or a higher quality bit rate, then sure, the total capacity for number of songs will decrease. Also, if you used the Apple lossless compression format, each song obviously takes a lot more space. And have you used any space for videos and/or files copied to the iPod as if it were an external hard drive? That, of course, will reduce the total number of songs you can put in it.

But with nothing on the iPod but AAC files of music encoded at the default settings with a typical duration of 3-4 minutes per song, you should get somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,500 songs on it.
Mary G · July 7, 2006 - 11:20 EST #25
Hello Lee,
Thanks so much for your comment and such a quick reply. I don't know what encoding is used - I just copy them straight into itunes library on the pc and then update the ipod. I'm sorry but I only got the ipod two months ago and this is new to me. How do I check the encoding?
And how would I know if I've been using my ipod as an external hard drive? Sorry for the silly question.
Thanks so much for your help.
Kavai Ugali Ujang · July 7, 2006 - 11:42 EST #26

As far as I am concerned, it can be used as an external hard drive when you use and access it just like a memory stick. As you may know, when your iPod is connected to your computer, a drive icoon apppears in the "My Computer" folder just like when you connect a memory stick/flash drive. You can open the icon which appears like a drive and drop/paste files or documents in the. It doesn't affect your music or videos. But can't be accesssed from your iPod menu when you are listening to music. To accessed you files, you will have to open them from "My Computer" folder. I think that's how it works.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · July 7, 2006 - 11:46 EST #27
Mary - as Kavai said, you'd know if you had used it as a file storage device. Based on your question, it's probable that you have not.

The encoding settings are in the iTunes preferences. If it's not set in a way you think is right, it unfortunately means you might have to re-encode all the tracks that you want to be in a different format.

Since ATPM serves to review products and offer advice for people looking to buy a product, and is limited (though we try) on the amount of support we can offer, we'd best advise you to look up additional information on properly configuring iTunes and the iPod from a better source. Check the help files that are in the iTunes Help menu, or read the iPod 101 web pages. Those should explain everything you need to know.
Mary G. · July 11, 2006 - 10:11 EST #28
Thank you all very much for your interest and helpful comments. I ended up bringing the ipod into an Apple dealer and they actually had to reload the software so I suppose there must have been some glick in the system. Anyway I'm back in action again. Thanks again for all your help. Much appreciated.
avia mitchell · October 6, 2006 - 21:35 EST #29
hi, i have an ipod like that one and i lost the dock, my sister has a newer version of the ipod an it came with usb cords to charge it, and the cords fits with my ipod. but my ipod won't do anything. i haven't used it in about a year, what's wrong with my ipod?
ATPM Staff · October 6, 2006 - 22:37 EST #30
Avia - you might need to update the iPod software to make it compatible with the newer versions of iTunes and/or using USB cables instead of FireWire for synching and charging.

Beyond this, we don't really have much help to provide. We try to offer some tech support when we can, but iPod issues are best taken to other forums such as
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · October 7, 2006 - 12:40 EST #31
How are you trying to charge it? Connected to a computer? Connected to a wall outlet. I believe (but I am in no way certain) that certain iPods will only charge over USB (via computer) when connected to a USB 2.0 port. If you're connecting to an older computer, it may not work.
Jared Lucky · November 27, 2006 - 23:53 EST #32
I own a 2 GB nano and I love it but it doesn't have enough space on it. I am looking to upgrade to a 30 GB video, and I do a lot of riding motorcycles with my dad and was looking at buying a mount for it, but I am worried with the motorcycle I ride is a single cylinder and it vibrates a lot. Will the constant vibration and bouncing up and down off bumps eventually ruin the hard drive?

edgar leon · February 20, 2008 - 22:47 EST #33
i have a 30gb ipod (black) and my computer has only 8gb and only 1 is for memory its fast but if i erase the files and i sync it erases my ipod completely.

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