Review: Apple iPod Shuffle 4G

Published: October 10, 2010 11:00 PM
By Tristan François
One year on from the harsh criticism that stung it after the physical buttons disappeared from the last version of the iPod Shuffle, Apple has brought them back.  We're not sure whether that's going to be enough to make us love the micro-MP3 player.

Hardware: The Buttons Are Back

We've been waiting all year: instead of the in-line controls on the previous Shuffle, Apple has returned to the old form factor.  It was about time, as the lack of a screen is problem enough in itself.

On the top, there's a switch to turn the Shuffle on and off and switch between random and sequential playback, as well as a button that launches VoiceOver, which will read the name of the current track, because you can't, of course, read it from the screen.

We're still sceptical about the attraction of an MP3 player with no screen.  Of course it doesn't need to be as big as the one on the iPod touch, but just a few lines of text would do.   Using it becomes very frustrating, especially given that 2 GB gives you room to store twenty or so albums, more than enough to get easily lost.

Audio Quality: Nothing's Changed

Apple still isn't trying very hard with the audio quality on its iPods.  The Shuffle is the least blessed of all, and really suffers.  Of course, it looks good compared to a generic MP3 memory stick from a brand you've never heard of, but you could also end up spending as much replacing the headphones as the Shuffle itself.  Either way, the sound it produces is very weak sound that's not been well equalised, is confused and generally lacking in punch.

And that's before we even get onto the headphones themselves.  The famous white earbuds might be iconic, but Apple has done absolutely nothing to improve the quality of the hardware.

All things considered, we're more than happy to leave this MP3 player on the shelf.  Apple is asking far too much for a product with so many restrictions.  Bringing the buttons back was a good move, but it's not enough to make the Shuffle a worthwhile investment.
2/5 Apple iPod Shuffle 4G DigitalVersus 2010-10-11 00:00:00

Pros

  • The buttons are back!
  • Small

Cons

  • No screen
  • Mediocre sound quality
  • Dreadful headphones

Conclusion

It's very simple: the Shuffle is Apple's cheapest MP3 player, it's also the least attractive. While the nano is as strong a proposition as ever, we're left wondering just who might want a Shuffle ...

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