iPod Evolution

A look back at how Apple's hugely successful personal audio device came to dominate the market. (PCMag.com)

The Apple iPod burst onto the scene in October 2001 and quickly became the most popular portable music player on the market.

The general trend has been toward smaller form factors and higher capacities, though some important new features have been added over the years, including video playback.

While other players may beat the iPod on features, nothing has yet topped the iPods interface, ease of use, and integration with iTunes. And the iPod accessory market makes many of the features not included in the device itself available to those who want them.

In honor of the iPods 5th birthday, heres a look at PC Magazines reviews of the popular and often controversial music player over the past several years.

Since the full-size iPod was the first and remains the most recognizable, well stick to those models, though dont forget to check out our reviews of the now-discontinued Mini, the increasingly popular Nano, and the Shuffle. Also stay tuned for my upcoming review of the latest version of the iPod Shuffle.

2006: Apple iPod (80GB) - 5.5 Generation
Despite the hype, the current iPod actually didnt add much to the previous generation, though the capacity increased (30GB and 80GB models are available) and prices dropped a bit. The most notable improvements are to video battery life and screen brightness. Two interesting new features are a search function and the ability to play full-fledged video games available at the iTunes Music Store (also available to the 5G iPod via a firmware update). Purchased music can also now be transferred back to a PC directly within iTunes. In addition, the device supports gapless audio playback.

2005: Apple iPod 30GB with video - 5th Generation

Apple played catch-up with its fifth-gen iPod by giving it video playback capabilities, which were already offered on players like the Archos gmini 402 and Cowon iAudio X5. The 5G iPod came in 30GB and 60GB capacities, and the screen grew to 2.5 inches (diagonal) and 320 by 240 pixel resolution to better accommodate video. The 30GB iPod was also significantly slimmer than previous models. Another interesting yet quiet introduction was an audio recording feature. Unfortunately, no company introduced a compatible adapter until nearly 9 months after the 5G iPod came out. As hard drive costs fell so too did the iPods price tag; you could get a 30GB iPod for the same price as the previous 20GB model. I measured about 16.5 hours for audio playback and nearly 2.5 hours for video playback, which were acceptable at the time.

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