Our New iPod Shuffle Totally ROCKS!

Notes: Before we get anymore snarky comments, 2G means second-generation, 1 GB means one gigabyte. Also, we used our MacBook's iSight camera for these pictures. That's why they, uh, suck. You'll find purtier pictures here.

First off, for the 5 or 6 readers that care, we're 99.99 percent sure our new 2G iPod has a push-pull amplifier. This is very very sweet. We say 99.99 percent sure because we don't have an oscilloscope handy, but let's just say it sounds at least as good as the 1G shuffle, even at deafening volumes, and puts our otherwise-decent 2nd-gen iPod mini to shame. Compared to the 1G, audiophiles will also appreciate the added AIFF support.

What most people will care about is its size. Ohhhh, it's tiny. Our pictures below don't do it justice. You have to feel its sheer lightness and teeniness in your hand to realize how ridiculous it is that you can get 12 hours of rich playback from 240 songs in this teeny little paperclip thing. It's like having a 2-months-premature baby doing your calculus homework. Check out our pictures comparing the 2G shuffle to the 1G model (yeah, we lost the USB cap) and some common, er, household objects.

It is true that the 2G shuffle does not get the swanky new rubbery and coverless earbuds that ship with the new nanos. Apple's not being sneaky, you can see the obviously old earbuds on the shuffle's web site. Also, it's not to say that the headphones aren't a fresh design. Check out the picture below; clearly the new headphone plug is shorter and less rounded than the old one.

...not that we noticed that. Shut up. Anyway, they're otherwise identical to the old buds and still come with those silly black covers. Tim Cook must have over-ordered the old design and had to find something cheap to dump them on. Whatever, the earbuds sound great with the sweet push-pull amp.

Also in the package is the new shuffle dock:

Look at that upside-down logo. Remember the Pismo PowerBook? Ahh, good times. Anyway, previously you had to pay $30 for a shuffle dock. The new dock is equally tiny and has nicely weighted, rubberized bottom, just like your mom. The dock is necessary for connectivity as the 2G shuffle runs USB through its headphone jack, and only the dock has the special 4-pin headphone plug for USB, wheras the old shuffle had a built-in standard USB plug. This makes the 2G less useful as a USB flash drive, though you do get a $30 piece of plastic for free now. Call it a wash.

Speaking of USB, we had transfer rates of about 3 MB per second, about twice as fast as our 1G shuffle, and about on par with a new Nano. Check out iFixit's take-apart if you're curious about the innards. Note that the vast majority of the interior volume is taken by the battery.

While some nerds may decry how much space it takes up relative to the rest of the pod, we love the built-in clip. It feels surprisingly substantial, and will attach to just about anything. It's especially nice for a jeans pocket. No more feeling up your pockets for the skip button, now it just clips over unobtrusively.

There's no longer a separate battery indicator button, so it just displays battery status through the main indicator light whenever you turn it on. Actually, there are redundant indicator lights in both white panels. Works for us. We also dig the new separate aluminum switches for power and shuffling. While teeny, they're much less fiddly than the 1G's slidey switch.

Wrapping it up, If you'd overlooked the shuffle before as too primitive compared to a regular iPod, you'll do yourself a favor by giving it a second glance. At $79, it's the same price as a Radio Remote and the Camera Connector for your current 'Pod. Or, $20 LESS than the A/V kit. Or, instead of an iPod Hi-Fi, you could buy a shuffle and three more for your family, and have $30 left over. Any way you choose to rationalize it, it's a bargain.

Apple iPod Shuffle
(2G, 1GB model)

-Oh holy crap it's tiny
-Excellent sound quality
-Very useful clip
-Less-fiddly switches
-A cheap iPod? Whaaa?

-No built-in USB connector
-Old-school earbuds

Overall Score: Aww yeeah, it totally ROCKS!!!