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Small size, big music, low price.
The new iPod shuffle ditches the stick-of-gum form for a glorified binder-clip design. It's a change we applaud - measuring 1.07 by 1.62 by 0.41 inches, the sleek, aluminum-encased iPod shuffle is a tiny technological treasure.
The clip opens to just under a half-inch wide, big enough to latch it onto a lapel, pocket, or backpack strap. The clip could be a tad tighter - it didn't take much effort to yank the shuffle off its mount, though it barely moved with natural movement. Using the controls when it's clipped on your shirt or pants pocket is effortless, and Apple put an LCD indicator light on the top and bottom of the shuffle. Nice touch. (Apple provides a cheat sheet to decipher the different LCD colors and blinks.) You also get a cute li'l USB dock to connect the shuffle to your Mac and sync it with iTunes.
The one major flaw: We got our shuffle the very day they started shipping, and it came with the older-generation earbuds, not the new improved ones. Sure, $79 is a bargain - and Apple had to keep the price down somehow - but we still felt cheated. And audiophiles aren't going to like one other bit of news about the shuffle: It can't play files encoded in Apple Lossless format. So if you've ripped your entire music library this way, those tracks are off-limits to your shuffle unless you rerip them using standard compression.
The bottom line. If it weren't for the outdated earbuds, the new iPod shuffle would get our highest rating.
CONTACT: 800-692-7753 or 408-996-1010, www.apple.com
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.3.9 or later, iTunes 7.0.2 or later, USB
Tiny. Durable aluminum casing.
No display. Ships with old iPod earbuds. Can't play Apple Lossless files.