Archive for March 12, 2009

Apple revamps the iPod Shuffle

IPod Shuffle

Apple has announced a new version of the iPod Shuffle that seeks to overcome the biggest drawback to the company’s pint-sized player: The lack of a screen to display information on what’s playing. The fix?  The new Shuffle, available now for $79, will read that information to you.

Squeeze a remote found on the cord for the right earbud, Apple says, and a synthetic VoiceOver feature will read the name of the song that’s playing, and the artist. And where the old Shuffle allowed for only a single playlist, the new one allows multiple lists; you select among them also using the remote. VoiceOver will speak in 14 different languages, including Mandarin, Swedish, and Greek.

At 4 gigabytes (GB), enough to hold about 1,000 songs, the new Shuffle doubles the capacity of the old 2 GB Shuffle. The 1GB, $49 version will remain available but will seemingly be unchanged; that is, it won’t talk to you.

The 4GB Shuffle is also about half the size of the old models, at 1.8 in. x 0.7 in. x 0.3 in., and is also lighter (at 3.8 oz. vs. 5 oz. for the predecessors).

We'll try out the Shuffle’s new features soonest, to report back on the degree to which they compensate for what have always been significant snags to Apple’s pint-sized iPod. In the meantime, check out our Ratings of iPods and other MP3 players (available to subscribers), including the older Shuffle that remains available.

—Mike Gikas

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Apple touchscreen order spurs netbook rumors

Reuters is reporting Apple has tapped a Taiwanese company for new 10-inch, touch-sensitive screens. Smaller than the screens used on any existing Apple laptop, the report has re-sparked earlier rumors that Apple will soon release a new touch-based Netbook—or a very large iPod-Touch-like product.

The speculation has become so rampant that some sites are now offering roundups of the rumor mill. Specific speculation includes Engadget, which thinks the rumored portable may look like a MacBook Air. The folks at Gizmodo seem to think it'll look more like a wide-screen slate, lacking the beveled curves of a MacBook Air. But The Business Insider says it may look like a large, keyboard-less iPhone or iPod Touch.

For our part, we've found netbooks to be great for what they are—inexpensive, secondary computers for relatively undemanding uses. But the devices do demand compromises, as our recent Ratings of netbooks, available free, and related blog posts show.

Where do you think Apple will fit in if it indeed jumps into netbooks? Feel free to weigh in on your thoughts below. Meantime, look for a post soon on our latest tests of netbooks, part of an upcoming update to our Ratings of computers. In the meantime for more help in deciding which computer is right for you, see our Computer Buying Guide and our extensive blog post about netbooks we've tested.

—Paul Eng

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