Mossberg: Apple’s new iPod is an excellent music player, surprisingly decent video player

For The Wall Street Journal, Walter S. Mossberg and his assistant Katie Boehret “took a couple of the new video iPods — officially called simply ‘the iPod,’ or the ‘fifth-generation iPod’ — for a short test drive.” Mossberg writes, “Our verdict is that this new iPod is an excellent music player. It has all of the strengths that have made prior iPods monster hits, and a few subtle refinements. Plus, it’s a surprisingly decent video player, with crisp, smooth vivid playback of TV shows, music videos, short films, video podcasts and home videos.”

“We wouldn’t want to watch a full-length movie on this iPod — the screen is just too small. But, for short things like music videos, video podcasts or even hourlong TV shows shortened by stripping out the commercials, as Apple is doing, the new iPod provides a pretty good experience,” Mossberg writes. “…just as the original iPod blew away the existing products with a superior combination of design and functionality, the video iPod has a good chance of doing so, provided enough video content becomes available for it, and people prove willing to view video on a 2½-inch screen… We found in our tests that it can get annoying to hold the new iPod in a good viewing position for long enough to watch a TV episode, because it doesn’t come with a stand.”

Mossberg writes, “Because these conditions are unknown, even by Mr. Jobs, Apple wisely calls this primarily a music player, with video playback thrown in, at no extra cost, as a bonus. And that description seems both fair and right. In essence, this iPod’s video capability is kind of a business or social experiment… The new iPod can display its video on a TV, with the right cable. But the cable costs $19 extra. And there’s a nifty dock, which might even double as a viewing stand — but it’s $39 extra.”

Mossberg writes, “To test the video, we downloaded two episodes of “Desperate Housewives” from the iTunes Store… a short film, Pixar’s “Boundin'”… a music video, “Weapon of Choice,” by Fatboy Slim… a free video podcast called “Rocketboom”… [and] we obtained from a friend an illegally downloaded episode of the TV show “Battlestar Galactica,” which she had converted to one of the video formats the iPod supports. All of these videos played very well on the iPod, though each looked better on our Windows and Mac computers, where they play back in a window that is much smaller than the computer’s screen, but much larger than the iPod’s.”

Full article here.

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Just a note, videos can also be played full screen via Apples iTunes. To watch a downloaded video, double-click it in your library or playlist. By default, the movie plays in the Artwork pane in the lower-left corner of the iTunes window. Use the iTunes Volume, Play, Pause, Rewind, or Fast-forward buttons in the upper-left corner to control the video playback. If you don’t see the Artwork pane, click the Artwork button in the lower-left corner of the iTunes window. To see the video play in a separate window, click the movie in the Artwork pane. To watch the video full screen, click the Full Screen button in the lower-left corner of the iTunes window.

To choose a default location (iTunes window Artwork pane, separate window, or full screen) for video playback, choose iTunes > Preferences, and then click the Advanced button. Make sure the “Play videos” checkbox is selected, and then choose a playback location from the pop-up menu.

Also note that the new iPods can display audio and video on any TV or other video device using a US$19.99 Apple iPod AV Cable. An Apple iPod Universal Dock ($39.99) plus an Apple Remote ($19.99, included free with the new iMac G5) are a nice solution for using your iPod to play video on any size screen. You can also use Apple’s $19.99 VGA Display Adapter to connect the mini-VGA port on many Mac models to any VGA-equipped monitor or external projector for video-mirroring. The VGA cable plugs into the VGA video-out port built into your Mac. Or use Apple’s Apple Video Adapter to connect the mini-VGA video output port on your Mac to any S-video or Composite enabled device (TV, VCR, or overhead projector’s S-Video or RCA (composite) cable).

Related articles:
NY Times Pogue: ‘watching video on new iPod’s 2.5-inch screen is completely immersive’ – October 19, 2005
MSNBC columnist: after initial coolness wears off, Apple’s video iPod will wind up in dresser drawer
Apple’s $1.99 iTunes TV show downloads may be ‘the savior of good television’ – October 17, 2005
Apple opens Pandora’s box for the media business, could have profound long-term consequences – October 17, 2005
BofA analyst: Apple video play an ‘evolutionary opportunity,’ 9.3m iPods to be sold this quarter – October 17, 2005
Apple has the potential to change not just the audio industry, but the whole entertainment industry – October 17, 2005
Advertisers welcome Apple’s iTunes Store commerical-free content – October 17, 2005
New York Times writer can’t think different: ‘video iPod may not be ready for prime time’ – October 17, 2005
Podfather: iPod porn is going to be huge – October 14, 2005
Forrester Research: Apple transformed music distribution, now it is doing the same for video – October 14, 2005
Watching episode of ABC’s ‘Lost’ on 2.5-inch iPod screen surprisingly compelling – October 13, 2005
Get ready for the iPod video torrent search sites – October 13, 2005
Apple’s new iMac G5, iTunes 6, iPod video designed to bait Hollywood – October 13, 2005
Apple video iPod+iTunes could create mass audience for video on the go, despite studios’ misgivings – October 13, 2005
Using QuickTime Pro to create videos for playback in new Apple iPods – October 13, 2005
Analyst: Apple has just produced ‘the tipping point’ for entertainment content – October 13, 2005
Apple’s video play likely to unsettle movie, TV, advertising and retail markets for years to come – October 12, 2005
Apple unveils new 5th generation iPod, now plays music, photos, and video – October 12, 2005


  1. I think what i like most about MOssbergs reviews is that he actually uses the device in a way regular people would and also does a littel research before attaching his name to a story.

    Far to many of the current crop of tech “journalists” skim a press release and maybe just maybe play with a product for a minute before sitting down and penning a silly and uninformed review.

  2. Because these conditions are unknown, even by Mr. Jobs, Apple wisely calls this primarily a music player, with video playback thrown in, at no extra cost, as a bonus. And that description seems both fair and right.

    And this statement shows why Mossberg is the preminent technology journalist out there today, and why MSNBC’s Krakow are clueless hacks who are more interested in trying to play “gotcha” with Apple.

  3. It’s not right for Mossberg to out his friend who stole “Battlestar Galactica”. I’m sure men in black suits and sunglasses are knocking on her door as we speak. They’re probably even roughing up her dog.

    “Youz steals one more movieses from us, and Beepers sleeps with the fisheses!” (One man holds dog by paws, other man punches dog in stomach) “I’lls tells the boss dat youz will be cooperatin’s!”

  4. Yay, the first video I downloaded is the same as the first video walt mossberg downloaded. Weapon of Choice is an amazing video and currently its number one on the video store. It won best music video ever from a VH1 survery of music professionals and I’m glad that the itunes music video store is bringing it the recognition it deserves. It didn’t get nearly enough play time on music channels. Fatboy slim and Spike Jonze, the director must be psyched.

  5. Weapon of Choice was one of the four music videos I have purchased in the last week. Seldom do I see it played on VH1 so it is nice to finally own it.

    My 3rd generation iPod does a great job for me but I’m really tempted by a new iPod in black…

  6. Hey Music Industry Executive who posted above:

    GO SCREW YOURSELF. People only stole music because of your greediness at exploiting consumers, and your lack of ethics in stealing from the artists themselves in the first place. You are worthless on this planet, and I’m ashamed to be breathing the same air as you, you piece of crap.

  7. The new iPod can display its video on a TV, with the right cable.

    I’m not so sure that this is true. I don’t think Jobs demoed this or mentioned it. His was ‘hotwired’ to mirror the display ‘bit for bit’ .. i.e. not usnig the composite out.

    The iPod pages say that photos can be viewed on TV, but they don’t say that for the video.

    Maybe they can, maybe they can’t, but I’m assuming that they cannot right now.

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