I broke down in the name of TUAW and picked up a new 8GB iPod nano. Of course, running out of space for workout jams on my 1GB nano might have had something to do with the purchase as well. I've put this second generation iPod nano through the trials enough (including some Nike+ runs) to warrant a first impressions post. Like others who have already weighed in, I'm pretty satisfied, but there certainly are some (mostly iTunes 7-related) quirks.
I'd post unboxing pictures and all the typical stuff, but others have already been there, done that. I'd rather touch on the other little things that make product evolutions like this so (well, mostly) sweet.
First Thing's First: The New Earbuds Are a Great Upgrade
I know it's strange to praise the giveaway earbuds included with an iPod, but Mr. J wasn't kidding when he said how cool these were. The overall design has received a very welcomed update, replacing the previous earbud's 'boxy' form with smooth curves that I think will uphold their iconic status. The black foam coverings that almost no one seemed to use have taken a hike in favor of a light gray rubber band around the bud itself, and I can say from taking a few runs that these both fit and stay put a lot better than their predecessors (of course, YMMV). I think they also sound a bit better, but that could simply be a factor of the new rubberized banding making a better seal with the ear.
Like a Glove
These new aluminum enclosures fit really well in the hand. There's just something about the rounded edges on this thing that make it a pleasure to hold and use. Just like the iPod mini, the aluminum screams 'bring on the action' over the standard iPods (remember the original nano's scratch fiasco?), though this time around the new iPod nano can actually fill those shoes - the flash memory means you really can beat this thing up (if that's the way you roll), shedding the guilt and worry as to whether you're slowly killing a hard drive. I don't even have to think twice about bringing this thing into battle, and not having that worry on my back is a wonderful thing.
Trouble in Paradise
The fancy new features of the iPod itself are great, like the noticeably brighter display (I can't get a good pic, sorry) and even the searching - I'm impressed by the zippy performance and how surprisingly usable the wheel is for dialing in a few letters of an item. Unfortunately, the shiny new 2G nanos aren't without their shortcomings.
Most notably, I can attest to the slower transfer rate that others are reporting, which might be a result of the nano confirming the disbanding of the partnership between Apple + PortalPlayer. I haven't done any hard core stopwatch testing, but I've transferred enough songs and playlists to iPod nanos to know that this new 2G model suffered a hit in performance. I would hope this is something that can be improved in a future iPod software update, but that is obviously up to Apple's engineers.
The other glaring problem (so far) with products announced at It's Showtime lies with iTunes 7 itself. Don't get me wrong: I love the improvements and the new very non-Aqua UI (though it does feel a little dark and gothy for Apple), but that's because I am anxiously awaiting a 7.1 bugfix update. This new version has adopted some schizophrenic behavior: at times it refuses to see either of my iPods (I also own a 5G) until either a logout or a restart (yes I've done maintenance, yes I've tried to use Disk Utility to un/remount the drive), and iTunes 7 will freak out if I attach an iPod when the external drive that houses my library isn't connected - only a force quit will settle the problem.
Still Rocking On
Aside from what seem like software-based problems (which means a fix is possible and hopefully in the pipeline), I'm really happy with this new model. iLounge has mentioned a couple of isolated accessory incompatibility issues, but mine fits fine in the NueElements case and Nike armband that I use. I haven't been able to push the battery anywhere near its new 24 hour limit, but I can tell my typical uses don't drain it nearly as much as the old model. Ultimately: this is a great evolution of Apple's flagship iPod, and I definitely recommend one if you were waiting for this 2G line to land.