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The iPod (with video) and new iMac G5--hands-on first impressions!

Ryan Block, @ryan
iPod (with video) in white and black smallerAs reported by Engadget correspondent Paul Boutin:

The video iPod won't disappoint. It feels slim and easy to hold even after two weeks spent with my nano. Video playback is solid. They're not kidding about 30 fps without sputtering. You can't fast forward, but you can scroll back and forth on a progress bar—just as you do with music—to jump forward and back in the video.  Oh, and the black model is going to be hot. Without the U2 model's red wheel it's less of an acquired taste.

The iMac hasn't changed much. It's a wee bit thinner and there's a camera eye / IR detector at the top. The eye is the one thing that doesn't live up to Apple's usual panache. It seems an odd black dot in the middle of the iMac's white forehead.

The remote control, which uses IR is very stylish. It has an iPod Shuffle look and feel and a set of controls set in a circle that resemble the first iPods, but are marked differently. The on-screen menus for Front Row are also iPod-like. One nice touch is the way Front Row blurs out the menu screen on a DVD (You know: ?Operation not permitted?) and puts a standardized iPod-like menu over it. My one gripe is that it?s not always clear which button to push on the remote: plus or minus, fast forward or rewind, or something else? The Apple rep told me to press Menu to select the video player from the main Front Row menu. Whoops - you have to press Play (>). Yes, even six buttons can be confusing at first?unusual for Apple.

TV shows on the iMac are a grainy 320 x 240 that looks better in a small window than full screen. It?s not a TiVo replacement, let?s be clear. It?s more like the BitTorrent copies of The Daily Show - a way to catch shows you?d have to miss otherwise, and definitely more reliable than streaming. It?ll be a good alternative to needing to plop in front of the boob tube once more shows become available. The iTunes interface is a lot more consumer friendly than finding and downloading torrents. What it needs most are more shows!

The underrated announcement of the day is iTunes gifting. Those of us who are always evangelizing new bands or you-gotta-hear-this songs to each other now have an easy way to push tracks on our friends and vice versa. Good thing the recipient has to accept the gift, or I?d be jamming everyone?s libraries with Goldfrapp already.

Our correspondent Paul Boutin would like to thank Splunk (maker of network indexing software) for giving him the day off.

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