iPod Mania: Which Version is Right for You

So you’ve decided to join the bandwagon and get your first iPod. But with more than 30 models on the shelves, it can take another generation of iPods before you make your choice. How do you know which iPod is right for you? Find out with this simple buyer’s guide.

The gadget market has had its share of trends, but none have created such a lasting impact as the iPod. Even non-music lovers will easily recognize the iconic click wheel, the deceptively simple interface, and the telltale white earphones hanging down the owner’s neck. And as often happens with hugely successful products, the iPod has been recreated in countless forms over the years. Where there used to be just the classic white iPod, there are now over 30 variations in all colors, sizes and capacities.

This is all very well for those who want to upgrade (or for any reason, downgrade), but if you’re buying your first iPod, the range of options can be dizzying. It’s all about choosing which features you need and how much you’re willing to pay for them. This guide lists some of the most in-demand iPod features and which versions best serve them.

Maximum storage

Do you have a large music library complete with videos, labels, genre information and album art? You may want to get an iPod Classic with either an 80GB or 160GB hard drive (earlier generations have been phased out). The hard drive format sets the Classic apart from the rest of the models, which use flash memory. With a 160GB Classic, you can play music for 15 weeks straight without ever repeating a song! You’ll need to arrange your music in playlists, though, as it can be hard to scroll through a library or 40,000 songs.

Color and style

Colored iPods are perfect for those want a bit of individuality in their gadgets. The first colored iPod was the Mini, now replaced by the Nano and Shuffle lineups. The 2G Nano comes in vibrant shades of pink, green, blue, gold, and silver, while the 2G Shuffle and 3G Nano come in pastel shades. The iPod Classic now comes in black and silver, so you also have options if you don’t want to sacrifice capacity.

Weight and portability

The heaviest iPod weighs a mere 5.7 ounces, so any model you get is easily portable. But if you want something to jog or work out with, you want something really sleek—the kind you can wear on your belt or clip onto your shirt. The 2G iPod Shuffle is the obvious winner in this department, with its 1” body and easy clip-on design. If you don’t want to sacrifice capacity and features, try any of the Nano models—they keep the color screen and storage but are still small enough to fit in your pocket.

Photo and video capability

All iPods on the market, except for the Shuffle, have a color LCD screen and the ability to play photos, videos, or both. The 60GB iPod Photo doesn’t have video capability, but for a small difference you can get an 80GB Classic that offers both. The 3G Nano also plays video, but many users are put off by the smaller viewing screen. For maximum viewing quality, get the iPod Touch—it comes with a 3.5-inch widescreen display and a decent storage capacity of up to 16GB.

Web surfing

This feature is unique to the iPod Touch. The first (and so far only) iPod to incorporate a touch screen, it allows you to browse the Web from any Wi-Fi hotspot using the built-in Safari browser and a virtual keypad. It’s not as convenient as a laptop, but it offers all the basic functionalities from web searches to downloading songs and videos. Built-in widgets take you straight to top websites such as YouTube and the iTunes Wireless Store.

Budget and value

Perhaps the best thing about the iPod is that anybody can own one. For just $79, you can get the iPod Shuffle and enjoy simple, basic audio playback. If you can spare a bit more than a hundred dollars, go for the 4GB Nano—for about $149. You get twice the storage, photo and video capacity, and a color LCD screen that lets you scroll through your playlists.