The surprisingly watchable iPod nano

I admit that when I heard that the new iPod nanos had bigger screens, I silently scoffed: Bigger than the previous generation, sure, but big enough to watch videos or movies? Surely not.

While I’ve owned video-capable iPods for almost as long as Apple’s been making them, I’ve never really used them for anything but music. I don’t watch that much TV, so I don’t feel compelled to catch up on anything during my evening commute. And I’m snobby enough that I see no point in watching a movie on such a small screen.

Still, when I took one of our iPod nanos home last weekend for a test-drive, I loaded it up with a couple of episodes from Ken Burns’ Jazz series to see how they looked. Just out of professional curiosity, of course.

Imagine my surprise when I spent most of Friday evening watching Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Thelonius Monk. Sure, I had to squint occasionally to see what was going on. But the nano’s 2-inch screen was surprisingly watchable, even to my rapidly waning 46-year old eyes. The show’s gorgeous black-and-white photographs of New York in the 1950s came through, nice and moody, and the talking heads explaining the bebop revolution were clearly human. I watched the thing for an hour and a half and was still able to focus my eyes enough to read a bit afterwards.

I’m not the only one around here who’s been pleasantly surprised; Dan Frakes, who’s putting the finishing touches on his review of the nano, feels the same way. If you’ve been skeptical about the nano as a video viewer, you should check one out in real life and see for yourself.

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