Updating the iPod battery tests

As I mentioned in my updated review of the iPod classic the other day, iPod Software Update 1.0.1 delivers two changes to the most recent round of iPod nano and iPod classic releases. The first change is a welcome one: The revamped iPod interface is much more responsive, particularly in the case of the classic.

The second change is a little disappointing: The software update affects battery life. Specifically, our battery tests revealed that continuous audio playback on nanos and classics running the 1.0.1 update caused the music players to run out of juice faster than our initial tests of the pre-update iPods—although the final times were still more than Apple’s conservative audio playback estimates.

Another bit of good news—video playback times improved with the 1.0.1 software update. A little bit in the case of the nano, and a lot in the case of the 160GB classic.

Before we get to the final numbers, here’s a brief word on how we test. We take a fully charged iPods, press Play, and walk away until the device runs out of battery life. iPods were tested with EQ and Sound Check off. Volume was set at 50 percent, as was screen brightness. Backlighting was configured to switch off after 10 seconds. Audio files were a mix of AAC and MP3 files of varying lengths. Video tests were conducted with movies purchased from the iTunes Store, played repeatedly until the battery gave out.

8GB iPod Nano Battery Tests

Apple's estimate 8GB iPod nano, pre-update 8GB iPod nano, with 1.0.1 update
Audio playback 24:00 31:20 29:48
Video playback 5:00 5:20 5:28

All times in Hours:Minutes

As you can see, with the nano, Apple promises 24 hours of audio playback time. Our 8GB model beat that estimate by nine hours after installing the 1.0.1 update. (It played for 31 hours out of the box.) Video playback was in line with the five hours Apple posts on its specs page.

80GB iPod Classic Battery Tests

Apple's estimate 80GB iPod classic, pre-update 80GB iPod classic, with 1.0.1 update
Audio playback 30:00 41:05 38:13
Video playback 5:00 5:06 6:21

All times in Hours:Minutes

160GB iPod Classic Battery Tests

Apple's estimate 160GB iPod classic, pre-update 160GB iPod classic, with 1.0.1 update
Audio playback 40:00 59:04 52:39
Video playback 7:00 8:37 10:15

All times in Hours:Minutes

Similarly, the same things happens with the iPod classic. Both the 80GB and 160GB outperform Apple’s posted battery rating for both audio and video playback. While audio times went down after the 1.0.1 update, video playback lasted longer—topping 10 hours in the case of the 160GB classic.

If you’re considering an iPod classic or nano there’s a lot to like in their battery performance, particularly considering that the previous full-sized iPod, the fifth-generation iPod, was rated to play just 20 hours of music on a single charge and the second-generation nano, although also rated at 24 hours of audio play, managed three hours less play time than the current nano.

As for the iPod touch, our results were a mixed bag. Apple lists 22 hours of music playback and five hours of video playback. When we first tested the touch, video playback hit Apple’s estimate, but audio playback fell six hours short. The reason? We had the music player’s Wi-Fi features turned on. Turn Wi-Fi off, and the touch manages 26 hours and 15 minutes of uninterrupted audio play time.

Of course, those figures came before the iPod touch software update released Thursday. We plan to test over the weekend to see if the touch behaves similarly to the post-update nano and classic models.

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