Gadget-fiends like ourselves recognise the end of Summer not by the reddening of the leaves or the shortening of the daylight hours, but by the annual launch of new iPods in early September.

This year it’s the Nano 5G that Apple has lavished most attention on; not that you’d notice at first glance – this svelte little fella is an identical size and shape to its predecessor.

The same, but different

Look just a little bit closer, though, and there are signs that the fifth-generation Nano is a step forward. First there’s the polished aluminium finish, which lends the nine available colours a luxurious, high-end sheen.

Then there’s the screen: subtly larger than the last generation, with a taller or wider aspect ratio depending on orientation.

Then you turn the sleek unit over and Apple’s true plans for the new Nano are revealed with the discovery of a lens and tiny microphone. That’s right, not only is this a dinky music and movie player, it’s also a dictaphone and movie maker.

Fun-but-flawed movie-making

Apple’s clearly targeting successful micro-camcorders like the Flip Mino, but it can’t quite match them for all-out quality. For a start, the placement of the lens at the bottom of the rear is problematic: it’s almost impossible to hold the player upright without blocking the lens with your fingers, and even in landscape it’s very easy for a badly behaved digit to stray into shot.

Keep your grubby mitts out of the way, though, and the Nano’s a decent video recorder. True, the 640x480 VGA resolution is low compared to something like the Flip MinoHD, and it’s not the best performer in low-light situations, but overall the Nano’s colourful and fairly detailed pictures are a pleasure.

Have your cake and eat it

Besides, the Nano’s video recorder is a bonus, an added extra; the cherry that sits on the whipped cream that in turn sits on the tasty chocolate cake.

This cake is, of course, music, and this year it’s extra chocolatey, with a slight increase in attack and detail adding to the already-accomplished, all-round delivery of the last model.

However, as before, it’s vital that you upgrade the headphones – something like Sennheiser’s CX 300-II are a great, affordable option.

Back to that tasty cake, specifically the cream, which if you hadn’t guessed, is movies. Much like music, the step up in video performance is a slight but welcome one. The wider aspect means you can watch downloaded movies in proper widescreen, and the picture is just a little sharper and more vibrant than before.

Something for everyone

So, the new nano does everything it did before, and does it a little bit better. When you also consider the other new additions, like a pedometer, voice recording, and a great sounding FM radio with live pause, as well as old qualities like great usability and software (iTunes 9.0 is the best yet), it’s easy to see what makes the Nano so lovable.

It might not be the best camcorder out there, but how many camcorders can do half of what the Nano can? Exactly.


Stuff says... 

Apple iPod Nano 5G review

Tonnes of new features plus better sound and video – the new Nano’s all gain and no pain