I originally selected the 30Gb model, because it’s so incredibly slim and sexy. But then I got nervous that it wouldn’t be enough once I started loading videos onto it, and then I read that the 60Gb model has 20 hours of battery life as opposed to the 30Gb’s 14.
Finally, I noticed that my iPod screen had developed a very minor but very noticeable scratch (warning - the screen is VERY “soft” and scratches easily. Perhaps no more easily than screens on the old non-Photo models, but here the scratches are much more noticeable, the tiniest scratch resulting in the appearance of the pixels beneath the scratch being somehow “smeared” and distorted).
This was the final straw, so I took my 30Gb back to the Apple Store and asked them to replace it because of the defective screen, and upgrade it to the 60Mb model while they were at it. After squinting at me Larry David-style for a few seconds to discern if I was up to something, the cashier did a straight exchange. Yay.
Since then I’ve been burning like a mo-fo. Using Handbrake freeware I’ve burned episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Firefly and various other shows to the iPod, along with Napoleon Dynamite, with more movies to come. I’ve also transferred over some photos which look GREAT on the little LCD screen.
Handbrake is a great little program, it seems to burn almost anything that’s Region 1 (still need to figure out how to burn multi-region), the only slight quirk so far seems to be that when burning from a TV DVD with multiple episode chapters, not all the chapters always show up in the menu. Odd.
(One thing I’ve learned is that you DON’T need to spend twice as long doing two-pass encoding, contrary to the online tutorial. I tried both, and whatever difference in video quality exists between single-pass and dual-pass encoding is lost on me. Both look great.)
So far I still haven’t found a simple anything-to-MP4 file transcoder on the Mac and for some strange reason my iPod doesn’t like my PC, so I’ve been using the extremely intuitive and fast Videora iPod Decoder (basically PSPVideo9 for iPod) to create MP4s on my Windows PC, then copying them over the network onto my PowerBook and putting them on the iPod from there. Works fine. The only thing it won’t do is transcode from a .WMV source, which apparently is pure codec hell.
Ripping DVDs using Handbrake is a fairly slow process (Napoleon Dynamite, a 90-minute movie, took about two hours) but the video results are great. And if you don’t mind a bit of stretching, any widescreen movies you have can be made to fit the iPod’s 4:3 screen without black bars, by unclicking the “keep aspect ratio” mode in Handbrake’s picture settings and manually resizing the image to 320x240. I tried this with Star Wars: Clone Wars, and it looked fine. It’s definitely preferable to the letterboxed image (which looks tiny on the iPod’s screen) or the firmware’s non-letterbox mode, which zooms you into the widescreen image with unpredictable results.
My only minor quibbles are with the scratchability of the screen (the first protective skins and screenguards for the 5G models are already hitting the market, and I aim to get one ASAP) and the fact that my 60Gb 5G doesn’t fit with my old 20Gb 4G dock, so I need to get the new Universal Dock.
So far, however, I love this thing, and it’s hard to imagine ever wanting to go back to using the PSP for video. The Sony screen may be bigger and widescreen, but the iPod’s massive storage capacity and excellent video quality for the size make it the clear winner for me.