iPod nano 5th Gen. Knock-off/Clone

2015-02-09 16.03.50

Knock-off iPod nano 5th Generation Clone. Is it any good?

I have used a wide range of knock-off products, most of them are pretty much rubbish but I wanted to seriously review a knock-off product I actually liked, although it may be somewhat dated. This is a knock off iPod, being sold as ‘MP4 Player’ on eBay.  I bought these for my daughters so I could give them some musical autonomy at a decent price. I began by buying them each a cute little CD player, but quickly realized that I had no intention of buying CDs when all they wanted was a few random songs from various artists. I looked at the various options and decided on an iPod for both portability and the ability to use their existing CD player speakers via an AUX input. My daughters are young and likely to lose an iPod, which makes for a risky investment, but damn I love the style of the iPod. I love Apple technology in general, but I was hoping for a cheaper alternative to an iPod which still has the same style and doesn’t require the use of iTunes. So when I saw an iPod clone on eBay for 20$ that looked just like the wonderfully Apple designed original I decided that it would be perfect for the kids. I also bought one for myself – I mean, hell, it was only 20$, why not?

Here they are; Orange, Red and Pink. I offered my wife one as well but she quickly told me that she has an iPhone for a player and doesn’t want to waste money on some knock off that she has to lug around and will likely break when she finally wants to use it. She went on to complain about the money I waste and how her mother was right and never should have married me, bla bla bla. She prattled on for a bit but I honestly lost interest and stopped listening at that point.

Her loss I suppose…

 

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The iClones are classified as MP4 players however they actually don’t play Mp4 files, they play MP3 audio and WMV video. The box claims it is recyclable, but I have my doubts about that as well… For the most part the player accepted all my files, but some of them simply will not play and I am still at a loss to determine why. It is not the format, filename, bit rate or even the store I got them from. Whatever it is, it requires further troubleshooting on my part to determine, but be warned that it may not be 100% compatible with all your files. It is batting at about 95% success however, which is good enough for now. I’m sure I can figure it out eventually.

iTunes and loading music

Despite the fact it looks like an iPod, it doesn’t use iTunes. Once plugged into the USB of my computer, the player mounted as a disk on my desktop and I was able to drag and drop files and folders onto the device sans iTunes. You can add, edit and delete files or folders directly on the player as well, which means you can also use the device as a generic USB flash drive in addition to a Music player. Since the disk is formatted as FAT32, it works on both MacOS and Windows. It connects and charges via a 30-pin connector, just like older models of the iPhone and iPod which is great since I have plenty of these cables lying around the house, but if you don’t have any, it includes one. The battery lasts a long time, which was much better than I expected and charging the device is simple enough, turn the device ON and connect to USB or a wall outlet. One catch however is that you cannot listen to music and charge at the same time. Finally, the sound quality is pretty good – it’s subjective, so some of you will disagree with me, but as an ‘average’ music fan, the iPod played the songs loud and clear, without any obscenely skewed level of Bass or Treble. I don’t really see much of a difference from my real iPod to be honest.

When you first connect the device to the machine, you will notice some files on it already – a few rubbish songs and some firmware update files (you can grab them online if you accidentally removed them before knowing what they were). So.. the first thing I did was format the device to remove any risk of spyware that could have been on it, but to be fair, it was spyware free to the best of my knowledge. If you are like minded and are wondering if you can wipe the device safely, the answer is yes. The OS is untouchable via normal mounting and so anything on the mounted drive that you can see, you are safe to remove.

2015-02-09 16.08.22

iPod look and feel

At first glance, the clone is physically identical to an iPod Nano 5th generation. Great! That is half the reason I bought it in the first place and they did a great job stealing replicating the design. The screen is plastic, as is the track wheel, but the body is aluminum, feels great in the hand (when it is warm outside) and doesn’t feel like it will crush to pieces in my mighty manly grasp. I wouldn’t toss it around too much or keep it in a back pocket, but I have confidence in the devices ability to survive everyday use – especially if is connected to a CD player for much of its life. Not everything was perfect mind you, there is a significant amount of dust between the screen and the plastic covering. Once you see it, it can grate your nerves but most of the time you will be listening to the iPod, not watching it, so it shouldn’t really impact your experience. It may upset some people with more refined taste, but then again, why the hell are they buying a knock off iPod if they are so fancy? Go buy a Pono player and pretend you can hear the quality difference asshole! </end Pono rant>

Quality is clearly job… 12 or 13… I guess, since the orange iClone came shipped with the screen popped off. It was easy to pop back in but it was a hell of a 1st impression. Finally, the sound of the buttons as I click them is simply just too loud. It sounds like I am breaking little plastic bits over and over (I probably am). If I am going for a walk by myself, it is not so bad, but if I am at work or in a library or on a quiet bus, this thing just screams out ‘Look at the asshole clicking his iPod!’ I found the whole thing pretty embarrassing to use in public, especially after that time I stood up on the bus in rush hour and started screaming “I admit the deed! Tear up the planks – here, here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!” Then again, I have been known to be dramatic.

You may have already seen other reviews concerning this device and you may have noticed some diversity in the looks. The knock-off I got is also available in a 4, 8 and 16Gb option, which is the one I got for the girls. It comes in a variety of colours and some of them include a camera, although mine does not. Some versions of this device are slightly larger, slightly taller, some of them with a touchpad in the track wheel, (which I hear is stupidly sensitive and we are better off without it) similar to the official iPod. Some are more squared, or rounded or are designed with different materials. Mine was built, by the smell of it, with the tears from the small children who assembled it. The build quality, compared to other knock-offs is great, but is certainly not an official iPod quality. Fucking kids today… can’t commit to anything.

iPod Clone Functionality

Ok… so what does this thing actually do? For such an inexpensive little device, it can do quite a lot:

P2015-02-09 16.08.06lay video & Photos: It supports JPG photos and WMA video files only, but they look like hell since there is no anti-aliasing.

Voice Memos: It can record and playback voice memos in a WAV format, but up to a maximum of 99 memos, even if the device still has free space. You need a microphone to record them, but assuming you don’t carry a mic with you everywhere you go, plugged into some shitty mp3 player, you will likely be listening to previously recorded memos from other devices if anything at all.

FM-Radio Player: We have an FM-only radio player, so no AM talk radio, Just the FM band. You can auto scan, save favourites and even use the Japanese FM Band if necessary. And no … the Japanese FM Band does not let you listen to Japanese radio if you are in North America. Clearly it lacks the ‘reality distortion field’ powers of the original iPod.
eBook Reader: TXT files only, so no PDFs or ePub. It has an optional auto-scrolling feature but the end result is the same – Small text on a shitty screen. I can’t wait to ruin my love of reading with this thing.

2015-02-09 16.05.36

Phone book directory: Meh. You cannot create a phone directory locally on the device, just import/export an existing one. Extortion is also an option apparently.

Games: To be fair, the games are just as good as the games I had on my first Blackberry. They kill time at the bus stop, but are unlikely to engage you all that much. Then again, this is a $20 iPod clone, and not a PS4. The games include: Boxman, Tetrix, Snake, Road and Exit. Exit is probably the game I will play the most.

 Settings: We have some date and time options in here. I tried travelling back in time before I had spent the money on the iClone, but the damn thing didn’t work. In the settings there are also language options, including English, French and others that I cannot read and assume are unimportant. There are some Power off options which adjusts the sleep / auto-off time on this device, which by default is set to ‘Frustratingly fast’.  There are options to set how the device mounts when connected to a Computer: encrypted or not. Fantastic for when you are trying to hide your dirty pictures from friends and family. Finally we have options to verify and update the firmware. This is not as automatic as it sounds, since there is no internet or bluetooth connectivity on the player. You need to find the firmware, make sure it is valid for your device, unless you want to brick the thing, and copy it to the iPod and then run the update via this menu. More on the firmware later…

As explained earlier, my case for purchasing the device was really music related so it is unlikely I will actually use any feature other than the music and radio. You may find a use for them, maybe you’re a huge video fan and NEED a copy of “Howard the Duck’ with you wherever you go. Personally, I’m good without it.

Music

So, what about the music experience?

Well, it can play music, Duh. There is no internal speaker on the device, and so if you want to hear anything, get some headphones or a speaker with a generic 3.5 mm jack. There are some earphones included, but they are poop, so I recommend you avoid them. The iClone actually plays the music quite well, if you can get over the god awful interface – Remember what MP3 players were like before the iPod? Clunky, un-intuitive, full of menus and sub menus – it takes like 5 minutes to pick a song and is a health risk when walking outside since it distracts you for so damn long. Yea… it’s one of those kind of interfaces.

Originally when writing this review, I went all ‘Angry Video game nerd’ on the interface – it is incredibly unintuitive and ugly as vomit covered shit that has been left out in the sun for approximately 3 days past ‘Holy Fuck!’, however after using it for a little longer, you get used to it – Stockholm syndrome kicks in and you begin to sympathize with the interface and it is not so bad. It has a family to feed God Damnit!

2015-02-09 16.06.50

The interface is actually controlled by the firmware of the device, which for the intrepid and curious, can be hacked around with and modified since it’s an open source engine that many knock-offs develop on or simply use as is. While some versions are better than other, they are all pretty much rubbish from what I have seen, so don’t invest too much time in it. Don’t expect updating the firmware to be worth anything outside of bragging rights. As we all know, nothing gets the girls wet like hearing about how a guy managed to install Linux on a cheap knock off iPod.

User experience

I really want to talk more about the user experience, which is directly linked to the interface on this thing. Most of the time, I listen to music while walking around outside, so I have some specific rules for what I want in a music device:

  1. I want to easily skip songs. I don’t use playlists (not that this device supports them anyway) and want to skip a song quickly while the device is in my pocket.

Verdict: Pass!  I can double press the forward button or back button and skip or go back to a song.

  1. I want to control the volume without removing it from my pocket as well. Another pass – Again, I double press the middle button and then forward or back to adjust volume.
  2. If I have to change artists or genres or albums, and have to take it out of my pocket, I want to do it fast and with minimal need to look at the screen. I’d rather not get hit by a bus because I wanted to change the type of music that was playing on my iPod. Unlike the real iPod where I can quickly look through all artists A-Z, with the clone, I have to go one by one, which means fucking around with this menu while walking around will surely result in my death.

Verdict: Fail. Fuck this interface in the face.

  1. I also want the device to automatically skip to the next folder. For instance, if I am listening to Nirvana and have 10 songs in the folder, all placed in album sub-folders, once it hits the last one, I want it to go to the next folder – Let’s say it’s Soundgarden, and start playing the songs in that folder. Again, I want to avoid removing this from my pocket as much as possible.

Verdict: By default it does NOT do this, but if I set the player to ‘Repeat All’ then it functions exactly as I want. Pass!

  1. Finally, for this particular example – I wanted to give my daughters autonomy – They have to be able to use it on their own. My daughter was ok with it, but shares my frustration – especially since she is too young to read. I’ll give it a pass, but it’s not exactly a ‘top of the class’ score.

So is this iPod clone worth buying? Depends on your needs – If you are fussy, get a real iPod (or smartphone). If you are cheap and/or a knock-off nerd, it’s pretty cool and in all honesty, works much better than I ever expected. Careful where you buy it though, many retailers stole the official Apple images and it gives the impression that the interface is the same as the real iPod when it is not.  The interface you will get is a cheap, opened up, spread out and passed around software that everyone in town is using. Reminds me of a girl I know…

2015-02-09 16.06.17

Assuming anyone is still interested in MP3 players, you can find discount ones everywhere, but if you are like me and really love the Apple design, then this device may be an inexpensive way to bring Apple class into the home. Even if it doesn’t fit all your needs, you can connect them to various radios in the house and make them ‘smart radios’ to an extent.

Personally, I like the device –  this knock off allows my children the autonomy and music experience that I wanted to give them. I think it is a perfect way to give them the gift of music (insert 80s sitcom audience ‘awwwwwws’ here). That being said, I continue to use my real iPod Nano 7th generation… Take from that what you will…

This is a clone of the iPod Nano 5th generation but what about knock offs off the 6th, 7th or Shuffle? Oh yea… they are realz … yo…. Stay tuned to the site, because I pissed away more money just so I could answer that question for you.

Final thoughts

Verdict: Great Price, great value and cool to play with. Take a look at other form factors (6th or 7th generations), but ignoring them, the device is great on its own. Recommended – Just don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a real iPod.

What do you think? Assuming you need an iPod, would you save some money and get the knock off or would you only get an Apple original?  Leave a comment and let the nerd army know!

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