Review – iTunes 6 - Macenstein

Review – iTunes 6

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

Most users of iTunes 6 may need to check the “About iTunes” menu in order to verify that yes, indeed they ARE running a new version of the application. For the most part, iTunes 6 is identical to iTunes 5, with the notable addition of select video content now available through Apple’s iTunes music store. This video support is of course tied into Apple’s announcement yesterday of it’s video-capable iPods. The music store has a fairly impressive selection of content out of the box to support the player, especially since the video iPods have not yet shipped.

Initial content is being provided by ABC Television and Steve Job’s own Pixar Animation (go figure). Apple claims users will be able to buy the most recent episodes of hit ABC television shows, with most being available the next day after airing. In addition, users will be able to purchase the entire back catalogue of episodes from shows such a the mega-hits Lost and Desperate Housewives, among others. These television shows will each cost $1.99 an episode, and contain no commercials. To flush out the TV offerings, Apple is also supplying a small collection of animated shorts from Pixar, as well as over 2000 music videos. These videos and shorts will also cost $1.99, although some have already questioned whether a 3 minute music video should cost as much as a full-length TV episode.

4inkjets! Ink and Toner CartridgesPicture quality of these videos is quite good, but certainly not on par with DVDs. Full length TV episodes clock in around 200 MB or so, so there is some serious compression going on here. Apple is using the H.264 video codec for the clips sold in its store (although the video iPod can also play MPG-4 movies). The videos are really designed to play in the new iPod’s tiny 2.5 inch screen, and at that size, they look great. iTunes 6 defaults to playing the videos in the tiny window to the bottom left of the interface, where album artwork normally appears. By double clicking that window, you will then see the video play in the main window. You can then view it at normal, double, and full screen sizes. Picture quality suffers quite a bit at each size jump, but some videos will look better than others. Brightly colored content in Pixar shorts looks much better than the murky darkness of Lost episodes.

Audio quality is quite good, though not quite CD quality. If you are downloading your favorite music video in hopes of recording the audio with an application like Audio Hijack to get a free song while you’re at it, you may be disappointed. Still, we have no complaints about the audio experience.

The video content purchased through the iTunes store contains the same digital rights management scheme that the music tracks do. Each video can be played on up to 5 computers, and as many video iPods as you care to buy.

The only other noticeable changes to the music store are the new “Just For You” section, and the ability to buy and send specific music and videos as gifts. This differs from the old method of simply buying a gift certificate (which you can still buy), which would allow the user to select songs they want. Here, you give a specific album, song, or video. People like my mother, who feel gift certificates are too impersonal might like this feature.

The “Just For You” feature of the music store will be familiar to users of’s recommendations page. Here, the store builds a list of songs and videos you may be interested in buying, based on your previous purchases. While this might be a great way to discover artists you may not have heard of yet, based on my experience so far, you may need to purchase quite a bit of music before iTunes can give you results that truly match your tastes. I am not sure whether Apple’s “free downloads of the week” are included in Apple’s recommendation scheme, but I have felt obliged to download almost all of them since the music store opened. Out of those, I have liked about 4 songs enough to keep, so those other 100 or so songs may be influencing my “Just For You” section.

In conclusion, the user who has no interest in buying video content to watch on their video capable iPods will likely find nothing new to get worked up over in iTunes 6. However, for those who plan to be at their nearest Apple Store this Saturday hoping to pick up the new iPod, there is something to get excited about. And as more content becomes available, perhaps the rest of us will start running out to OUR Apple Stores as well.

As an application 8.5 out of 10
As an update 4.5 out of 10

One Response to “Review – iTunes 6”
  1. Trump's Baby says:

    I’d give it even lower as an update. iTunes has tons of little missing features that Apple needs to address before they add any new big ones. Now that itunes isn;t Mac only anymore, it needs to step up and beat all the Windows alternatives out there.

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