Apple iPod Classic 160GB review

Alan Lu
13 Nov 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

It has plenty of storage and excellent battery life, but niggling audio quality issues prevent it getting an unqualified recommendation.


Other manufacturers appear to have given up on hard disk-based MP3 players, but not Apple. The latest iPod Classic has a huge 160GB capacity, yet it's no thicker than three £1 coins thanks to its single-platter 1.8in hard disk.

You might think the iPod Classic would have a shorter battery life than flash-based players, but it has one of the best battery lives around we've seen. It lasted an astonishing 43 hours and 14 minutes playing music and nearly nine hours when playing video.

Like other iPods, the Classic can play only MPEG4 and H.264 video files. Both looked bright and sharp on the 2?in screen. There are plenty of free and low-cost video-encoding applications with pre-programmed settings tailored for the Classic. You'll want to use them, too, as iTunes can be laboriously slow at re-encoding incompatible videos.

This model is almost identical to the previous 120GB Classic. Disappointingly, it doesn't have an FM radio like the latest Nano.

Previous hard disk-based iPods have suffered from distortion, especially at the high end when boosting bass using the equaliser. Sadly, this Classic suffers from the same problem, albeit to a lesser extent than previous models. The problem is most clearly apparent on heavily compressed AAC files.

For the best possible audio quality you'll need to invest in a quality set of earphones. The included set sound muddy and weak and will need to be replaced with a better-sounding set as soon as possible. Like all other current iPods, with the exception of the screen-less Shuffle, the Classic can recommend tracks in your music library that would go well with the track you're listening to. This feature, called Genius, depends on iTunes on your computer analysing your music library first, but is useful.

The 160GB iPod Classic has excellent battery life and is the only choice if you want to carry a huge music library around with you. It's disappointing that Apple hasn't completely fixed the audio distortion issues, but if you can live with less than perfect audio quality then the iPod Classic is a good player.


Headphone Rating**


Formatted capacity149.00GB
Storage medium1.8in hard disk
Battery and charge optionsLi-ion, USB


Device has screen?Yes
Viewable size2.5 in
Native resolution320x240
Memory card supportnone
FM Radiono
Audio record optionsline-in
Video record optionsnone
Supplied withheadphones, USB adapter, dock adapter

Test Results

Tested battery life (MP3 playback)43h 14m
Tested battery life (Video playback)8h 49m
500MB transfer time29s
Audio MP3 playbackYes
Audio WMA playbackNo
Audio WMA-DRM playbackNo
Audio AAC playbackYes
Audio Protected AAC playbackYes
Audio OGG playbackNo
Audio WAV playbackYes
Audio Audible playbackYes
Image BMP supportYes
Image JPEG supportYes
Image TIFF supportYes
Video MPEG-4 AVI playbackNo
Video MPEG-4 MP4 playbackYes
Video WMV playbackNo
Video MPEG-1 playbackNo
Video MPEG-2 playbackNo
Video MPEG-2 VOB playbackNo
Video MPEG-4 DivX/XviD supportNo
Video H.264 supportYes
Video MPEG-4 MP3 audio supportNo
Video MPEG-4 AAC audio supportYes
Download compatibilityiTunes

Buying Information

Price per MB0.1p
Warrantyone year RTB or customer carry in

Read more