We're all busy people so let's cut to the chase, shall we? Read this review of the original second-generation iPod shuffle (). I'll wait.
Done? Great. That pretty well sums up the current 1GB and 2GB iPod shuffles. Here are the two differences between the previous shuffle and the new 2GB model.
Higher capacity: When you load the thing with four-minute, 128kbps AAC tracks, Apple's claim of 500 songs is just about on the mark. I managed 505 tracks with a smart playlist configured to find 128kbps AAC files between 3:30 and 4:30, which equals 1.3 days of continuous music.
Lower price: The original 1GB second-generation iPod shuffle cost US$79. You can now have twice the capacity for $69. The 1GB iPod shuffle is now $49.
Besides the increased capacity and lower price, nothing has changed with the iPod shuffle.
And the things that remain the same that are worth repeating from the original second-generation iPod shuffle?
No Apple Lossless support: Today's iPod shuffle supports all the audio formats offered by other iPods save Apple Lossless.
Better-than-promised battery life: Apple claims that the iPod shuffle will play for up to 12 hours. In a continuous-playing test my 2GB iPod shuffle played non-stop for 17 hours and 5 minutes.
Dock required for syncing/storage: With 2GB of capacity, the dainty shuffle can act both as a music player and handy portable storage device. To use it as the latter you need the diminutive dock bundled with it. The shuffle can't be attached to your computer without it.
Same colors: Were Apple overly influenced by Pottery Barn catalogs, it might describe the five shuffle hues as iron, sky, celery, lavender, and pinot. Thankfully, Apple's not. You can pick from among sliver, blue, green, purple, and PRODUCT red iPod shuffles.
Of podcasts and audiobooks: The iPod shuffle is not the ideal destination for podcasts and audiobooks. To move these varieties of audio files to your shuffle you must select them in the iTunes Source list and drag them to the shuffle. To play them in order, you must flip the iPod's aptly-named "Shuffle/Play in Order" switch to Play in Order.
Perfectly reasonable sound: I played my 2GB iPod shuffle through a variety of headphones and speaker systems and the quality of the audio is just fine. It's not the highest-fidelity iPod I've ever owned but its output is completely listenable and if you like your music loud, the shuffle can deliver it.
Macworld's buying advice
Good capacity for the price, continued cute-as-a-button-ness, and decent sound mean this iPod remains a perfect companion for workouts and for those who enjoy shuffling their music.
[Senior editor Christopher Breen is author of The iPod and iTunes Pocket Guide, third edition (Peachpit Press, 2008).]