Date: September 20, 2006
Article by: Mike Carter (Hardware Reviewer)
Edited by: Nathan Glentworth (Owner / Head Editor)
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PICTORAL AND WALKTHROUGH
Below the mini-browser you'll find the list of songs. Again, this is highly configurable, with up to 29 different details. These include the year of the CD, the track number, time, date last played, and even the bitrate of the song.
To the left is the control window, for lack of a better term. As iTunes has grown, more has been added. In iTunes 7, you now have options for your music library, the iTunes store, and a playlist menu.
As with any good media player, iTunes allows you to create playlists. Of all the players I've used, though, iTunes has the easiest method. Simply create a new playlist, then browse around for the songs you want. Click and drag them onto the playlist name, and you're done.
Of course, Apple includes a “mini player”, but it's too sparse to really be usable. The simple addition of a “load file” button would make it more useful.
Now, let's get into the deeper areas of iTunes. Apple has included several features which seperates them from the pack.
One is the conversion utility. iTunes has a built-in transcoder, which is capable of ripping your CD to AAC, AIFF, WAV, and any quality of MP3 you choose. The obvious lacks here are FLAC and WMP support, but since FLAC is open source, and WMP is Apple's direct competitor, the absence isn't surprising. To my ears, though, the Apple Lossless encoding is the closest to CD as you can get, barring pure WAV files. This is the one area Apple still rules the roost in: audio quality. Importing a CD is quick and easy. Drop your CD into your drive, select the Audio CD playlist, and click the button labeled “Import CD”. iTunes will rip the CD to your chosen format, and place it in a folder with the artist name and a CD subfolder, also with the name, if the CD has CD Text included. Older CD's will simply rip as “Unknown Artist” and “Unknown Name”.
The second area where iTunes takes the lead is CD burning. Again, it's painless. Select the songs you want, add them to a playlist, and select “burn to CD”. Conversion to CDA format and burning is automated, and is done without the aid of an outside program.
The third part of iTunes is not the newest, but is one of the more newsworthy- the iTunes Store. In iTunes 6, this was simply an access portal to legally buy and download music, at a set price. With iTunes 7, Apple has also integrated TV shows and a steadily growing movie store. Prices are reasonable, and the selection is pretty good, but it doesn't cover all movies and music- only a selected group of recording houses and movie studios participate in iTunes.
Of course, there are drawbacks to using the iTunes store, the most notable being the DRM restrictions. Apple, however, is more lenient than others, allowing you to put your purchased music on up to 5 computers at any one time. Support in restoring your purchased music if it is lost in a system failure is also provided.
With all the good stuff here (and I've only touched on parts, there's a lot more than can be easily reviewed in a short article), what's not to like?
Aside from the bug I mentioned earlier, there's a few things Apple could do to improve iTunes.
Changing the tags on a file are easily done, but they are not permanent. Unlike a true tag editor, any changes you make to a file tag exist only within iTunes, so if you have an older CD that was ripped as an “Unknown Artist”, you must make the changes on each computer that music is present on, and it reverts if you have to reload iTunes after a reformat. Considering MP4/AAC tag editors are nearly impossible to find, Apple really needs to rectify this, and make tag changes permanent.
And, while Apple's DRM is lenient, I'm still not a fan of it, and I'm even less of a fan of the restriction of only allowing iPods to access iTunes. C'mon, Apple. Allow us non-iPod users to use your player with other brands.
Apple has also chosen a rather draconian scheme for the Movie Store: while you pay $15 USD for a movie, you cannot burn it to a DVD to watch on your home TV. It will only play on your computer- backup of your purchased movie is data only. I find that unacceptable. If I have paid for a download, I expect the right to be able to burn it, at least once, for use in a regular DVD player.
The last is Apple's refusal to accept any form of video playback other than Quicktime. C'mon, guys. While Apple's audio codecs are among the best in the business, Quicktime is definitely far behind other video codecs.