The first thing you'll notice about the third-generation Apple iPod nano is its 2in display. How can you not? The display occupies more than half of the device - fitting, considering that one of the big selling points of the nano is it can now play video in addition to music.
The second thing you'll notice is its new shape: the nano's long, thin stick design has been replaced by a wider, stouter design that accommodates both the generous screen and Apple's signature scroll wheel. And it delivers all this in the same impressively thin profile - about a quarter of an inch thick - as the previous nano.
The new nano impressed me more in the flesh than it did on paper. The brushed aluminum design - available in silver (4GB and 8GB), black, (Product) Red, metallic pastel blue and metallic pastel green - actually works quite well in practice. Whereas before I always found the nano unnaturally long for my taste, now I find the nano fits well in the contour of my small hand. This makes operating the player with one hand convenient and comfortable. The player remains super-lightweight at 49g, although it's slightly heavier than the second-generation model.
The nano's 2in screen represents a half-inch gain - and that half-inch makes all the difference. Now, watching video for an extended period of time is tolerable, even though the screen still strikes me as more preferable for quick-hit videos than for full-length movies.
The LED-backlit display is bright and beautiful: photos and videos looked crisp and brilliant in my hands-on experience - no surprise, given the screen's 320x240 resolution, at 204 pixels per inch. As with its bigger cousin, the iPod classic, the nano can handle still images reformatted by iTunes (you can still choose to store full-size images on the device) and 30-fps H.264-encoded video clips (see Apple's Tech Specs for more details).
Apple says the screen is 65 percent brighter than on the last nano, and that brightness pays off, for the most part. I found it easy to watch video and view the device in a bright environment. It's so bright, though, that you might want to dial the screen down a bit if you're using it in a dark room or a plane with the lights off.