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iTunes 8

Scott McNulty | Sept. 15, 2008
It is clear that with iTunes 8 Apple is hoping you'll find even fewer reasons to venture outside of the iTunes/iPod ecosystem for your music and video needs.

The Genius Sidebar does have some limitations. It has a propensity to recommend songs and albums I already own (purchased from Amazon MP3 or ripped from CD). It has trouble basing recommendations on more obscure titles (though when recommendations can't be found, the sidebar displays a list of top sellers in iTunes, so you can still spend some money if you are so inclined). Genius does take some time to analyze your library when you launch iTunes 8. It took 28 minutes to analyze my library which contains 35.50 GB of data (7,774 items), though you can still use iTunes to listen to music or watch videos as Genius is analyzing your library and then talking to the cloud.

Other new features

The new features in iTunes 8 don't end there. HD TV shows have been added to the iTunes Store at US$2.99 a pop from a limited number of networks at the moment. (There are a total of 17 shows from ABC, NBC, and Showtime available for purchase as this review was posted.) The shows look very good at their native resolution of 1,280 by 720, which translates to 720p, though when viewed on a larger television or computer screen, the picture does look a little soft. That said, HD shows look much better than their standard definition siblings.

Sadly, you can't watch the HD files with your iPod or iPhone, but the $2.99 includes both the HD and standard definition versions of the episode. Be careful, though, because file sizes can add up quickly. I downloaded an HD episode of Battlestar Galactica, and both files took up nearly 2GB of disk space.

Another thing to be aware of, as reported in our iTunes 8 first look, is a bug in iTunes 8. If you have "Buy using a Shopping Cart" enabled the iTunes store allow you to add HD episodes to your cart, but when you purchase the episode only the standard definition file is downloaded to your Mac; "Buy and download using 1-Click" works like a charm.

iTunes 8 also gives you more control over podcast settings. Prior to version 8, iTunes would deal with podcasts as a large blob; settings applied to all the podcasts you subscribed to, so you couldn't keep episodes of, say, PodRunner longer than episodes of the Macworld podcast. You can now customize download frequency and retention settings for each individual podcast, in addition to setting a global default.

Finally, iTunes 8 includes new stunning visualizers. I recall sitting for hours watching the visualizer when iTunes was first introduced, and the new visualizes blow the previous iterations out of the water in terms of quality and wow factor. They played back smoothly on my 2.16GHz Core Duo MacBook Pro with 2GB of RAM. In fact, iTunes 8's interface as a whole was snappy on my Mac, though using my 35GB library, I didn't note any major speed enhancements compared to iTunes 7 during normal operations.


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