Stubby. That was the first word that popped into our heads when we clapped eyes on the new iPod nano. Three seconds later, though, with the device lying seductively in our hands, we turned from sceptic to believer. It's nearly impossible not to be full of admiration for the sheer quality of the new nano display, let alone its incredible thinness. The new player is, quite simply, a gorgeous piece of technology.

The front plate sports a similar coating to the last generation of iPods, and comes in a range of colours, but the old-style metal backplate has returned to the rear.

This adds a timely sense of weight and durability to a device that's so thin you might worry about snapping it otherwise; at just 8mm thick, it's just about ready to disappear if you turn it sideways.

The new nano also sports a regular click-wheel, and on the underside there's a 30-pin dock connector, along with a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack. We had no problem connecting it to iPod speaker docks, and a plastic bezel is supplied for extra compatibility. It should be noted that this time there's no support for 3rd party video accessories.

The small screen

Let's talk about the screen first. It's amazingly bright and Apple has packed an enormous number of pixels into a tiny space - 204 per inch to be exact - with the resulting 320x240 resolution ensuring a superbly sharp image during video playback.

Of course, at two inches along the diagonal, the screen is tiny, and uncomfortable viewing for extended periods. You could watch a TV programme, but the darker sections of the episodes of Lost we tested it with were pretty difficult to make out.

To make best use of the wide, but squat, screen Apple has redesigned the iPod menu. Menu items now appear on the left, while icons and album art are displayed on the right.

We're big fans of the Ken Burns effect that pans across album art when you browse the menus, and flicking through your collection is now even easier thanks to the inclusion of iTunes' Cover Flow. True, Cover Flow loses some of its impact on the smaller screen, but it's still ridiculous amounts of fun to use.

There are new, better looking icons for everything, too, from syncing your iPod to browsing podcasts, which just gives everything a touch more class. Apple has also added the Search functionality, so now you can search for a particular picture or song by keyword.

Also new are three games: iPod Quiz, Klondike (which is Patience, as it's known on these shores) and Vortex, which you can play while listening to songs.

Memory is still a sore point for the nano range, coming in at only 4GB and 8GB flavours. That means there's probably not enough memory to carry your entire music library around with you, let alone your entire video library as well.

If you're compulsive about having absolutely everything with you, then you'll want to upgrade to the weightier iPod classic which has a stonking 160GB maximum capacity.

Mini marvel

The new iPod nano is a tough little performer. It's light, versatile and small enough to slip into any pocket you have, yet can also play video.

From our test drive with an 8GB model over several days, we'd say it's unlikely to suffer from scratches, except to the screen. When it comes to battery life, we found Apple's estimates of 24 hours of music and five hours of video to be accurate.

Whether its new stocky design will appeal as much as previous generations remains to be seen, but this is by far the best nano yet, and easily the best media player on the market at its price point.