"Great device marred by HORRID software"2.5 starson by regoldman61
Pros: Light; Elegant; Great Sound
Cons: Software offensively bad; most un-Apple-like
Summary: I'm a PC-head, but have always considered Apple's products to be the pinnacle of good design and near-flawless execution. (I've used many, 'cause my better half is a Mac-based graphic designer.)
Based on the reviews, I bought a shuffle to replace my aging CD-player. Things started off happily. Installed iTunes, plugged in the iPod, and started transferrring. No need for manual. The only initial irritations (a harbinger of things to come) were that I had to put the songs in the iTunes library before I could load the iPod, and the on/off switch is too hard to operate easily and accurately. It needs some friction-inducing texture. But otherwise fine.
Went to work on the subway. Great sound. Light. Happy. But then ...
Like many, I have home & work computers. And like many, I pay for my music. Problem is that Apple's iTunes software's fundamental paradigmatic assumption is that I'm a music thief with only one computer. iTunes throws way too many roadblocks into using *my music* on *my computers*. I plug in the iPod at work, sync up, and poof. Tunes erased. And back at home, iTunes automatically "refreshes" the shuffle when I plug it back in. (Read "refreshes" as "erases the tunes that I carefully selected.")
So ... 9 for the hardware, 1 for the software, average 5.
P.S. - If, like me, you've got the hardware but despise the software, I'd highly recommend the Anapod Manager by Red Chair Software. Found it after a quick Google search. Works on most any iPod, and ESSENTIAL for the shuffle.