iTunes 8.1 released, first impressions

Following up the news this morning, Apple has released their iTunes 8.1 update. The download clocks in at 63.4MB, and I've downloaded it myself to try out the changes.

First and foremost, here's Apple's changelog that you'll see when you install it:

iTunes 8.1 is now faster and more responsive. You will enjoy noticeable improvements when working with large libraries, browsing the iTunes Store, preparing to sync with iPod or iPhone, and optimizing photos for syncing.

In addition, iTunes 8.1 provides many other improvements and bug fixes, including:

- Supports syncing with iPod shuffle (3rd generation)
- Allows friends to request songs for iTunes DJ
- Adds Genius sidebar for your Movies and TV Shows
- Improves performance when downloading iTunes Plus songs
- Provides AutoFill for manually managed iPods
- Allows CDs to be imported at the same sound quality as iTunes Plus
- Includes many accessibility improvements
- Allows iTunes U and the iTunes Store to be disabled separately using Parental Controls

First impressions:

First of all, I tried out syncing a movie to see if there were any speed changes there. Before the update, I put a 1.18GB movie onto my iPod touch, which took bang on 3 minutes. I removed the movie, and installed my iTunes 8.1 update. After that was done, I installed the same movie, which took 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Not a bad speed increase, and it'll add up when putting on a whole range of content.

The iTunes Store, to me, didn't feel much faster. iTunes itself felt faster moving between Music, Movies and TV Shows, but the iTunes Store felt the same. Maybe it'll take a bit more testing, but I looked around quite a bit, as well as closing iTunes once and reopening it to test again. Your mileage may vary, but that's what I found at least.

(Note: I'm on Mac OS X, so my speeds will most likely be different to those using Windows. I haven't had the chance to test it yet, but I'm sure the comments will indicate what it's like.)

One cool feature I thought was iTunes DJ (Party Shuffle, just renamed). It's called this because this morning's Remote (for iPhone/iPod touch) application update allows you to request songs while iTunes DJ is running. That's pretty handy, if you ask me. I decided to give this a try, and discovered a small niggle; your iPhone or iPod touch has to have their Remote app paired with iTunes. So, that would either make for a very awkward beginning to a party, or people would have to request you to request a song. It'd be nice if you could anonymously request a song, providing you know the person's iTunes library name, but that could bring problems if there are people next door with an iPhone or iPod touch.

Those are my initial impressions, and if you care to download iTunes yourself, you can do so below or use Apple's Software Update.

Download: iTunes 8.1 Download

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