With technology advancing at a frighteningly quick pace — think Michael Jackson’s zombie army from Thriller — mp3 players are getting smaller, or as Apple declares, “impossibly small.” Last month, Apple announced the newest addition to the iPod family. At 1.5 ounces, the iPod nano is not only cute and pencil-thin, but also fits inside an empty pack of Orbit gum. (Say hello to the world’s cheapest iPod case). Even on a campus where it seems like everyone carries an iPod, the tiny iPod nano is sure to overshadow its predecessors.

Although the truly special aspect of Mr. and Mrs. iPod’s little newborn is its size, skeptical consumers may be quick to point out that size doesn’t matter. While that may be true in other aspects of life, the nano boasts many other impressive qualities. Presently, the nano comes in two colors: the standard white model and a sexier, more sophisticated black version (without the aesthetically-displeasing red click wheel featured on the iPod U2). The nano clocks in at 3.5″ x 1.6″ x 0.27″, making it the slimmest iPod on the mp3 scene since the iPod shuffle. Compare its saucy little figure to the hulking 60GB fifth generation iPod, coming in at 4.1″ x 2.4″ x 0.75″, and it’s easy to see the light.

Cynics may rain on the nano’s parade by pointing out that a smaller model, the iPod shuffle, debuted in January of this year. But the iPod shuffle, although tiny — weighing 0.78 ounces and measuring 3.3″ x 0.98″ x 0.33″ — has nothing on the nano. The shuffle lacks a screen, the most essential attribute of the iPod family. The nano not only has a screen, but also a brilliant ability to vividly display 176 x 132 pixels in color, passed down from fourth generation color iPods.

The nano’s color display already puts it a step ahead of the iPod mini, but there’s much more. The mini does not have a stopwatch, a photo library or the ability to play a four hour slideshow with music. The nano also comes with a feature called “Screen Lock.” This nifty little component features a combination lock, which rotates on the screen as your thumb rotates around the click wheel. Once set, Screen Lock works very much like the iPod’s hold button, preventing accidental button-pushing. The nano is unique because it can’t play music while Screen Lock is activated, assuring the safety of music (or naked pictures) from thieving fiends worldwide.

Even with its many advantages, the iPod nano has its drawbacks. Due to its size constraints, the nano can only be bought in two low-storage versions — either 4GB (1000 songs) or 2GB (500 songs). Problems with low-storage capacity are further exacerbated by the inclusion of a photo library. Although the photo library is an entertaining and convenient feature, loading photos is a tedious task, arranging them is nearly impossible and playing slide shows saps battery power.

On the other hand, a hefty 60GB iPod (15,000 songs) has about 15 hours of battery life, while the 2GB nano has 14. Simple math proves the nano is a better value: If the average CD has 18 songs and is roughly one hour long, then 14 hours of music allows for roughly 252 songs. By the same logic, 15 hours allows for possibly 270 songs. In other words, what’s more efficient: listening to half of your music or 1/56 of your music in one go?

The iPod nano is sexier, more intriguing, more efficient and cheaper — at a student-discounted $179.00 — for poor college students. Simply put, it’s better than all the other iPods, with or without screens.