Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The full iPod touch review (2010)
As found on Engadget
At Apple's last event, Steve Jobs called the iPod touch the company's "most popular iPod," and it's easy to understand why. In just a few short years, the iPhone-with-no-phone has kept in lockstep with Cupertino's halo device, benefitting from the same kind of constant hardware and software updating that has helped turned the iPhone into an iconic gadget. The touch has been right alongside the iPhone's meteoric rise in popularity, becoming the go-to second-pocket slab for millions. There are good reasons, too. Apple boasts about gaming on the device -- claiming it beats out both Nintendo's and Sony's offerings in sales... combined. While we can't concede that the device is a dedicated game console, it most definitely games. And it's still an iPod, an internet device, and a thousand other things thanks to Apple's vastly populous App Store. Now the player has once again reaped the rewards of iPhone updates, boasting a new Retina Display, the A4 CPU, two cameras which allow for FaceTime calling and 720p video recording, and all the new features of the company's latest mobile operating system, iOS 4.1. But despite all of the plusses, we still have to ask: is the little do-everything box still worth the premium price tag?
If you own the last version of the iPod touch, the design of the latest version shouldn't come as a major surprise. Instead of aping the iPhone's new glass-sandwich looks, the touch hews close to its roots with a super thin profile made up of one part glass screen and one part all-metal back. The device still bears the smudge inviting chrome rear panel, and continues the trend of shrinking the thickness as far down as possible. We thought the iPhone 4 was crazy thin, but the new touch looks like a toothpick by comparison. In our large hands, we might even argue that it's a little too small -- but it should be just right for the legion of teens and tweens that will clamor for this come holiday time.
As with earlier version, hard buttons come in the form of a single home key, a power / sleep button (finally moved to match the iPhone's placement at the top-right of the device, as opposed to the opposite side on previous versions), and two volume buttons on the left. Around back there's now a small camera lens in the upper corner of the device, while a single, VGA shooter peers out from behind the glass on the front of the player. A quick note: we had a little trouble consistently finding the sleep button when using the device -- it's a bit buried in the housing.
All told, we think it's break even in the looks department. The thinness is certainly welcome, but not a game changer. While we like the iPod touch design overall, there's nothing present in the new version that makes it significantly more lust-worthy than previous generations.
Aside from that you've got WiFi (802.11b/g/n to be exact), Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, and Nike + support built in. No GPS here, and obviously no cell radios.
We're a little confused by Apple's reluctance to add a GPS chip to these devices. Since the App Store is litered with navigation software, and this could easily take the place of a TomTom or Garmin device, it seems like a short walk to paradise for the company. The touch checks a lot of boxes on the list, but true navigation is still blank, and we can't really understand why.
As with the new nano, the touch did seem to sound a little better than previous versions, but it's not such an astounding difference that you should toss your last gen model in the garbage. Overall, playback seemed solid to us -- at least it didn't leave us wanting for quality. If you're planning on using the external speaker for listening, however, you might want to reconsider. We can't remember the last time we heard something so tinny. Of course, it's not surprising considering the size of this housing. Even though it's located in a similar spot as the iPhone 4's speaker, the volume and quality of audio it produces is not even in the same vicinity. Still, how often will you use this?
Overall, performance was silky smooth on the touch -- games didn't lag, and getting around in the OS was as painless as it is on the iPhone 4. Multitasking worked flawlessly, and for those of you using the device heavily as a media player, it makes juggling playback functions along with the other "stuff" the touch does dead simple.
The new touch does come equipped with FaceTime, though now instead of using your phone number (and SMS) to connect, it asks for your email address as an identifier. Unfortunately, only other 4.1 devices can make a connection with the touch, so we were only able to make a handful of calls. In general, the application worked as effortlessly as it does on the iPhone, though we still had some freezes and breakups even on our strong WiFi connection. Ultimately, we still see this as a side dish and not the main course for these devices. With the iPhone 4, we complained that without 3G options for FaceTime calls, the feature remains limited in use, and that's now doubly true with the touch -- unless you're carting around a MiFi, you're stuck mostly indoors (and probably at home) for these calls. One thing to note about FaceTime on the touch -- on our device the volume seemed extremely low even when cranked up (in keeping with our experience for music playback), though the New York Times' David Pogue told us his device sounded loud and clear. "Like an iPhone," he said.
As we said, Game Center is installed on the device, but no games seem to take advantage of the feature just yet. We did field a few friend requests, but all we could do was look at our list of contacts. We'll likely take a longer look at this feature when it's accessible to all iOS 4 users, but for now the most notable thing about the app is that Game Center looks nothing like any Apple product you've ever seen. That font!
Reading through this review, it should be clear that there isn't actually a whole lot to say about this device that hasn't already been said. The new touch isn't magical or revolutionary, or even unfamiliar. What it is, however, is a product without a peer; a media player that does far more than media playing. Besides the smaller screen real estate, the touch might be better compared to a tablet or netbook -- it has many of the same functions (more, in some cases). So you're not just dropping $229 (8GB), $299 (32GB), or $399 (64GB, also, ouch) on a music and video player -- you're buying into a mini-computer, a video camera, and a game system all with a massive ecosystem.
If you're already carrying around a smartphone with the above functions, maybe the iPod touch doesn't make sense, but for the legions of buyers out there who have yet to make the jump (or are stuck with an outdated handset), this device's appeal is hard to deny. Don't get us wrong, the touch isn't without faults -- the lack of GPS and a fairly low-quality still camera come to mind -- but there's nothing major here that gives us pause (and frankly, nothing else like it on the market). With the addition of HD video shooting, the new Retina Display, and a faster A4 processor, the touch has just gone from "nice to have" to nearly irresistible.
As found on Engadget