The nano takes the plaudits for the most adventurous iPod update, but the new-look touch certainly runs it a very close second. Cast your eye over it briefly and it doesn’t look as if much has changed over the previous version. It’s still largely the same form factor, with the same-sized 3.5in screen, curved corners and shiny chrome rear.
It’s lost a little weight and has been slimmed down a little, measuring 7.2mm deep and weighing a mere 101g.On the surface, these changes aren’t particularly dramatic – more cosmetic.
The maximum capacity hasn’t been boosted, and the prices are still high. Available in three sizes, the touch costs $289 for the 8GB, $378 for the 32GB, $499 for the 64GB.
Take a closer look, however, and you’ll notice plenty of impressive and serious new features. The most obvious are two small camera lenses, one on the rear and one on the front. The former enables HD video recording at 1280 x 720 and 30fps. Don’t expect miracles of cinematography, though: footage isn’t nearly as punchy or crisp as that produced by the iPhone 4, and it’s noisy in low light.
Oddly, still photos can be captured only at 960 x 720, and the resulting shots are rather surprisingly flat, lifeless and grainy.The front-facing VGA camera is more than adequate for making FaceTime video calls, however. Calls to the touch can be made using a registered email address, and work as well as your internet connection will allow it too, in terms of your available bandwidth. In our tests we connected easily, but video was on the choppy side.
The key update, however, is the introduction of Apple’s Retina screen, which takes the maximum resolution from a rather outdated 480 x 320 up to a much more impressive 960 x 640. It makes reading web links and headlines while zoomed out easier than before.
Likewise, icons look crisper and cleaner, and it’s a revelation for both games and video playback – two key reasons why people stump up for a touch over any of the cheaper iPod models.
The touch’s display isn’t quite as glorious as that of the iPhone 4 – viewing angles are noticeably inferior, with colours shifting significantly when you view it off-axis – but it’s very good nonetheless. The gyroscope, light sensor and Apple’s A4 processor all make the transition from the iPhone 4 too.With iOS 4.1 on board it’s functionally similar too, but with no GPS or phone capabilities. Not every iPhone 4 app will work as well or as smoothly on the iPod touch, however, since it has only half the RAM.
Music playback is impressive, with more than enough power to drive either over-the-ear and in-ear headphones to ear-bleeding levels. If anything, sound quality is a little too crisp, and here the lack of a customisable EQ may grate on the true audiophiles who like to be able to tweak their sounds, but for the most part it’s a listenable music player.But if all you want is a serviceable music player, then the iPod touch is significant overkill.
Sadly, we’re not entirely convinced by the video and photo quality being high enough to make this a viable alternative to any other device operating in those arenas. Likewise, we’re yet to be sold on FaceTime as a video chat application, and we think the prices for the 32GB and 64GB versions should be lower. Quite a lot lower if we’re being completely honest.
But the luxurious new screen adds a great deal of weight to its already impressive all-round entertainment credentials. For people who appreciate Apple’s work on music players but aren’t necessarily keen on its range of handsets, owning one gives you many of the features of an iPhone 4 without the burden of an expensive long-term contract and the worries of mobile data charges.
If you have the cash to splash, there isn’t anything else in the music player market to rival it.