We really would have liked to see a higher quality shooter on the back of this device -- maybe the iPhone 4 has spoiled us, but even something like 3 megapixels wouldn't have felt out of place here. And we're pretty sure Apple could figure out a way to keep this thing thin and light in spite of it.
In our side by side shots with the iPhone 4, it's obvious that the touch's performance for still images is far below that of its big brother. For taking quick shots (which don't require tight focus), you'll be fine, but if you want to grab printer-ready pics, the touch definitely will not
be a reasonable stand-in. However, when it comes to video, the 720p performance was actually quite surprising, and the device seemed to have no problem capturing smooth HD content. See the clip below (and check the raw file here
) for a look at what kind of results it can produce.
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?
If you've used an iPhone or iPod touch with iOS 4, there will be few (if any) surprises here. The touch performs exactly like any other iOS device, though admittedly you'll probably notice faster performance if you're upgrading from an earlier model of touch. Our review unit was loaded up with 4.1, which means we had access to a non-beta Game Center, as well as some of those proximity and performance fixes Apple told us would be coming -- though without seeing 4.0 on this device, it's hard to spot the differences.
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.