Photos are light-years beyond those captured by the previous touch, meaning this does indeed do a reasonably good job as a compact camera.
It's the 5-megapixel setup on the back that's the star of the show. No, it isn't as nice as the new 8-megapixel module on the iPhone 5, but the new iPod does match the performance of the iPhone 4S in most regards, which is to say it takes some great stills. Photos are light-years beyond those captured by the previous touch, meaning this does indeed do a reasonably good job as a compact camera. They don't live up to the photos on the 5, and indeed in lower light you'll see a good amount of noise, so serious photogs will still want to lug along something with a bit more horsepower. But, for more casual holiday snaps, the touch does a respectable job.
It also captures compelling video at 1080p, though the video stabilization here doesn't seem nearly as good as that on the iPhone 5. Trying to walk while filming, a situation handled commendably by the 5, creates a jittery mess here. You'll want to practice those deep-breathing and soft-walking techniques you learned in sniper school. Additionally, you're unable to take stills while recording video, as you can on the iPhone, but overall video quality is more than acceptable.
Well, it's iOS 6, so you should know more or less what to expect here. Siri is now here, so you can get yourself some spoken-word advice from your slender PMP, and all the iCloud, Safari and other upgrades that were grafted onto the latest version of Apple's mobile OS have all come along for the ride.
There's also the new Maps, for better or for worse, but without GPS you'll be a little bit restricted in terms of what you can do with it. You can also load up third-party navigation apps like TomTom or CoPilot Live, but again they won't be much use anyway.
We stacked the new iPod touch up against a number of comparable offerings, including the fourth-generation touch, the new iPhone 5 and the new nano as well. We also lined up three sets of headphones, starting with Apple's own EarPods, which we put through the paces and found to be perfectly adequate. We also went a little higher-end with a set of Klipsch S4i buds and, finally, some Sennheiser HD555 cans. The new touch performed well with all, not noticeably better or worse than its predecessor. The internal speaker, meanwhile, is predictably weak, again performing about as well (or, rather, as poorly) as that on the previous touch. You can hear it, but you certainly won't want to use it for much.
As an upgrade, the fifth-generation iPod touch hits all the right marks. It's thinner and lighter despite packing a bigger and (far) better screen. It's faster despite having better battery life, its pair of cameras are markedly better than those found in the previous touch and its new matte aluminum exterior certainly seems like it will prove rather more durable in the long-run -- though time shall tell on that front.
That the new touch is rocking Apple's new Lightning connector will be a drawback for those with legacy docks and the like, but this is clearly the path the company is taking going forward, and there's not a lot of sugar we can put on that pill. The iPod touch is a comprehensively better package than the previous-gen unit but, at $299 to start, it certainly doesn't come cheap. If you're reasonably content with your fourth-gen this is probably not worth the upgrade, but if you have an older iPod that's ready for retirement, or are indeed just jumping on the iOS bandwagon for the first time and are happy with your current phone, this is a great place to start.