Sunday, November 7, 2010

Apple iPod touch Review

The iPod touch hasn't changed much over the last few years; while  there have been a number of small performance and aesthetic  improvements, the overall design and feature set have remained  unchanged. Consumers have paid no mind, of course, and despite only  receiving minor upgrades since it launched in 2007, the iPod touch has  proven to be one of the most successful models in Apple's iPod lineup.

But after three years, the iPod touch was long overdue for a significant  upgrade; and earlier this month  Apple announced the new and improved  iPod touch, which brings many of the most popular features of the new  iPhone 4 to the platform, including a powerful A4 processor, a built-in  gyroscope, a high-resolution retina display, and, at long last, built-in  cameras. With the gap between Apple's two strongest products narrower  than ever before, is there any reason to buy an iPod touch?

The answer is and has always been: to avoid expensive monthly service  fees.  As it turns out, that is more than enough reason to pique the  interest of consumers, and subsequently why the new iPod touch is the  greatest iPod to date.

If you've used an iPod touch before, seen it in stores, or even watched  an ad on TV, the new iPod touch should be plenty familiar. It looks,  feels, and functions just like every preceding model, but with a few  noteworthy improvements, which in the interest of time, we'll focus  exclusively on.

First off, let's start with the stars of the show; the built-in cameras.  Users have been clamoring for Apple to add a built-in camera to the  iPod touch for years, and now the company has added not just one, but  two cameras to device. On the front users will find a VGA camera that is  capable of both still photography and video recording, though its  primary purpose is to enable Apple's FaceTime video conferencing. The  front-facing camera has a maximum resolution of 640x480 for both still  photography and video, and a maximum framerate of 30 frames per second.  The rear camera, however, is capable of higher resolution photos and HD  video, with 1280x720 (720p) resolution videos and 960x720 photos.

While the front-facing camera is comparable to that of the iPhone 4, the  rear camera's quality for still photography is inferior in terms of  maximum resolution, coming in at roughly 1 megapixel, while the iPhone 4  is capable of taking 2592x1936 resolution images, or 5 megapixels. The  rear camera also lacks a built-in flash, limiting its functionality for  dark photography and video recording. Nevertheless, the iPod touch is  still capable of taking decent looking photos and video, and while we  wouldn't consider it a replacement to a point-and-shoot, it does provide  a nice level of supplemental functionality.

There is also the highly-touted retina display, which boasts a 960x640  LCD display and a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch. As a result, the  new iPod touch features incredibly smooth and detailed menus, game  graphics, photos, and video playback. The performance of the iPod  touch's retina display is nearly identical to that of the iPhone 4 –  incredible color range, bright, and vibrant, but lacking in one key area  – viewing angle. The iPhone 4's retina display incorporates in-plane  switching (IPS) technology, which provides it with a viewing angle of  nearly 180 degrees, the iPod touch does not. Without IPS, the iPod  touch's viewing angle is much narrower, giving the display varying  degrees of a blueish tint when not viewed head-on. While this effect is  common for most standard LCDs, as well as the previous iPod touchs, it  is somewhat of a disappointing omission. But again, costs had to be cut  somewhere in order to maintain the player's previous MSRP.

In terms of design, the iPod touch maintains the same build materials and shape as the previous model, but trims down the total thickness to just 7.2 millimeters. One of our biggest qualms with the iPod touch design of the last two generations was the stainless steel backing, which is prone to smudges and scuffs, as well as being incredibly hard to grip, and unfortunately, these issues are present in the current model as well. Of course, most users will want to place a protective case on their $229 or more investment, but without one, the iPod touch is pretty vulnerable to damage

Under the hood, Apple has given the iPod touch a nice performance boost with the A4 processor and new built-in gyroscope. While the benefits of the gyroscope are still limited due to the fact that so very few games and applications support it currently, the A4 processor makes the device slightly faster than its predecessors. Since the iPod touch runs iOS 4.1, a lot of processing power is devoted to multitasking and other new features, not to mention running the retina display; subsequently the observable speed improvements are small.

At the unveiling of the iPod touch, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that the iPod touch has surpassed both Nintendo and Sony as the highest selling mobile gaming platform, and with the new hardware improvements like the A4 processor, retina display, and gyroscope, the latest model is uniquely prepared to take on richer, more complex games; like the type promised by Epic's The Citadel. If you're into iPod touch gaming, the latest model may be a worthy upgrade for gaming applications alone.

But there is also FaceTime, which could appeal to social butterflies on-the-go. For those unfamiliar, FaceTime is Apple's proprietary mobile video conferencing app, which allows iPhone 4 and now iPod touch users to video chat with one another over a Wi-Fi connection using the built-in cameras. The iPod touch version of FaceTime is much like the iPhone 4's, save for the fact that instead of being tied to a phone number its linked to your email address. FaceTime on the iPod touch works with other iPod touchs, as well as the iPhone 4, which turns it into a video phone of sorts, though constrained by the availability of Wi-Fi. When paired with apps like Skype and mobile hotspot technology from providers like Sprint and Verizon, the iPod touch could actually be a powerful communication tool.

But the iPod touch isn't without significant faults, the most glaring of which is pricing. Apple has maintained the core pricing and storage capacity structure with the new iPod touch, with the 8GB base model featuring an MSRP of $229, the 32GB model for $299, and the 64GB model at $399. The iPod touch is hardly a cheap endeavor, especially if you want a reasonable amount of storage space. There is a huge gap in storage capacity between the 8GB and 32GB model, and we expected to see Apple bump up the base model to 16GBs but maintain the same entry price. Given its expanded functionality as an HD video recorder and its ability to take photos, the measly 8GBs of storage space is certain to fill up faster. As a result, anyone who intends to use the iPod touch heavily will quickly find the 8GB model's capacity insufficient and may want to consider purchasing the $299 32GB model.

At the end of the day, the utility of the iPod touch is largely dependent on the user, but there is no questioning that it is the most full-featured, high performance iPods to date. It is too familiar to justify the marketing terms Apple generally prefers to use -- words like magical, revolutionary, etc. – but it is a pretty outstanding media player all the same.


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