Apple iPod touch 4th generation review
Do the new A4 processor, retina display, and cameras make the 4th gen iPod touch a must-have?
Priced at $229 (8GB), $299 (32GB) and $399 (64GB), Apple's fourth-generation iPod touch takes everything we loved about the last version and makes it better. The screen is prettier, the processor faster, the design slimmer and new features, such as an HD camcorder and Face Time video calls, But despite all of the plusses, we still have to ask: is the little do-everything box still worth the premium price tag? Is there any reason to buy an iPod touch? Read on to find out.
As far as design goes, the fourth-generation iPod touch is noticeably lighter and thinner than previous generations but still maintains a sturdy feel with curved, chromed steel backing. The curve is a little less pronounced than the second- and third-generation models, allowing it to lay flat without wobbling, but it still maintains a slimmer taper at the edges than the first-generation version.
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 iPod touch 4th generation 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.
Unsurprisingly, the iPod Touch continues its neck-and-neck, spec-to-spec race with the iPhone. Features that made headlines when they made their iPhone 4 debut have trickled over to the iPod Touch 4th generation without much fanfare, but are no less impressive. You get the same A4 processor, same three-axis gyro sensor, and an identical Retina Display, sporting an impressive 960x640-pixel resolution at a dense 326 pixels per inch. You still can't make mobile phone calls on the 4th gen iPod Touch, surf over a 3G connection or receive a GPS signal, but the gap between the Touch and the iPhone is narrower than ever.
Since the iPod touch 4th generation 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. The 4th gen iPod touch performs exactly like any other iOS device-- games didn't lag, and getting around in the OS was as painless as it is on the iPhone 4.
Adding front and rear cameras as well as a built-in microphone to the iPod touch 4th generation, were certainly a welcomed addition, as these features were not available on the previous models. But the cameras on this device aren't quite the same pair that you get on the iPhone 4. The rear camera on the device is capable of 720p video, but that means that its maximum resolution is 1280 x 720 -- and when it's used for still photos, that resolution becomes 960 x 720. Obviously this is not the same lens or sensor as the iPhone 4.
The camera is also fixed-focus rather than auto-focus, which means that tapping on the screen, has no discernible result except for altering the white balance and exposure. And while it lacks a built-in flash like the iPhone 4, the recordings are quite respectable in even less than ideal lighting conditions. Since this is the first iPod touch model to feature a camera we can certainly expect Apple to improve this in the fifth gen iPod touch.
The iPod touch 4th generation does come equipped with Face Time, for those unfamiliar; Face Time is Apple's proprietary mobile video conferencing app, which allows iPhone 4 and now 4th gen iPod touch users to video chat with one another over a Wi-Fi connection using the built-in cameras. The iPod touch version of Face Time is much like the iPhone 4's, save for the fact that 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.
In general, the application worked as effortlessly as it does on the iPhone, though it still appears to have some freezes and breakups even on a strong WiFi connection. One thing to note about Face Time on the iPod touch 4th generation is that the volume seemed extremely low even when cranked up.
At the unveiling of the iPod touch 4th generation, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that the 4th gen 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.
Another gaming feature introduced with the fourth-generation iPod Touch is an Apple-developed app named Game Center, which comes pre-installed. The Game Center app acts as a leader board that collects your progress and achievements for all the games installed on your iPod touch 4th gen. It also displays the top scores and game rankings of your friends and facilitates wireless, multiplayer game play between your friends, or will auto match you with a random player. If you're into iPod touch gaming, the latest model may be a worthy upgrade for gaming applications alone.
Audio and Video
Video and audio quality for the 4th generation iPod Touch is just fine, and right in line with previous models. Apple could always do better on this front by offering custom EQ or a suite of audio enhancement settings beyond the stock EQ presets, but we're not holding our breath. Provided that you upgrade your headphones from the universally loathed stock-white ear buds that come included, you should be able to coax a great audio experience from the iPod Touch. However, if you're planning on using the external speaker for listening, you might want to reconsider. 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.
File support remains similar to past models. For audio, supported codec include AAC (protected and unprotected), HE-AAC, MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible, Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV. Still no FLAC, which is still a bummer for audiophiles. For video, the player can handle H.264 up to 720p30, MPEG-4 up to 640 by 480 at 30fps, and motion JPEG. Also, if you use the Dock Connector to VGA Adapter (not included), you can play 1024 by 268 H.264 files. JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, PSD (Mac only) and PNG photo files are supported. The touch integrates Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, though 802.11n only operates on the 2.4GHz band. Nike+ iPod support is also included for those who want to use the touch to help keep in shape.
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. However, 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. And a brief hands-on with the PMP is enough to convince most that the Apple premium is worth it. $229 for the 8GB model is a step up from the iPod nano, true, but you’re getting a whole lot more potential for your money.