Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/21/review_media_player_apple_ipod_touch_4g/

Apple iPod Touch 4G

iPhone lite

By Stephen Dean

Posted in Hardware, 21st September 2010 07:00 GMT

Review The rumour mill was flying thick and fast last year with speculation that the new third-generation version of the iPod Touch would include a camera for the first time. However, the model unveiled featured a faster processor but no camera, leaving the Apple faithful feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

Apple iPod Touch 4G

Apple's iPod Touch: includes a front facing camera for FaceTime chat

However, Apple did at least cut the price of the 3rd generation model and Steve Jobs stated that Apple’s main priority with that model had been to keep the price down in order to exploit the iPod Touch’s new-found status as a hot gaming gadget.

This year’s update is a more ambitious affair, though, as the new 4th generation iPod Touch includes a camera as well as a number of other important new features. In fact, about the only things that haven’t changed are Apple’s little white earphones and the par-for-the course iPod audio quality.

The first thing you notice is that the new model is slimmer than its predecessor, measuring a mere 7.2mm thick. The edges are also more tapered, enhancing the streamlined appearance. Battery life has increased though, with Apple now claiming 40 hours for music playback and seven hours for video – up from 30 hours and six hours for the previous model.

Turn it on and you’ll see that the iPod Touch now sports the same high-resolution Retina display as the iPhone. The increased resolution produces smoother text display than on the previous model, while the improved contrast results in crisper blacks.

Apple iPod Touch 4G

Also offers 720p video recording

But while the screen of the iPod Touch has the same 960 x 640 resolution as that of the iPhone, it lacks the IPS (in-plane switching) of the iPhone screen. As a result, the iPod Touch screen is just a little darker and has a slightly more limited viewing angle than the iPhone. However, that’s probably only going to be a problem for people who try to peer at the screen over your shoulder on the tube.

Photo Finish

The processor has been upgraded once again, this time using the A4 processor that is now standard in all of Apple’s iOS devices. Watching the 3D graphics of something like Epic’s Citadel demo on the iPod Touch is remarkable, and throws down the 3D gauntlet to gaming rivals such as the PSP and Nintendo DS. There’s a gyroscope as well, which will provide more accurate control for games, and with the new Game Centre feature included in iOS 4.1 the iPod Touch can move into multiplayer gaming as well.

Apple iPod Touch 4G

The retina display and the A4 chip enhance gameplay

And, of course, the long awaited camera finally makes its appearance, with 720p video recording just like the iPhone. However it only takes stills at 960 x 720 resolution, whereas the iPhone shoots stills at 5MP resolution. The iPod Touch also lacks the flash and HDR option (high dynamic range) of the iPhone too, so the camera clearly isn’t the same league as that of the iPhone.

Sample Shots

iPod Touch and iPhone 4 image comparison

Apple iPod Touch 4G

iPod Touch
Click for a full-resolution image

Apple iPod Touch 4G

iPhone 4
Click for a full-resolution image

The iPod Touch also gets a front-facing VGA-resolution camera too, along with a new FaceTime app that allows you to use the iPod for video-conferencing. I had a little trouble setting this up at first, though. The iPhone simply requires you to dial the telephone number of the person to you want get Facey with.

Apple iPod Touch 4G

Using Facetime on the iPod Touch requires you to set up an Apple ID and also to have the e-mail address of the person you want to contact (and for them to have that e-mail account set up on their own iPhone or iPod Touch). Now, that ought to be straightforward enough, but there are three different apps on the iPod that can be used to enter your e-mail details – the FaceTime app, Mail and Contacts – and the procedure isn’t that well explained.

Apple iPod Touch 4G

Earbud headphones and the sonic performance remain the same as ever

The problem appears to be that, even though you can enter in your e-mail into FaceTime, there is an initial verification process required, so you need to be sure you’ve configured the mail client on the iPod Touch too. I ended up searching around on Apple’s web site for a PDF manual before I could get everything set up properly. Once that was done the FaceTime option worked very well, and I can imagine kids going crazy with it – perhaps even switching from texting to ‘facing’ with their friends.

The only disappointment is the almost inevitable price rise. This model reverses last year’s price cuts, with the cheapest 8GB model rising from £149 to £189, while the 32GB and 64GB models go up to £249 and £329 respectively. I’ve seen quite a few pre-teen kids with iPod Touches that their parents bought them last Christmas, but I have to wonder how many of those parents would spring almost £200 for this year’s model.

Verdict

The iPod Touch is an amazingly versatile little gadget, and the improved performance of this model enhances its gaming credentials, while the FaceTime technology will appeal to adults and youngsters alike. The stills camera is unspectacular, but having HD video recording with all these other features suggests that potential Flip or Bloggie buyers will expect to see some significant price changes on these models to sway them from the iPod Touch. That said, the increased prices will probably deter some potential buyers just after a media player, but Apple’s recent track record suggests that it has another hit on its hands. ®

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