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Oct 31, 2012

iPod Touch Review – 5th Generation

by Stephen Ashby

Our full, hands-on review of the new iPod Touch 5th Generation – can the 4-inch screen and thinner, lighter design impress?

iPod Touch Review - 5th Generation

 

Learn more… • apple.com/ipod-touch

Available from… • www.store.apple.com

Price: • £249/$229 (32 GB) • £329/$399 (64 GB)

Released just five years after the device was originally introduced back in 2007, Apple’s 5th-generation iPod touch has had perhaps the most dramatic overhaul seen to date.

Gone is the sleek glass and silver aluminium finish, gone is the 3.5-inch screen and gone is the average-at-best camera. In their stead, you’ll find a new design, a range of colours, a drastically improved camera and an iPod touch that stubbornly refused to be upstaged during its joint release alongside the iPhone 5.

First impressions count, and this iPod touch certainly knows how to make them. For starters, it’s a lot lighter than its predecessors – 1.1mm thinner and 13 grams lighter, to be precise. While it might not sound like much, it makes all the difference.
It feels impossibly light in the hand and its svelte form factor makes it super-easy to grip and even easier to reach the top of the four-inch display with your index finger – more so than the iPhone 5, which is the only other device in Apple’s range of products to sport this taller screen.

Size and weight aside, there’s no denying that the iPod touch’s new coloured aluminium shells are incredibly striking. Available in black & slate, white & silver, pink, yellow, blue and (PRODUCT)RED, it’s a bold departure from the simple black and white colour options available in the past and a move that will divide opinion between those who prefer the classic stylings of previous models and those who see them as a more fun device. The saving grace is that the colours on offer are incredibly vibrant thanks to a chemical process that bonds them to the surface of the aluminium as opposed to using paint. It’s just one of the many ways in which Apple continues to excel itself as far as build quality and advanced manufacturing techniques go.

Despite this, there are still a few elements of the iPod touch’s build that we find a bit irksome; the protruding camera lens (presumably there to allow for the svelte form factor) does look a little odd compared to the camera on the iPhone 5 which sits perfectly flush. If nothing else, it could present a hurdle for third-party case and accessory manufacturers. Perhaps the biggest gripe we have here, though, is with the included iPod touch loop – intended as a way to help you take better photographs with your device, keep hold of it when you’re pocketless or simply to help prevent drops or slips. It feels a little on the cheap side and a bit of an afterthought. We’d have much preferred to see this made of silicone or a similar, more substantial material.

iPod Touch Review - 5th Generation
The iPod Touch Loop is less sturdy than we would like

To its credit, however, the mechanism that allows you to attach the loop to the iPod touch itself is a triumph of engineering, sitting flush with the iPod’s casing. A simple push will reveal the attachment, which rises up in a fluid and pleasing movement. It’s quite an odd sight to see something mechanical on such an advanced piece of technology, and yet it feels right at home.

If there’s one thing that Apple has set out to do with this iteration of the iPod touch, it’s to prove that it’s a serious contender against the point-and-shoot camera. It has ramped up the specs of the iPod touch’s camera this time round – combining the five-megapixel sensor of the iPhone 4 and the five-element lens and f/2.4 aperture of the iPhone 4S. It would have been nice to see the iPhone 5’s stellar camera show up here as well, but it’s understandable, given the space and cost restrictions, that Apple has opted for a slightly less singing-and-dancing offering here.

Despite being that bit less advanced, the iPod touch’s camera holds up pretty well. Unsurprisingly, the quality is akin to that of the iPhone 4, but some clever technical wizardry in the form of the in-cell technology in the iPod touch’s display leave images feeling that tad more vibrant. In low light, the camera is almost completely reliant on the built-in LED flash but, again, this performs admirably. Specs alone may not lead you to throw away your point-and-shoot, however 1080p video recording and Panorama mode make for an attractive package. Combine this with the loop and you’ve got yourself a fairly capable portable camera that’s convenient enough to keep on your person at all times.

The similarities between the iPod touch and iPhone 4S don’t stop at the camera either – they also share the same Apple A5 chip. The result is that, day to day, the 5th-gen iPod touch runs incredibly smoothly. iOS 6, the device’s operating system, is as snappy on this as it is on the iPhone 5 and multitasking between games and internet browsing is beautifully smooth. We did feel the back of the iPod heating up a little when we were running some particularly intensive tasks (ie downloading songs from iTunes Match, downloading apps and playing graphics-intensive games simultaneously); it’s nothing to be concerned about – not by a long way – but it was certainly noticeable.

As far as usage goes, though, the real star of the show here is the gorgeous four-inch display. Utilising the same technology as the iPhone 5, the iPod touch’s screen is a good deal more vibrant and the 16:9 aspect ratio makes it perfect for watching films. Whereas before it might have felt a little too small, it now seems a natural choice to catch up with your favourite TV programmes during the commute to work, or to load with a few movies for a long-haul flight. Even the built-in speaker goes a long way to help this cause; while it might not be the most powerful speaker in the world, we found it to be relatively clear for YouTube videos and only slightly muddy when it came to certain types of music, such as folk.

iPod Touch Review - 5th Generation
The iPod Touch is now available in a range of colours for the first time

As well as the display, the 5th-gen iPod touch also shares the new Lightning connection for syncing and charging. This update in technology presents just as many disadvantages as it does advantages. On the one hand, accessories like speaker docks will require a somewhat pricey adaptor in order for you to hook up your new iPod touch to them, but on the other, charging and syncing is far faster than ever before. In around 30 minutes of being plugged in, our iPod touch’s battery went from totally flat to around 70-75 per cent charged, even though we were playing games and downloading music during the charging process – it’s impressive stuff, to say the least, and it means that you’ll never be waiting too long to top up the battery again.

It’s almost a crime to get this far through the review without mentioning the music, but in the grand scheme of things there really is nothing to report in the way of change here. Everything sounds just as good on the new iPod touch as it does on previous iterations – the only major change being the new EarPods (which we’ve reviewed on page 118).

Truth be told, Apple’s refinements to the iPod touch over the last five years have left us with a stellar, all-round entertainment device. Covering everything from music to movies and apps to web browsing, the new iPod touch is a great little purchase – even at its lofty asking price.

Verdict:

iPod Touch Review - 5th Generation

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