Apple iPod touch (2010) Review: Don’t Want an iPhone? Get This!

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“What’s the big deal? It just has cameras and that eyeball display thing, right?”

Sure, if you want to boil it down to the very basics and judge a book by its cover, then, yes, the latest iPod touch update includes nothing more than the iPhone 4’s Retina display (960×640), a front-facing and rear camera. But like any other Apple device, it’s all in the details. Think of the new iPod touch like you would a pretty girl or boy. Unlike, say, Paris Hilton (not that she’s attractive but I think you get what I’m trying to say), this one has a bit more personality.

A handful of new software and hardware features make the iPod touch the perfect alternative for anyone unwilling to stomach AT&T’s service or the iPhone 4 and its reception issues. Like previous updates to the touch, the 2010 model brings with it many of the new specs from the iPhone 4, including the retina display and dual cameras, but it also includes Apple’s A4 CPU, a built-in mic and an incredibly thin design.

Hardware

Thin is in. Words can only tell you so much, so I insist you check out the following photos to see just how thin the iPod touch is compared to the iPhone 4, BlackBerry Bold 9700 and the previous generation iPod touch. Four physical buttons reside on the device: volume up and down, power/sleep and home button. You’ll notice that the power/sleep button has switched sides and now falls in line with the iPhone.

Besides its thinness, the touch now includes a front-facing camera that’s placed smack dab in the middle, as well as a rear camera for FaceTime video chats and the occasional snapshot. As I mentioned before, the touch is capable of recording HD (720p) video at 1280×720 but when it’s switched to still photo mode, the resolution drops to 960×720. So it’s not the same rear camera you’d find on the iPhone 4. It’s also fixed-focused, which explains how Apple was able to make this touch so thin. While you would tap to focus on the iPhone 4, it seems as though tapping on the screen tweaks the exposure.

While the touch boasts Apple’s Retina display, it’s not actually the same display. When viewing both at extreme angles, the iPhone 4’s display doesn’t have the blue haze you’d find on previous iPhones. Is it a dealbreaker? It wouldn’t stop me from recommending it to anyone. If you’re looking at like a normal human being, the display is just as sharp and vibrant as the iPhone 4.

Software

The iPod touch ships with iOS 4.1 installed and with it comes Game Center and FaceTime. The only caveat to FaceTime on the touch is that all other FaceTimers must be running iOS 4.1. Because the touch doesn’t have a phone number attached to it, Apple had to work in a new protocol that would give each iPod touch its own unique identifier, which, by default, is the e-mail account attached to iTunes. You can attach other e-mail addresses, like your work or other personal addresses. For the most part everything worked swimmingly during a handful of our test FaceTime chats.

With the A4 chip, the touch flicked, swiped and multi-tasked like a champ with no noticeable hangups or lag.

Camera Performance

Comparing apples to apples, the iPod touch camera isn’t up to snuff compared to the iPhone 4. For various reasons (no flash, no AF, etc.), the camera on the iPod touch fails to impress. I’ll admit that I’m spoiled by the iPhone 4’s stellar optics but the touch isn’t a failure by any means. It’s perfect for quick snapshots and out performs a significant chunk of the iPhone 4’s competitors but you won’t be getting any large prints made from anything you take on the touch. Check out the sample images and side-by-side comparison with the iPhone 4. Both photos were taken from the same spot with the only variant being where we tapped to “focus” (“Time & Life” and the blue thing). Click to enlarge all samples.

The second set are comparisons between the iPod touch and iPhone 4 with nothing being focused on.

On the flip side, the touch’s HD video recording was actually pretty good.

After Thoughts

The nano might be “all about the music” but the touch has its sights set on being the king of the multimedia hill. It retains the attributes that made it great (mobile browser) and now includes the hardware specs (A4, dual cameras, thinness, Retina display) and features (FaceTime) that put it a baby step behind the iPhone 4. Now more than ever before is the right time to buy an iPod touch. Short of making phone calls (even though it does with Skype without a headset) or using it as your sole GPS device, the touch does just about everything and anything the iPhone 4 can but in a much smaller and tighter package.

More on Techland:
Two Minute Video: Are the New iPods and Apple TV Worth It?
Apple’s 4G iPods: The Specs Sheet

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