Apple's iPod Touch (2010) Review, Not a Poor Man's iPhone 4by Anand Lal Shimpi on September 9, 2010 12:38 AM EST
- Posted in
- iPod Touch
Last week Apple announced a complete overhaul of its iPod lineup including a new Shuffle, a new Nano (with multitouch screen) and a new iPod Touch. While the nano looks cool, it’s pricey and honestly I haven’t been interested in a dedicated MP3 player in about a decade.
The new iPod Touch however piqued my curiousity. With many of the same specs as the iPhone 4, I wondered if the new Touch might be a neat way to get most of the functionality of the 4 without the albatross of a contract AT&T hangs around your neck.
It turns out there’s a lot more than a cellular radio that separates the new iPod Touch from the iPhone 4.
iPod Touch, The Fourth
The new Touch comes with a pair of typical Apple earbuds (the ones without a mic or remote!) and a dock cable (no wall power adapter) in a fancy new plastic case:
Apple hasn’t given the new iPod Touch the full iPhone 4 styling treatment. You get a glass front but a smudgefactory chrome back:
This is after less than a day of use
The entire device is ridiculously thin, it makes the iPhone 4 feel like a brick. It’s comfortable to hold in your hand and honestly the size I wish all smartphones were.
The buttons are also cheaper than what you get on the 4. The new iPod Touch has individual rubber volume up/down buttons on the left side and a low profile power/lock at the top.
There’s a 1/8” output jack at the bottom of the iPod Touch, but the opening is tapered so you actually leave a bit of your headphone connector exposed when it’s plugged in:
It’s not the most elegant (or engineering friendly) design, but it does work.
There’s an external speaker at the bottom of the iPod Touch, but it’s not quite as loud/bassy as what you get with the iPhone 4. It’s enough to listen to music in a relatively quiet room but you’re much better off with headphones.
To give you an idea, I measured sound pressure 5” above the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch while playing a Kanye West track (Power):
|External Speaker Comparison|
|Apple iPhone 4||Apple iPod Touch (2010)|
|Sound Pressure - Higher is Better||90 dB(A)||78 dB(A)|
The 4’s external speaker weighed in at 90dB(A) compared to 78dB(A) on the new iPod touch. This is very important for our FaceTime discussion later.
The new iPod Touch is available in 3 flavors: 8GB, 32GB and 64GB. The features are the same across all models.
|iPod Touch Pricing|
|Apple iPod Touch (2010)||$229||$299||$399|
Internally, the new iPod Touch uses Apple’s A4 SoC. The A4 is an ARM Cortex A8 based SoC with integrated PowerVR SGX 535 GPU. The Cortex A8 in the SoC runs somewhere in the 700 - 900MHz range and appears to be the same CPU speed as the iPhone 4. The GPU also appears unchanged. I ran a few sanity tests to confirm:
|Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPod Touch (2010) Performance|
|Apple iPhone 4||Apple iPod Touch (2010)|
|Sunspider 0.9||10666.8 ms||10693.2 ms|
|Linpack||34.5 MFLOPs||33.9 MFLOPs|
|3D Benchmark App||47.7 fps||46.9 fps|
If you’re wondering why I didn’t run Epic’s amazing Citadel demo, it’s because of the next major difference between the iPhone 4 and the iPod Touch: memory size.
The A4 in the iPod Touch appears to be a lower clocked version of what you get in the iPad, it only has 256MB of memory compared to the 4’s 512MB. Currently Epic’s Citadel demo treats the iPod Touch as an iPhone 4 and crashes before getting into the demo as a result. Epic should have an update out soon that fixes the problem by lowering texture quality to fit within the memory limits of the iPod Touch.
The reduction in memory size simply means you won’t be able to have as many apps open as you would on an iPhone 4. iOS does a relatively good job of memory management so you’ll only see this surface while multitasking with a lot of apps. When it does surface you’ll simply try to switch to an application and note that it has to reload from scratch rather than just picking up where you left off.
This is purely a profit play on Apple’s part. The iPhone 4 is much more expensive, especially taking into account AT&T’s contract, and as a result you get more hardware despite relatively similar up front costs.
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Mike1111 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - linkAnand, are you sure about the 960x720 sensor resolution upscaled to 1280x720 video recording resolution? Wouldn't it make more sense the other way around, that the sensor resolution is 1280x720 and pictures are just cropped to 960x720 to be 4:3?
gunblade - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - linkThis is what I think too. I couldn't think of any algorithm that could reproduce the extra horizontal field that is not capture from the sensor and not losing the feel and aspect ratio.
OBLAMA2009 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - linkgood job to anand flushing out the truth here, but im not prepared to call apple a rip-off artist. first of all the look is similar to the old ipod touch so they arent overtly trying to deceive you into thinking youre getting an iphone 4, which would have been an easy thing to do. second they arent charging anywhere near the noncontract iphone 4 price. $200 isnt very much for what it does--nobody else has a device that does that much and is that size. try getting any smart phone for that price. this is a decent compromise for now with some neat new features like a faster chip and a schitt camera. i went and saw it at the apple store yesterday and it is very thin and yes it does smudge horribly on the back but i liked it and will probably get one. does anyone know where the best place to get it is? what is the costco price on the 32 mb ?
wintermute000 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - linkHow about it Apple?
Theres still a market for those of us who just want a mp3 player with big storage and big touchscreen controls ideal for mounting in a car. hehe
Stas - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - linkjust another rape-off. rush to the store.
Lord 666 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - linkI too had hoped it was just an iPhone 4 in slimmer chassis. Thanks to your completely unbiased review, the honest truth got out.
MrPickins - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - linkSame here.
I had been planning on buying one, but they've downgraded it too much for my liking...
Sahrin - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - linkAnandtech has reviewed an iPod. You are now officially no longer a hardware website. Welcome to the world of consumer electronics websites - enjoy competing with CNET for the most drive-by impressions. I hope your dignity was not too high a price to pay for the ignorant masses clicking on your website when they search for "iPod player."
It's honestly really sad to see this happen. Anandtech has definitely lost a lot of its credibility as a hardware site over the years, but nothing was as damaging to this as embracing the Applefication of the hardware world. It would be like the Wall Street Journal beginning to report petty crimes. It is beneath them, because it is anthithetical to their purpose. Sure, they could draw tens of millions of readers by doing so - but that's no who they are.
Anandtech chose to "change." I can't speak for the business realities of this - and I am sure they exist. I can only say that I hope that the drive-by readers who come in to get Apple rumors will generate as much ad revenue as the serious readers, who pore over the articles and take ads seriously (generating actual revenue for advertisers, as opposed to the all-powerful but completely worthless "impressions").
Maybe I misunderstand what AT's writers are trying to accomplish. I always thought it was to bring a level of objective understanding and discernment to the computer hardware world. I can tell you with absolute certainty this article doesn't accomplish that. It's a comparison of gasoline brands where neither makes any claims of superiority. It's a comparison of attributes Fuji to Granny Smith Apples - completely subjective and just as pointless.
The last bastion, the last line to cross is the one that Jon Stokes at Arstechnica (a site that went down the road Anandtech now travels a long time ago) stepped over earlier this year: expressing actual *disdain* for having an understanding of how the hardware that underpins the "neato gadgets" we use today works. "It's so boring, and difficult, and uninteresting."
Welcome to the "rest of the web" Anandtech. I'm sorry you couldn't understand that what made you valuable was the fact that you were *not* like everyone else, your coverage was not a duplicate of that provided by every other site. I'm sorry that the market dictated that you had to drop technically competent coverage in favor of vapid noise. But mostly - if it's as I fear - I am sorry that your writers are so willing to cash in comprehension for simplicity; to exchange technical knowledge for coolness, marketing schick and mass market appeal. It seems that most fundamental and undignified compromise: exchange underappreciated expertise for overrewarded incompetence.
I know I will always fondly remember the day when every author at AT aggressively pursued every story, desperately seeking an analytical truth (even if they made mistakes) by questioning, testing, verifying and then synthesizing their work into an appreciable and relevant description of "The Way Things Are." That will always be the only type of journalism which exposes readers to new ideas worth anything - and I hope that, even as the malignant cruft of this kind of story spreads through AT's failing body, there will still be a place for the occasional article of this type, so that I can find a reason to continue to patronage the site. Farewell, old friend.
We barely knew ye.
icrf - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - linkHuh? Not a hardware site? Did you miss the Sandy Bridge, Bulldozer, Bobcat, Cortex A9/A15 articles of the last couple weeks?
Anand, keep up the good work. I enjoyed the hardware-focused review of a consumer electronics device, and everything else you do. I thought a new Touch might be good to pick up, but the lack of memory and cheap screen convinced me otherwise. I'm guessing your average CNET-style CE site doesn't pick up on such things.
Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - linkWe've actually reviewed quite a few iPods on the site, including the first one reviewed back in 2002 by Matthew Witheiler:
About 7 years ago I made the conscious decision to start covering Mac hardware. Macs and PCs were headed on a collision course and we started to see convergence in the technology. At the same time, over the past few years we've seen a lot of PC technology make its way into consumer electronics devices. Intel is shipping SoCs for TVs and smartphone SoCs are easily as powerful as the PC hardware we were reviewing a decade ago.
We still review motherboards, CPUs, SSDs, we talk about overclocking, memory technologies and of course GPUs, but we've added to the list. What constitutes a PC is far broader these days than when we first started the site, and I suspect that expansion will continue. As we've added new categories we've also tried to apply our unique approach to those reviews. I believe our iPod Touch review is the only one on the web that does objective audio quality testing, display quality testing and (later today) battery life testing. While subjective analysis is important, we try to bring objective testing and the scientific method to all of our reviews.
I'm glad you have fond memories of AT, but if anything I believe our coverage is deeper today than it has ever been. We do more enterprise, SSD and notebook coverage than we've ever done in the past, and our CPU, GPU and motherboard reviews are more thorough than they've ever been. On top of all of that, we actually do a lot of behind the scenes work with manufacturers to make sure that issues with products are discovered and fixed before they are sold to end users.
I will personally never stop wanting to understand how the hardware works. After over 13 years of running AnandTech I can honestly say that I'm more interested in what I do than I've ever been. I enjoy learning, and there's no better way to learn than to be introduced to new technologies and try to figure out how they work.
If there's a particular area that you feel we're neglecting I'm more than willing to listen. We're always looking to add more coverage to the site and go deeper in existing areas. You'll see another call for writers by the end of this year that supports that.
I appreciate your concern for the site and taking the time to post, and more than anything I do appreciate that you having read the site for long enough to care. I know I can't make everyone happy, but I will always try.