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
  8GB 32GB 64GB
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)
Geekbench 380 378
Sunspider 0.9 10666.8 ms 10693.2 ms
Rightware BrowserMark 30915 32106
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.

The Retina Display
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  • gbrayut - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I very much appreciated the objective audio quality review and comparison with Zune HD. Most Apple product reviews are very subjective, so having a hardware level perspective with benchmark numbers is a breath of fresh air.

    Keep up the great work!
  • kmmatney - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    Bye - Don't let the door hit you on your way out.
  • SadTouchLover - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    What a tool. I read the first paragraph of your "novel" and just stopped. This was exactly the kind of review that you claim to enjoy from AT. They blew the whistle on a consumer product that was being hailed as much more than it actually is. Again, you are a tool.

    "I only like a website that reviews obscure, third party RAM modules and boutique GPU manufacturers." Good riddance you loser.
  • tipoo - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    The previous Touch was far from the best sounding device (try a Sony Walkman), does this statement mean that the new one has substantially better SQ?
  • watzupken - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I suppose the reviewer did a great job of pointing out the shortcomings of the product. At the end of the day, I think it is still a decent product and improvement over its past gen iPod Touch. Apple is also not likely to make this a better alternative over their iPads by giving it a good screen, and more memory. Although the iPad has a bigger screen, the iPod Touch is still capable of cannibalizing the sales of iPad, especially when it is much cheaper.
  • tipoo - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I'd be really interested to see some web benchmarks on this device. We know it uses the Apple A4 chip, but, like the iPhone 4, we don't know the clock speed. Comparing benchmarks may give us an estimate.

    Also note that the iFixit teardown shows that it uses half the RAM the iPhone 4 uses, I'd like to see how that impacts it.
  • tipoo - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I must be losing my sanity, all of those things were on the front page. Nevermind this here bumbling idiot!
  • anactoraaron - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Yet there is no direct link to this "gagdets" section of the website... a minor oversight...
  • El_Capitan - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Frequent reader, first time poster.

    Usually posting a comment for an Apple product usually incurs a wrath from Apple fanboys, but it just distills to me their ignorance and distain of constructive criticism. I've had an Apple Classic from way back in the day, a Video iPod from 5 years ago, and gave my girlfriend an iPod Touch version 3 a year ago, so I'm not an Apple hater. I also used Macbooks on occasion, but am primarily a PC/Laptop/Server builder/user.

    I've been waiting a while now to update my Video iPod, but haven't decided on what I want. I played with my gf's iPod Touch, and it's nice with all the apps, but then there's the Zune and it's OLED display. Granted, what I'd be using it for is listening to music, watching videos, playing games, and browsing the web when connected to wi-fi, but I have my Blackberry Bold 9800 that can handle all the functions of an iPod Touch minus the touch features and apps, while my Nintendo DSi has a great selection of games. While my Video iPod can still play music and videos, it's not as great for videos.

    For my choices:
    1. Watching videos - Zune HD or PSP Go or iPod Touch
    2. Playing games - Nintendo DSi, PSP Go, or iPod Touch
    3. Listening to music - iPod Touch, Zune HD
    4. Browsing the web - iPod Touch

    Now, while the iPod Touch does all those things, the only thing holding me back is that the display isn't the best. There's fun to be had with all their apps, but there's funner games to be played elsewhere.

    I would have definitely gone in to buy an iPod Touch 4, but they're still lagging behind on the display. Instead, it looks to me that they want to cash in on just upgrading the aesthetic appeal, and hope that being a 4th gen gets people to upgrade, and not the reality of what the real benefits are.

    I was close to purchasing a Zune HD, but so far am faring well with my trio of Blackberry Bold 9800, Video iPod, and Nintendo DSi. I guess with the letdown on the iPod Touch 4, I'll still be waiting until something better comes along.
  • gbrayut - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I purchased a 32GB Zune HD and absolutely love it for playing music or watching videos (mostly podcasts). The form factor is about half the size of an iPhone or iPod touch, which makes it easier to use when jogging or working out, and it retails for about $50 cheaper than the iPod touch.

    It definitely has its short comings: the mobile browser is pretty bad, doesn't have very many apps, and no wifi updates for podcasts when outside your home network (suppose to be fixed in Windows Phone 7 and next gen Zune HD). Also while it has the potential to be a great gaming platform using XNA there just aren't a lot of developers working on games right now (again hopefully will change with Windows Phone 7 release).

    I would highly recommend Zune HD as a Personal Media Player, but don't buy one hoping for a good web browser or a ton of games. I do however look forward to the next Zune release and will evaluate Windows Phone 7 when it comes out.

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