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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  • Taracta - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Maybe instead of trying to compare a mini Tablet to a cellphone, a comparison to another tablet would be in order even if that tablet is larger?

    Screen issues? Compared to what? That screen is better than anything else other than the iPhone4!

    I would suggest that going against the iPad, the iTouch would compare much more favorable. If you want a iPhone4 without a contract, BUY ONE WITHOUT A CONTRACT!
  • SimKill - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Better in resolution/dpi, but quality?
  • Taracta - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    One in which you can see the individual pixels and one in which you cannot see the individual pixels, which one would you say is the better quality? Aside from that I had to ignore the video testing done because from the outset it obvious that they didn't even attempt to adjust the black level (Brightness)! Give me contrast levels, color saturation , etc. when you don't have the backlight at maximum so that you cannot get even close to black. Do you expect me to assume that iTouch 300DPI panel cannot do black? Or at least a better black than what was measured? Keep in mind that it is still better than that of the iPhone 3GS by their measurments.
  • SadTouchLover - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Way to get off on a technicality, bub. Everyone in the world knows that the ipod touch is meant to mirror the features of an iphone. Buy an iphone without a contract? And pay 400 more dollars for a better camera and screen? You're not making any sense, man! Are you drunk? This ipod touch is a clear case of price gouging. They're hoping that clueless consumers outside of the geek elite will eat this thing up, which will probably definitely be the case. They left the buzzword features and snubbed the "below the surface" quality. BOOOOOOO APPLE BOOOOOOOO
  • anemic - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    What's with all the Apple articles lately? I've heard enough about these disposable toys the last few months to last a lifetime. STOP IT ANAND! JUST STOP IT!
  • B3an - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    Yep Anand, less with the shiny toys and more with the grown up stuff please.
    I know that you review far more hardware these days than you ever have, but theres too much time wasted on junk like this, which just seems to be for more page hits. It's a bit dumbed down as well, get more technical, you could also atleast take this stuff apart and mess with it/see what components are used.
  • manicfreak - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I don't know what to say about Rightmark Audio Analyzer if it gives some of the ratings as "Excellent" for the iPod. *roll eyes*
  • gunblade - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    It is a frequency/spectrum analyzer.
    Human ear is inherently deceiving and human brain is biased, so equipment is developed to help doing measurement, where human bias and prejudice is not part of the equation.
  • kmmatney - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    Since it shows the iPod is a good music player, it has to be a bad test suite, right? *rolls eyes*.
  • Verve - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I like the new iPod Touch since I'm upgrading from 1G (yes, it still lives with diminished battery life). I think the new iPod Touch is much improved in comparison. Besides, I'm not looking for it to be an iPhone substitute -- it just has to be my entertainment gadget that's easy to carry and last a reasonably long time.

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