New for 2012 is the fifth generation iPod touch, the first major update since September of 2010. Last year saw the addition of a new color (white), but the hardware remained the same. So what’s new and were the updates worth the wait? Read on for our full iPod touch 5th generation review.
The biggest change with the new iPod touch is the larger 4-inch display that it shares with the new iPhone 5. I’m of the opinion that despite it’s music player origins, the demographic for this device does so for it’s gaming prowess. The 16×9 ratio in landscape mode and continuous addition of iPhone 5-ready games makes this a big bonus. Apple bills the new display as one-handed operation friendly, but I’ve found that to be somewhat off base and highly dependent upon the apps in use. For example, menus in the upper-left quadrant can prove to be a difficult reach for me.
In the end, I don’t mind not being able to reach certain areas of the display, especially when you consider the function of this particular device. In my estimation, bigger is better here. What you might lost in supposed full support of one-handed operating, you easily make up for with movies that look stunning on the larger retina display and the increased real estate should theoretically help with game play, especially those with larger, hulk-hands.
What was an impossibly thin device, the 2012 model has managed yet again to get thinner and lighter. When you compare the iPod touch 4th generation vs iPod touch 5th generation, it’s noticeably thinner, with a depth of 6.1mm vs 7.2mm. The jump isn’t as drastic as iPhone 5 vs iPhone 4S, but it’s certainly an appreciable difference. Constructed from the same anodized aluminum Apple uses on their MacBook line helps provide for a super-light device, decreasing the overall weight from 3.56 ounces to 3.10 ounces. This all adds up to making the 2012 iPod touch the thinnest and lightest iPod touch ever.
Faster, But Not Fastest Processor
Apple chose to use the dual-core A5 processor, the same processor found in the iPhone 4S released in October of 2011. As I noted in my iPhone 5 review, this processor is still plenty fast, unless you put next to an A6 powered iOS device. I found a difference of 4-5 seconds when opening apps. At the price point of the iPod touch, it’s hard not to find this disappointing. Apple has said the A6 processor was designed to help with battery life, so again a bit of lost opportunity for this revision, especially given the expanded product cycles. The following were Geekbench 2 scores with the iPod touch scoring the lowest of three tested. I did not have a 4th generation iPod touch for testing, but it comes in at 356. The 5th generation provides almost double the processing and memory performance.
Numbers are great, but how does it perform in use. Opening up games such as Real Racing 2 and Infinity Blade saw the iPod touch in the middle. So apps open very quickly. Playing some of the more graphic intense games, I did not incur any slowdown. The retina display looks stunning and as mentioned earlier, the move to a 4-inch screen really shines when playing games in landscape mode. You either find yourself with added space to tackle the controls or simply enjoy a more impactful gaming experience. Bigger is better here for sure.
Better Camera, But Not The Best
The 5-megapixel camera won’t match the megapixel of newer iPhones, but it does pack some of the newer features that will help you take better pictures. It offers an ƒ/2.4 aperture, Hybrid IR filter, Face detection and support for Apple’s new Panorama photo feature. Taking Panorama photos is incredibly easy, fun and you can achieve some amazing results. Simply tap Options, Panorama. Once you tap on the shutter, you move your camera either left or right. This is a perfect example of where software in iOS helps make this a suitable replacement for any point and shoot camera. As you’ll note from the Panorama shots taken, the camera on the iPod touch fares pretty well when compared to the iPhone 5.
Photos taken in daylight offered up very good quality images. Depending on your subject, HDR is a nice option that will produce impressive results. The following were both shot in HDR.
The front facing FaceTime HD camera shoots 1.2MP photos with 720p HD video at up to 30 frames per second. Both cameras have the same specifications, but results in my testing were drastic. The iPod touch FaceTime HD camera took dull, lifeless photos when put up against the iPhone 5. Photos were taken in the same exact settings, yet there is no comparison between the two, other than a bad hair day (which is most days).
Plenty of good cameras and mobile devices more so have difficulty taking photos in low light situations. The iPod touch is no different. It does have an LED flash, but that can produce harsh results. While it might seem as if I’m not particularly thrilled with this camera, I’ve put it in the unenviable position of competing with the best camera available on a mobile device. If you have good lighting, that’s half the battle to capturing a good photo. The iPod touch is certainly capable of doing the rest.
A bump up from the 720p offered in the fourth generation, video shot from the camera on this device is now at 1080p HD. Video stabilization could have be improved upon, but I found the quality to be very good. The following video comparison pits the iPod touch vs the iPhone 5. Slightly deeper color saturation on the iPhone 5, but this will only be noticeable in a head to head competition. In the real world, you’re not conducting these sorts of tests and most will be pleased with the resulting video from the HD video shot on this device.
New Lightning Connector
It started with the iPhone 5 and now all of the new iPods feature Apple’s new Lightning dock. This means you’ll need a costly adapter if you want to use the new iPod touch with your existing audio dock or accessory that requires connection through the older 30-pin connector. Early feedback from those who have received the Lightning to 30-pin connector suggest that while it will support audio out, it will not charge your device. If you have a number of costly accessories, the discounted 4th generation iPod touch should be considered.
In my sync tests, the iPod touch with Lightning connector performed worse than the iPhone 4S. I tested both devices by syncing 2 episodes of American Horror Story. The iPhone 4S finished syncing in 1:48, while the iPod lagged behind at 2:11.
There are some benefits to the new connector. As mentioned above, it’s the thinnest iPod yet, part of which can be attributed to have a svelte new connector. It’s non-orientation specific, meaning you can plug it without worrying about a top or bottom. The new connector also snaps in rather easily, feels solid when connected despite a ever so slight wiggle.
At some point, Apple had to cut the cord or should I say dock connector. After 10 years of the 30-pin connector, it was time to move on. That in mind, the advantages of this new connector seem minimal at this juncture. Lightning is a ‘smart’ connector, so perhaps there will be future cables that provide for a faster interface with our computers. For now, Apple’s move has minimal advantages to the customer and their pricing for adapters is excessive. It also renders a number of cases unusable, due to the size of the adapter.
Fit and Finish
Apple has shifted away from the shiny stainless steel back, moving to a new anodized aluminum, the same one used in their MacBook line of computers. In this review, we looked at the sliver version. Apple’s method of infusing color into the aluminum makes it look as if they sourced brightly colored aluminum, rather than sending these to the paint shop. The result isn’t shiny and leans to what you could term a matte finish. It’s very different from the feel of the iPhone 5. While it still feels like a premium product worthy of its rather lofty price tag, it left me feeling as if it were a touch below with regards to quality of the build materials. The camera on the back isn’t flush to the body, which I’m guessing is due to the thinness.
There is so much you can do with an iOS device that sometimes you forget it’s primary function based on its rich history is music playback. It offers support for AAC, Protected AAC, MP3, Audible, Audible Enhanced Audio, Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV.
Software & Apps
Apple’s iOS 6 comes pre-installed. The latest software update released just last month offers plenty of tweaks and refinements. The major changes here are improvements to Siri and does so just in time to make its debut on the iPod touch. Finding movies, restaurants and along with scores and schedules for your favorite teams is all down by voice. Facebook is a bigger part of iOS, thanks to deep integration within the OS making it easier to share, like and post. The addition of iMessage has great appeal thanks to free text messages to anyone using an iOS device that supports iMessage. At the core of the iPod touch is iOS, which is the definition of a mature operating system. Stability, ease of use. It’s all here.
At last count, the App Store offered 700,000 applications, both free and paid. Putting quantity aside, the quality of apps on this platform is unmatched.
In a bit of a surprising move, the only options here are 32GB and 64GB. Apple’s likely helping customers from making a mistake by picking up a low-cost 16GB model. The size of apps, most notably games, can easily chew through 16GB. As a result, the cost of admission to the new model is $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB.
Support for Apple’s iCloud service might help lighten the storage load. Music purchased from iTunes can be downloaded at any time, if you are connected to WiFi. At an additional cost, iTunes Match ups the ante to provide access to music not purchased from iTunes. I’ve found downloading can take roughly 3 seconds before playback.
Included is a matching colored lanyard. Apple calls it the loop, likely to remove any association with the lanyard, which isn’t often referred to as cool. Maybe someone in Cupertino thought this was a good idea to deal with all the cracked iPod touch displays they see arrive at their Genius Bars? Perhaps it’s me, but I don’t envision most people wearing this as a wristlet. If that is your sort of thing, there is an aluminum button that pops open. Attach the lanyard, excuse me “loop”, and then press down to secure it in place.
Back in June, the EarPods received plenty of praise from Apple. Much like the Lightning connector, there hasn’t been a major change in those included white headphones that come with each new iPod or iPhone. I’ve been pleasantly surprised on two fronts. I’ve found the new EarPods to be comfortable and I notice a distinct improvement in the sound quality. Audiophiles will still opt for third-party headphones, but it’s hard to find fault in these as included headphones, as they are much improved. One note, these do not come with the remote and microphone built-in, nor do you get the nifty storage case.
- Numerous improvements over previous generation highlighted by 4-inch display
- Insanely thin, light
- Still best in class
- App Store makes this so much more than a PMP
- Lags behind current generation iPhone
- Even Apple cannot make the lanyard cool
- Lightning connector could prove costly for those heavily invested in accessories
When you read our review, it becomes apparent that the 2012 iPod touch (5th generation) is not lacking when it comes to improvements over its predecessor, which by the way is still part of Apple’s product line. New processor, upgraded camera and the stunning retina display in a new larger 4-inch display. It’s certainly a worthy update from the 4th generation model.
Having waited two years to upgrade this line, it is somewhat disappointing not to see Apple’s best technology from the iPhone 5 not present in the iPod touch. With price starting at $299 and up, this feels every bit like a premium product, but not when compared to the iPhone 5. The market for this device are those seeking a cellular-contract free iOS alternative to the iPhone. The lack of feature parity upgrades provides more reasons for those who were on the fence about getting an iPhone vs an iPod touch. Making the commitment to a wireless provider yields the benefit of obtaining a higher quality product. It would not surprise me to see the A6 find it’s way into the 6th generation iPod touch, along with the newer camera tech and new colors, this just in time for the iPhone 6. Kids who don’t need an iPhone will enjoy the improved Facetime camera and free texts using iMessage.
The iPod touch remains unmatched in the world of PMP (personal media players). While I’ve compared it to the iPhone 5, the truth of the matter is, that the iPod touch has no equal. While the price of admission is high, the iPod touch is an entertainment powerhouse, wrapped in an incredibly thin form factor of beautifully crafted aluminum and glass.
Bottom Line: It’s much better than the last one, but not as good as the iPhone 5. It’s biggest competition could come in the form of a low-cost iPad mini.