Review: Apple iPod touch (Fourth-Generation)
Pros: A major update to Apple’s most versatile iPod, adding twin cameras, a high-resolution 960x640 screen, a microphone, a bigger and longer-lasting battery, and a 3-axis gyroscope, amongst other features. Now capable of video calling using FaceTime, high-definition video playback and storage, and recording of 720p movies with the rear camera. New body design is slimmer and lighter than before while remaining solid in the hand. Remains capable of great audio performance, including better speaker quality. As of October 2011, available in both original black and new white versions, both with stainless steel backs.
Cons: New screen and cameras fall noticeably short of iPhone 4 performance levels. Weak still camera performance is a particular issue on all models; lowest-end model remains stuck at an increasingly objectionable 8GB/6.5GB of storage capacity. New front design isn’t as comfortable around the edges as on prior models; glass continues to attract smudges at a brisk pace. Earphones no longer include integrated microphone and remote control features.
Three component changes inside the iPod touch have improved its potential as a gaming device. First is the higher resolution screen, which automatically works to display the upgraded graphics developers added to their iPhone 4 games, resulting in seamless polygonal objects, more detailed textures, and cleaner fonts, amongst other improvements. Games such as Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (shown) look noticeably better on the iPod touch 4G than they did on the iPod touch 3G, and apart from the aforementioned viewing angle issues, they’re more or less identical to the way they play on the iPhone 4.
They load faster, too. Like the iPad and iPhone 4, the new iPod has Apple’s new A4 processor inside, and though it’s limited to 256MB of RAM—half the 512MB found in the iPhone 4, a difference that might explain the iPhone 4’s ever so small edge in speed when booting games—games still come up more quickly on the iPod touch 4G than they did on last year’s iPod touch, often while displaying considerably higher-resolution artwork. The speed difference is not profound, as Apple gave last year’s iPod touch a really fast CPU that hasn’t jumped tremendously in speed for the new version, but the improvements are there.
Last and arguably least is a 3-axis gyroscope that enables the touch to know its orientation when spun around in your hands—an addition to the accelerometer-based controls found in every iPod touch and iPhone since 2007. The gyroscope provides more accurate and detailed position-shifting information, including tracking of acceleration, attitude—positional, not psychological—and rate of rotation. Some game developers have incorporated gyroscope controls as an alternative to swipe-based head positioning gestures in first-person and third-person shooters. In our testing, the new iPod touch’s gyroscope operated just like the one that was added to the iPhone 4, enabling our character in Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. (shown) to look around a room just by turning the device on different angles. It’s a neat enough feature, and surely someone will eventually use it in a really impressive new game, but at the moment, the gyroscope feels much like the compass Apple added to last year’s iPhone 3GS—technology in search of useful applications.