[Review] iPod touch (5th Gen)

Santa was very generous this year, and delivered down my chimney the black 64GB 5th generation iPod touch.  I have long desired the thinner, taller version of my old 3rd generation iPod touch, and this year the jolly guy in the red suit came through for me.  Well…it was actually my wife who came through for me, but I’m sure you get the idea.  As I mentioned in our Best of Tech 2012 article, the design elements of the new iPod touch are simply beautiful.  I got the very sinister black and grey colorway, and I’ll delve a little deeper into some of the pros and cons of Apple’s latest generation music player below.

How It Looks:

First up – size.  No matter what anyone tries to tell you, size does matter.  In this case, the increase in screen size of the iPod to 4 inches makes a fair bit of difference.  Folks who have the 4th gen iPod touch know that the so-called “retina” display was a big improvement over the previous screen type, and the increase in size for the 5th gen device is another leap forward.  The screen is crisp, clear, and displays everything from web pages to apps to music album covers equally well.  More screen real estate also means more rows of icons (or folders if you prefer) and while iOS is long past the point of feeling stale, you can’t fault the hardware for this issue.  It does its job, and quite well.

The anodized aluminum chassis comes in a wide variety of colors to suit just about any taste.  The colors are sharp and vibrant, and the look of the device is as clean and as minimalist as it ever was.  The new leash feature (Apple calls it “the Loop”) that comes brand new in the 5th gen iPod is also integrated extremely well, and is there when (or if) you want to use it, and is unobtrusively out of the way when you don’t.  The look of the device does nothing to sway you from the opinion that this is a high end device – the price tag won’t fool you either.  The starting 32GB size will set you back $299

How It Feels:

The first thing that struck me when I checked out the 5th gen iPod touch in stores was how incredibly light it felt.  Almost unnaturally so.  I mean…it weighs damn near nothing.  Apple’s website claims a weight of 3.10oz…I’m not sure what exactly to compares that too, but the device falls into what I would call the “super light” category.  Its only 0.24 inches think (thin?) and this, combined with the ultra light weight, make it an easy device to pocket for long periods of time.  The inclusion of the new proprietary “Lightning” dock connector has enabled Apple to reduce the weight and size of the device, and while I might comment that the change seems more like a blatant cash grab towards new accessories, no one can deny the hardware benefits of making the change.

The longer, rectangular shape of the device still fits nicely in the hand, but alas, not as nicely as I found my 3rd gen iPod to be.  Sometimes a little more heft and weight is a good thing…and I know part of Apple’s mission is to make things as light and as thin as they can be.  But to me, this device is a little too thin and light.  The aluminum back I found to be a touch slippery, compared to previous versions of the device.  I wanted to get a case on it as soon as I could to give it a little more grip and to help remind me it’s actually there.  The included revamped EarPods work well, and I found the new shape to work just fine in my ears.  The sound is decent, nothing to write home about, but good enough for free.

How It Works:

Well…its a music player, right?  So it should play music…and that it does my friends.  For what it is, it suits my needs exactly – nothing less, and actually a little something more.  Having had the 32GB version of the iPod touch previously, my biggest concern was space – the 64GB version eliminates that concern and then some.  With over 2200 songs, about a dozen TV shows/music vidoes, and 6 full length movies on it, I still have over 30GB of space free.  Enough for a few more movies (which I watch on occasion while I’m out and about), TV shows, or any amount of music.  When it comes to portable media devices, storage is king and more is always better.  The included dual core A5 processor makes transitions between apps and scrolling through home screens fluid and easy and it’s as responsive as I would have expected a device manufactured by Apple to be.

Photo courtesy of Apple.com

The inclusion of the 5MP iSight camera is a nice feature in the latest generation of iPods, since as the old saying goes “the best camera is the one you have with you.”  I’ve often wished for the ability to snap photos when I’m out jogging or walking and now my iPod has an app for that.  The front facing camera leaves me eager to FaceTime with family across the country (although admittedly I’ve not yet gotten around to it.)  The power and volume buttons I find to be a great size, and the placement is exactly where they should be.  I enjoy having separated up/down volume buttons, as the previous rocker volume controls sometimes aren’t as easy to manipulate one handed.  The switch in placement of the power button and headphone jack (from left to right, and right to left respectively) left me feeling a little odd, since it would have been nice to keep the feeling consistent with previous versions of the device, but I’m sure Apple had good reasons for doing so.

The Final Word:

I guess what it all boils down to for me was a simple question – do the features of the 5th generation iPod touch make it worth my while to replace my currently “working just fine” 3rd gen iPod touch?  At the end of the day, the answer was “yes” – and I’m not just saying that because I didn’t end up having to pay for it myself.  The reduction in weight is a benefit at workout time, the inclusion of front & rear cameras makes communicating and connecting with the world easier than ever, and the upgrade to a 4 inch “retina” display makes everything look better.  Should the average consumer look to get the newest version of Apple’s music player…that’s a harder questions to answer.  If you want the best, you are going to pay for it, with the retail price of the device ranging from $299 to $399 – not an insignificant sum.  If you can afford the expense, you will get a device and an experience you won’t regret.


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