Sleek, thin, and powerful, the Apple iPod touch is a near-buttonless gem that combines Apple's trademark minimalist-chic aesthetic with cutting-edge multitouch technology, stellar Wi-Fi capabilities, and a decidedly Maclike user experience. With the recent software upgrade and the addition of a 32GB model, the best portable media player on the market just got that much sweeter.
Measuring 4.3 x 2.4 x 0.3 inches and weighing 4.2 ounces, the iPod touch is a hair larger and heavier than the Sandisk Sansa View (4.3 x 2 x 0.4 inches, and 2.9 ounces) but makes the most of its size by including a beautiful 3.5-inch (480 x 320-pixel) display that fills almost the entire face of the player.
Apple's much-vaunted multitouch display certainly lived up to the hype in our tests; it's the new standard-bearer in touchscreen interfaces. Scrolling Web pages, navigating menus, and zooming in and out on photos using finger gestures was effortless. Even blokes with large digits should be able to use their fingers to adjust volume, flip through Cover Flow album art, and type in URLs using the onscreen keypad with minimum fuss.
Audio and Video Playback
Filling the iPod touch with the 3GB of AAC and MP3 files that populated our iTunes library took about a minute. The audio sounded loud and clean, but as with most bundled earbuds, low-end sounds were ill-represented. Transferred homemade MOV files looked marvelous, and we especially liked how the built-in accelerometer sensed when we turned the player sideways, automatically displaying the video in the far more cinematic widescreen format. Our Superbad rental from the iTunes Store ($3.99) looked crisp and bright both indoors and outdoors, but we weren't exactly thrilled that we had only 24 hours to finish watching before it expired.
Smooth Surfing and Music Downloads
It's the 802.11b/g Wi-Fi radio that helps elevate the iPod touch from a very nice portable media player to one that's best in class. Web surfing with the included Safari browser was a pleasure: We were able to read the latest headlines from CNN.com in just 15 seconds (the page loaded completely in just more than 40 seconds), wirelessly download Michael Cera and Ellen Page's "Anyone Else But You" over the air in 31 seconds, and view The Irate Gamer's latest video game rants on YouTube (albeit with some minor buffering).
Our sole gripe is that users can't download television programs or movies over the air as they can with Archos Generation 5 players. We hope Apple enables this feature with a future software upgrade.
The Best Gets Better
The January Software Upgrade ($19.99) brings even more OS X--like functionality. You can rearrange icons, have multiple home screens, use Mail (compatible with AOL, Gmail, .Mac, and Yahoo accounts) to read rich HTML e-mail and open (but not edit) Word and Excel attachments, check stocks, and get the latest weather forecasts. We also like the new Web Clips feature for adding bookmarks to the touch's Home screen.
Our favorite new feature is the addition of Google Maps, which let us easily find locations, plot routes, and even accurately triangulate our current location--very cool. Note: To get all these new features, you need to be running iTunes 7.6 or later, have an iTunes Store account, and have version 1.1.3 of the iPod touch software.
Apple iPod touch Verdict
As with other iPods, the touch lacks a user-replaceable battery, a memory expansion port, and stereo Bluetooth (a shame in such a mediacentric device), but with such an artful design and excellent performance, those are forgivable flaws. The iPod touch is the premier convergence device.
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