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iPod touch 5th generation (2012) Review

Pros

  • Good-quality screen
  • Superb apps and games library
  • Much-improved camera

Cons

  • Entry price a little high
  • Loop lanyard feels gimmicky

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £249.00
  • 4-inch 1136 x 640 Retina display
  • Dual-core A5 SoC
  • 32-64GB storage
  • Lightning connector
  • 5MP f/2.4 camera with LED flash and 1080p video

The iPod touch has always been a bit of a poor relation of the iPhone series. It was there for people who wanted iPhone goodies, but couldn’t afford the astronomical price of the phone. However, underdog or not, it revolutionised what people expect from a media player.

The iPod touch 5th generation for 2012 doesn’t radically change the status quo, but gives the player some of its own new design tweaks, without ruining what was so great about the device in the first place.

iPod touch 5th Generation Video Review

iPod touch 5th Generation Design

Apple’s most important design change in the iPod touch 5th generation is that it now features an elongated widescreen display, just like the iPhone 5. It’s a little taller than the last generation at 123mm long, but with virtually the same width, it won’t cause smaller pockets or hands any issues.



This is Apple’s thinnest and lightest iPod touch yet. It’s just 88g in weight, 13g lighter than the last model. However, the pedantic variances in weight and thickness are not what defines this version’s in-hand experience. It’s the build and the player’s lines that count.

The new iPod touch is a very slender rectangular brick, less curvy-backed than its predecessors. The well-defined sides lend the device some substance. Without it, this £250 wafer-thin slice of tech might just feel that bit too feather-like.



The cool feel of aluminium helps too. Like the iPhone 5, the 5th generation iPod touch is backed with a sheet of aluminium, and here it snakes around as a single piece to meet the glass layer that protects the display. The only seam on show here is the screen surround’s outline. Ergonomically, it’s quite excellent.

There are a few parts that are more likely to put a few people off, though. The most obvious is the Loop, and its holder. On the bottom of the back of the iPod touch is a little retractable metal circle designed to hold in place the Loop lanyard that is included.



Apple seems to have introduced the lanyard to make the iPod touch more kid-friendly, although equally this is countered by the ditching of the 8GB and 16GB lower-cost versions of old. The cheapest 5th generation iPod touch you can get is the 32GB edition, which costs £249.99. It’s hardly small change.

The other visible design flibble is that the camera lens housing sticks out approximately 1mm from the rear of the player. There is a slight indent to the glass lens covering that should stop it from getting scratched, but the protrusion is sure to annoy some.

iPod touch 5th Generation Connectivity

The new 2012 iPod touch borrows a few of the design changes made in the iPhone 5. There’s the bevelled edges of the aluminium sides and alongside the 3.5mm headphone jack (which has always been on the bottom on the iPod touch) is the new smaller 8-pin Lightning connector in place of the old 30-pin socket.



Suggestions that the Lightning adapter was introduced to keep the iPhone 5 as slim as possible have been poo-poo’d by some, but here the argument makes complete sense. The Lightning connector is slim and small, and fitting in the larger 30-pin type would gave been a challenge. However, Apple veterans will doubtless experience more than a few frustrating moments when all they can find is a half-dozen 30-pin Apple cables, but not a single Lightning one.

As ever within the Apple ecosystem, to transfer files from a computer to the 5th generation iPod touch, you’ll need to do so through iTunes. However, iOS now supports sync over Wi-Fi, and iOS 6 removes the need to setup the player using a computer. All you need now is a Wi-Fi network in order to login to your iTunes account.



Physical connections are limited to the Lightning connector and headphone jack, but with the help of a few Apple accessories they can do more than just transfer files, charge the battery and output sound. An HDMI converter cable is expected, but hasn’t yet been released.

Wireless connectivity in the 5th generation iPod touch is respectable, but nothing we haven’t seen before in the series. There’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and support for Nike fitness sensors, but location services still rely on Wi-Fi network mapping rather than proper GPS and – like the iPhone 5 – there’s no NFC.

iPod touch 5th Generation Accessories

The new iPod touch benefits from Apple’s redesigned earphones – the Apple EarPods. Apple claims these were in development for four years, and they use a design that’s a sort-of hybrid between earbuds and the IEM style.

Sound quality marks a great improvement over the previous Apple earphones, but they’re an acquired taste. They feel like they’re forever falling out of your ears and the hard plastic bodies can irritate your ears if you fiddle about with their positioning too much. But they are better than the old type. For more, read our full Apple EarPods review.

Two other bits come in the iPod touch 5th generation’s box. There’s the Lightning connector cable and the Loop lanyard. As usual, you don’t get a power adapter here. The official power adapter costs an additional £15 at your local Apple Store.

iPod touch 5th Generation Screen

Like the iPhone 5, the 5th gen iPod touch changes the screen size for the range. All previous iPod touches used 3.5in screens, but this latest stretches the display to 4-inches.

It does so without widening the device, skewing the aspect ratio for a more widescreen look. There’s very little not to like in this change. It gives more room for touchscreen gaming controls, is a better size for movie-watching and allows more app icons to be displayed onscreen at once. The redesigned bezel reduces the amount of extra phone length too – 123mm up from 111mm.

Looking further into the iPod touch 5th generation screen, it features the same resolution as the iPhone 5, 1,136 x 640 pixels, supplying 326dpi pixel density. The panel type is similar to the iPhone 5’s too, using an IPS display.

IPS stands for in-plane switching, and is a screen architecture that’s designed to offer a wide viewing angle. Previous-gen iPod touches suffered from significant contrast shift, where the picture becomes clouded in shadow if viewed form the wrong angle. There are no such issues here, making this one of the very best PMP screens available.

However, the iPod touch 5th generation screen still doesn’t quite hold up when compared directly to an iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S. Contrast isn’t as good, resulting in less punchy-looking images, and our review sample has a slight yellow (or “warm”, if we’re being charitable) cast to it. This may vary between batches, though, and previous iPod touches have frequently showed a blue or yellow skew.

Another slight drawback to the iPod touch screen is that it does not allow for automatic brightness settings. Switch from inside to outside and you’ll have to manually change brightness from within the settings menu. Apple’s Phil Schiller says that it’s because the iPod touch is just too slim for an ambient light sensor.

iPod touch 5th Generation Video Playback

The latest iPod touch does not stray from the iOS norms in its approach to video. Out of the box, it natively supports just a few formats, and you’ll have to hook up to iTunes to get those videos transferred.

Formats on the guestlist from the off include H.264, MPEG4 and motion JPEGs. Transcoding software is readily available, but depending on the source format it can take a while.

Get HD-quality videos prepared, though, and they look superb on the iPod touch screen. Detail is excellent thanks to the pixel-packed screen and colours balance vividness and a natural look well.

There are alternatives to transcoding your video library too. Apps for movie streaming services like Netflix and LoveFilm are available for free from the App Store, and there are apps that can handle other formats such as MKV, Xvid and DivX without transcoding. Most of the best dedicated media players cost a pound or two, but are well worth it if you want to use the iPod touch as a video player as much as a games/music device.

iPod touch 5th Generation Music and Sound Quality

Sensibly deciding not to mess with something that works, the 2012 iPod touch features a very simple and quick music app. There are no 3D animated gimmicks, no colourful interface parts bar what’s supplied by album artwork, and that’s just how it should be.

All additional features are kept within the main Settings menu, and these are fairly simple too. There are 22 EQ presets, but as there’s no fine-tuning available audio fans are best off leaving EQ either “off” or set to “flat”. Other extra modes include Shake to Shuffle and the volume level-normalising Sound Check.

Transferring tunes to your iPod touch works just the same as transferring videos. You hook the device up to iTunes, and either select the tunes you want to sync or fire across the whole library.

File type support is a little limited once more. Aside from the staple (but probably used less than you’d imagine) MP3, Audible, AIFF and WAV, the iPod touch is limited to Apple-flavoured codecs – AAC and Apple Lossless. Lovers of FLAC and OGG will have to convert their files, which somewhat removes the point of using “audiophile” codecs in the first place unless you’re going to exclusively use Apple Lossless.

If you’re among the Cloud crowd and like music streaming, the iPod touch offers unparalleled access within the PMP world. Virtually every big-name music streaming service has an iOS app. That includes Spotify, Rdio, Napster, Pure Music, Sony’s Music Unlimited and more.

Read our best streaming services comparison >

The iPod touch 5th generation features a single internal speaker that sits on the bottom edge of the player, but for anything more challenging than playing a YouTube video to friends, you’ll want to use a pair of headphones or a separate speaker. The reed-thin body of the touch leaves its output sounding fairly thin, scratchy and coarse.

iPod touch 5th Generation Apps and Games

It seems common knowledge, but any assessment of the latest iPod touch cannot leave out a mention of the breadth of apps available. There are more than 700,000 apps in the App Store, and while many of them are not worth the time they take to download, thousands are.

The only rival portable media player devices that come close are those that run the Android OS, such as the Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 4.2. All of those we have looked at have more serious problems than the iPod touch, and the iOS app ecosystem is also far more vibrant than Android’s.

A larger number of good games and apps are released more regularly, and the gigantic voracious userbase makes getting recommendations through social networks, word of mouth or sites like TrustedReviews a cinch.

Apple redesigned the App Store for iOS 6. It doesn’t mark a huge change in the core structure of the store, but it is now geared towards side-swipes on-screen, rather than vertical ones. The store is also more rich visually, with greater user of app icons over text.

iPod touch 5th Generation Performance

As is traditional for the iPod touch range, the latest 5th gen model is not quite as fast as the latest iPhone in pure processing terms. It features a dual-core 1GHz A5 processor, as seen in the iPhone 4S.

Let’s not do the new iPod touch down – it has a lot of power on tap, and can handle games with near console-quality visuals. However, the benchmarks do show that it is significantly outperformed by the iPhone 5.

iPod touch sunspider

iPod touch browsermark

In day-to-day use, the lower processor power causes virtually no ill effects. As usual with any current iOS product, iOS runs super-quick.

iPod touch 5th Generation Camera

The fifth-gen iPod touch features two cameras. On the rear is the main 5-megapixel sensor, supported by a dinky little LED flash. Its core specs are similar to those of the iPhone 4S, with backside illumination and an f/2.4 aperture.

However, performance doesn’t seem to match up to iPhone 4S level. Images look heavily processed in anything but good lighting conditions, an attempt to keep noise at bay that makes zoomed-in photos look unnatural. However, it is a massive, humungous improvement over the camera in the 4th generation iPod touch.

iPod touch 5

iPod touch 5

Not only can it produce fairly decent photos, you also now have access to the Panorama and HDR modes. And it’s just as easy to use as an iPhone camera in most respects. The autofocus is fairly quick, touch focusing is enabled and if you like you can use the Volume Up buton on the side of the device to take a photo.

There is one small annoyance, though. When held one way around, the camera lens is very easy to cover with a finger, perhaps more so than with an iPhone.

The main sensor is also capable of grabbing 1080p video, while the front sensor’s main task is to take on FaceTime duty. This is Apple’s take on Skype, letting you video chat with other iOS device owners.

iPod touch 5th Generation Battery Life

Apple’s fifth-gen iPod touch offers similar battery performance to the last-generation model. It’s rated for 40 hours of audio playback or eight hours of video, up from seven in the 4G model.

Our testing showed that these figures aren’t a great deal of use fore the majority of iPod touch owners, who’ll probably indulge in a mix of game playing, web surfing and music listening. However, it is excellent performance for a device so small and light, and even heavy users should be able to go at least a couple of days between charges.

All this stamina comes from 1030mAh battery, roughly 100mAh up from the last iPod touch. It’s significantly less than the 1440mAh battery of the latest iPhone, but the extra capacity isn’t strictly necessary without power-sucking 3G mobile internet on-board.

iPod touch 5th Generation Value

Apple decided to get rid of the low-cost edition of the iPod touch this year. It’s sure to make a lot of people sad, but it’s a decision that does make some sense. The size of apps and games is getting bigger, and 8GB of memory would be sucked-up in seconds.

32GB for £249.99 makes the iPod touch the same price as the Cowon Z2, and just a little more expensive than the Sony NWZ-Z1060. As a pure audio device, the Apple iPod touch 5th Generation isn’t going to set the world alight with its sound quality. But the notion that it is a bad one simply isn’t true. And combined with the masses of additional functionality on offer here, we can only conclude this is by far the best personal media player device available.

As long as you can live happily within the walls of the Apple ecosystem, that is.

iPod touch 5th Generation Verdict

Now that the iPod touch range starts at £249.99, it isn’t quite as accessible as it once was for cash-strapped folk that can’t afford iPhones. However, the iPod touch 5th generation is doubtless the best iPod touch made yet. Strong design, and significant improvements in both screen and camera tech make sure of that. As the years roll by, the iPod touch becomes a tougher sell, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great gadget.   

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Value 8
  • Usability 9

Storage

Internal Storage (Gigabyte) 32/64GB
Expandable memory No

Battery Life

Audio 40
Video (Hour) 8hr

General Features

Microphone Yes
Speaker Yes
Screen Size (inches) (Inch) 4in

Audio Codecs

MP3 Yes
Apple Lossless Yes
AIFF Yes
AAX Yes
WAV Yes
AAC Yes

Physical Specifications

Weight (Gram) 81g

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