I never planned on purchasing a new iPod touch, but the impulse bug got me. I bought one last year for testing purposes. But despite that justification, I still had buyers remorse soon afterwards. That’s how bad the iPod touch 4th generation was. It lacked power, had a terrible screen, and the design was, well, disgusting.

But when Apple showed off the new iPod touch hardware last month, my interest was piqued. Still reeling, though, from the 4th generation product, I kept myself from getting too excited about it.

Unfortunately (thankfully?) I struggle to control myself when it comes to Apple product purchases. But that lack of control allowed me to witness first hand a marvelous turnaround to the iPod touch line. Yes, the iPod touch 5th generation shares little with the previous generation hardware, and that’s a good thing.

Indeed, the new iPod touch is — wow — it’s actually good. I mean, it’s really good. If you haven’t yet seen it in person, you owe it to yourself to check out this review…

Video review

Build quality

The build quality on the the iPod touch is awesome. It’s the first iPod touch to actually closely resemble its iPhone counterpart of the same generation. You’ll notice me reiterate that throughout this review.

Unlike its predecessor, this version features a flat back that won’t rock when you have it laying on a table. It also ditches the shiny back surface that easily scratches, for the same anodized aluminum one on the iPhone 5.

With every previous iPod touch, the screen was an obvious downgrade when compared to that generation’s iPhone. With the 5th generation iPod touch, however, that is no longer the case. While it’s been confirmed that the screen build isn’t exactly the same as on the iPhone, the quality differences between the two are virtually indistinguishable.

Then there are the small touches like the machined lip outlining the device’s bezel, and the Loop on the back side that allows you to connect a lanyard for a more camera-like appearance and function.

The only downside that I see as far as build quality goes, is that the camera lens sticks out beyond the body of the device. And even then, it only protrudes 0.44 mm, so it will still rest flat on a table with no visible rock. You’re less likely to complain about that when you consider how incredibly thin the new iPod touch is. The iPhone 5 was already crazy thin, and this is much thinner than that. It’s so thin, that Apple was forced to make the camera lens protrude to make it fit in the case. I’m not trying to skirt around it — it’s an obvious design compromise that some won’t like — I’m just saying that many will take the thinness in exchange for the slightly extended lens.

Hardware

I won’t bore you with hardware numbers that have been posted numerous times elsewhere, but I will tell you this: the iPod touch 5th generation is the first iPod touch that I’ve felt could adequately handle anything thrown at it.

All previous touch devices have been underpowered and lacked necessary RAM, but this one has an A5 processor and 512MB of RAM. This device is on par with the iPhone 4S (benchmark), and our Geekbench benchmark backs that up.

This means you’ll be able to run newer games, multitask, and surf the web faster than in times past. It’s the first time I haven’t become infuriated with the iPod touch because of its blatant hardware inferiority.

Software

The software is the same iOS 6 that we’ve all grown accustomed to. The main glaring flaw here is Apple maps, but you knew that already.

I also noticed, and this is a hardware issue as well, that these is no more Auto-Brightness setting in the Settings app. On closer examination, it appears that Apple removed the ambient light sensor from this year’s iPod touch. I know that Apple reportedly had problems incorporating the ALS in the first white iPhone 4, causing numerous delays to that product. Perhaps the thinness of this device, coupled with the white face on all of the color models prompted Apple to forgo the feature.

It’s also worth noting that this is the first iPod touch to feature Siri support — I’m sure that many will deem that worth the upgrade alone. Check out my standalone iOS 6 review for more details on the software.

Practicality

With a camera that’s on par with the iPhone 4S, and a 720p front-facing camera, this is the first touch that takes photos and video seriously. And for the first time on a touch, you have hardware that allows you to legitimately use FaceTime, and play hardware taxing games without slowing things down to a crawl.

Apple, wisely, only produced 32GB and 64GB versions of the new iPod touch. This gives you plenty of space for music, games, photos, and video. Keep in mind that the touch is not a phone, and its generally used exclusively as an entertainment device. Thus, the minimum 32GB of space is well-warranted.

The added Loop — the aforementioned pop up nub for the lanyard — makes the touch even more point-and-shoot camera-esque. I see the touch, for the very first time, serving as a legitimate camera replacement for many users.

Verdict

I wholeheartedly recommend the new iPod touch. It’s a very unassuming device, especially when looking at it resting in its retail packaging. It’s easy to think that this generation’s offering would be just as poor as previous ones from a build quality and usability standpoint, but that’s just not the case.

This is a first for the touch on many levels. It’s the first time it receives legitimately decent camera hardware. It’s the first time that its build quality compares closely with the iPhone of its generation. It’s the first time that the screen is a pleasure to stare at. No longer is the iPod touch an afterthought embarrassment as I believe it’s been in previous generations.

If you’ve been sitting on the fence regarding the new touch, then get off that fence, and head down to your nearest Apple store and pick one up. You won’t be disappointed.