It's not an easy task to review something ostensibly identical to another you've looked at before but that's pretty much what we're faced with by the 3rd generation AppleiPod touch. The first thing you'll notice when you break through the wrappings, the sellotape and the box and finally get the device into your hands is that it's true. It doesn't have a camera. There's even a blank space on the otherwise perfect mirrored back where the one on the iPhone would normally be, and that pretty much sets the standard. You just have to trust that all the technological advancements are on the inside.
The iPod touch still measures an iPhone but slimmer 110 × 61.8 × 8.5 mm. It still weighs the same 115g. It still has a beautifully crisp and pixel dense 3.5-inch 380 x 320 colour screen in a 3:2 aspect and it still skates on the edge of not supporting enough file types with just AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless, Audible, MP3, WAV, Protected AAC in its audio arsenal; BMP, JPEG, TIFF, GIF for images and just MPEG on the video front. In fact, the only difference you'll notice on the outside is that now, you can get one with the legend "64GB" etched into it. After every other disappointment it nearly makes your day.
That said, the iPod touch is still a heartbreakingly beautiful thing to hold, arguably more so than the iPhone with its even more svelte form and simply delicious weight. It's just the right size to slip into your jeans pocket and almost forget that it's there; a breathtaking feat of engineering.
So, how about the stuff you don't see? Well, the biggest bump for the third generation is at the heart of the device - the CPU and the RAM. Both have been raised to match the iPhone 3GS, so it's now packed with a 833MHz ARM-Cortex 8 processor that's been underclocked to 600MHz most likely to protect the battery life. As it goes, the battery has dropped a little on the last incarnation going down from 36 hours for audio to 30 - either the result of a more realistic estimate than the first time or quite possibly because of having more power-hungry insides.
The performance is indeed far smoother as Apple has said. The approximation given is 50% faster and, although in practice it's a tricky thing to measure, the experience isnoticeably better. Scolling about from screen to screen on the device has even an edge on the 3GS but the boost is at its most obvious when running the faster game apps now able to render high speed action all the smoother.
The second nice advance is the doubling of the flash memory to a now far more substantial 64GB touted as enough to hold 14,000 songs or 80 hours of video depending on your quality options. It comes at quite the high price of £299 and begins to make one wonder if it isn't worth splashing out the extra to get an iPhone. If you're happier with a 32GB model, you'll be pleased to see it costing fractionally more than the now ceased 16GB at £229 and suddenly the 8GB version looks very cheap indeed at just £149. Probably best hold back on the videos with that one though.
One strange pleasure of all iPods is that they arrive charged and ready to go. There's nothing quite like the agony of having to wait eight hours for something to fully power up before you're allowed to turn it on, particularly after all the excitement of getting it home in the first place. Of course, the other bonus with the 3rd gen touch is that not only is it charged but it also comes loaded with the iPhone OS 3.1 software. It's not quite the jump for joy moment it could be seeing as the price has just been reduced to £2.99 but you learn to be grateful for small mercies.
The software brings Voice Control as directed from the microphone of the legendarily bland headphones. The range of phrasing understood by the device is initially impressive but drops slightly below company track record after being told that it doesn't recognise the phrase "U2" for the fourth time. Novelty-ware aside, the addition of the Genius Mixes feature from iTunes 9 along with the Genius Playlists from the version before is a welcome bonus to the handheld. Doubtless the LP software will follow soon.
All Apple could really have done to make the 3rd generation iPod touch significantly better was to add a camera or something else impossible like the ability to make your dinner. There's a temptation to slate the device for not being different enough but, at the end of the day, it's a decision that needs to stand on its own. The question is should you buy it and the answer is whole-heatedly - yes. Those with a second gen model need not apply but if you're looking for a top endPMP, then this is it, certainly until we get a good look at the Zune HD . It's quite expensive but then that's to be expected and, for the time being, it's still the best gadget in its class and, for the record, none of its other competitors have a camera either.
As a gaming device, it's still a long way behind the PSP and DSi but that's got as much to do with the games as anything else. So, if you're looking for purely that purpose, then it's not the one for you. As a PMP, though, look no further - especially with the launch of the Spotify app for iPhone.