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The Dark-Scene Video Blues
As I mentioned, I'd really like to use the Touch primarily as a portable video player. One of my favorite features of the iPhone is playing videos on its gorgeous 3.5-inch screen. With the iPod Touch supporting up to 640-by-480-resolution videos in both H.264 and MPEG-4 compression, I was all set to load up some movies from the iTunes store and start watching.
Unfortunately the 16GB unit I picked up at the San Francisco Apple store has a display problem that makes many dark scenes almost unwatchable. Video looks reversed out in dark areas, creating a very distracting negative effect. Several other users have reported the same problem on Apple's forums, so I know I'm not alone, but other posters have mentioned that their displays work just fine. Perhaps this defect is confined to a small portion of Apple's initial iPod touch shipment and those of us experiencing the problem will be able to get replacements.
Safari, Apps, and Some Rough Edges
Thankfully those display woes don't distract from viewing most Web pages in Safari, which remains the best mobile Web browser I've ever seen. For the most part, it works great on the iPod Touch, except when you try to multitask.
If you start up some music and tap your way over to Safari for some Wi-Fi-enabled Web surfing, you may encounter problems. If I opened up a complex page or a second tab, the Touch would often stop playing music, forcing me to go out to the main screen, tap over into music, and start it up again. I've also experienced the occasional crash after loading up three or more pages. I'd bet that these problems will be fixed in a future firmware update, but until they are they're two more reasons this player feels a little rushed to market.
Not all of the iPhone's apps made it to the iPod Touch. I can begin to see the rationale for omitting the Mail and Google Maps applications--both would work better with the iPhone's always-on data connection--but why leave off the Notes app or the Weather and Stock widgets? The implementation of the Calendar app is also a bit confusing: While you can sync events from your PC's calendar, you can't edit them on the Touch or add new events.
Overall Grade: Incomplete
We'll update this review shortly with results from our objective audio and battery life tests. (Apple rates the Touch as good for 22 hours of audio playback and 5 hours of video). I also hope that by the time we update, Apple will have responded to our questions about the Safari and screen issues I experienced.
Until then, the Touch remains a bit of an enigma. It's a beautifully designed player that's incredibly fun to use. If Apple can resolve these initial quality control issues, I'd gladly recommend it to anyone looking for a mobile video player, a portable Web browser, or a high-class way to cart around the highlights from your music library.
This story, "First Look: 16GB iPod Touch" was originally published by PCWorld.