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The 6th-generation iPod touch is the best handheld media player/Internet device (that's not a phone) that I've ever used. It takes all the strengths of the 5th generation model — its 4-inch Retina Display screen, Internet connectivity, App Store support, FaceTime video chatting — and adds a handful of key improvements.
This version is built around the speedy A8 processor, includes the M8 motion co-processor for tracking movement and physical activity, and greatly improves imaging by making the back camera 8 megapixels and adding support for slow-motion video on top of the existing 1080p HD recording. Even better, it also includes a model with 128GB of storage.
It's important to note that while the 6th gen. touch is my top-rated iPod, that rating does not apply to the 16GB model. See the end of the list for my thinking — and why you should avoid that one.
The 6th-generation iPod nano was a step back. Apple intended that model nano — with its tiny shape and multitouch screen — to be an innovation, but it simply removed too many useful features.
The 7th-gen model rectifies that. It restores features like video playback that had been removed from the 6th-gen model, while also adding key new features like a bigger, 2.5-inch screen, a home button, and the Lightning connector. After the misstep of the sixth generation, the nano is again the best non-iOS iPod and, at just $149 for a 16GB model, it's the perfect device for those on a budget who want to enjoy an iPod.
The Shuffle will never be a contender for top iPod honors. It's too limited for everyday use by all users. But the users it's designed for are going to love it.
The Shuffle is best as something you use in limited ways, such as at the gym and when running. It's small, light, clips to clothing, and won't get in your way. It doesn't have a screen or too many features, but when you're exercising you don't need them.
This version of the Shuffle harkens back to the design of the 2nd generation model, offering the buttons on the face that the 3rd-generation model lacked. As a result, this version fixes most of the problems of the previous one. It's still tiny and light — just 0.44 ounces — and affordable. It only offers 2GB of storage, but it's a great package for the right users.
I sang the praises of the iPod touch at the top of the list, so why is this model at the bottom? Storage space. The entry-level iPod touch only offers 16GB of storage. When you factor in how much room the iOS and all of its default apps need, the user is left with 10GB or less of storage for their apps, photos, music, and more. That's just not enough these days.
The most elaborate games can take up as much as 4GB while recording 1 hour of HD video can require around 7 GB of storage. The 16GB model presumably exists so Apple can charge under $200 (in this case, $199) for a touch. But Apple simply shouldn't be selling 16GB models anymore: they're not good enough.
If you want a touch, but are also on a budget, spend the extra $50 to get the 32GB model. It's more than worth the difference in price.