Advice on the iPod Touch and iTunes 7.7--Ask the Editors

Get the answers to all of your questions about MP3 players, headphones, and more in this weekly feature.

After Friday's iPhone delirium, I'm going to take the helm of the iMania and steer it in a slightly different direction: toward the iPod Touch and the latest release of iTunes, Version 7.7. Namely, let's address whether there's a noticeable difference in screen and sound quality when it comes to the Touch, other iPod models, and the iPhone. Also, should someone who has been using the same version of iTunes for five years upgrade to the latest software?

The Touch is a nice choice for portable video. CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze

Q: I am thinking of buying an iPod Touch but have a couple questions. First, I heard about the screen quality being lesser than the iPhone. Is this true and is it real noticeable? I mean if it still looks good compared to other MP3 screens then I guess I don't care. Also, I was using a Zune until now and I really liked having the subscription music. I heard something about Apple trying to get a subscription going--is there any new news about this? Finally I also have seen from reviews that the quality of the music is not as good as previous iPods were. Is this true and would it be noticeable to someone who will more then likely just use the earphones that come with the iPod Touch or maybe slightly more expensive ones?--viper134, via CNET forums

A: I have used both the iPod Touch and the iPhone on numerous occasions and cannot personally see any difference in screen quality. In fact, they have the same display specs (480-by-320-pixel resolution at 163 pixels per inch), so any noted difference is likely the result of a buggy unit or just the user's imagination. It's a pretty nice screen for video-watching, in my opinion.

I like the Philips SHE-9850...right now. Philips

On the subscription front, we haven't heard anything around here that suggests that Apple will be offering an all-you-can-eat music plan anytime soon, but that doesn't mean much. Steve Jobs is notoriously adept at keeping such things under wraps, and people love to speculate about what's next on Apple's agenda.

As for sound quality, I always recommend replacing the stock earbuds for any MP3 player, though I don't think the ones that come with the Touch are any worse than those that have come with previous iPods (in fact, they are likely better). People certainly notice nuances in sound quality between the Touch and other versions of the iPod, but I wouldn't say that the Touch sounds any worse than the others. I find the audio quality to be more than passable on that model.

Q: So we have iTunes 4. I never updated it. Should I? I'm worried it will screw something up. We had issues getting iTunes to work with everyone's account here on Windows XP, so that everyone's music is on their profile/account and no one else's. If I update iTunes, will anything change besides the look? Will everything be OK?--Scott, via e-mail

Upgrades are worth it for some, but not for others.

A: If you haven't updated iTunes since 2003 (v.4.1), my guess is that you probably haven't updated your machines since 2003 either. If that is the case, your computer may not meet the necessary system requirements (see below) to run the latest version of the software. If it's an older machine that does meet the minimum, there's still a chance that the newer, more intensive software will cause it to grind to a halt. In any event, I can't guarantee that everything will be OK and largely the same after an update, especially when it comes to the user profile information. I've had various issues when updating iTunes in the past, and plenty of users have experienced problems with many music software apps when it comes to updating. If you want to use an iPhone, rent movies, or even use a new iPod, you'll need to use iTunes 7.6 or later. If you're happy the way things are, then I would suggest not upgrading to the latest version.

Apple's posted requirements for running iTunes 7.7:

Windows Requirements

  • 32-bit editions of Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Vista
  • 64-bit editions of Windows Vista
  • 500 MHz Pentium class processor or better
  • 256MB RAM
  • Supported CD-R or DVD-R drive to burn CDs
  • Broadband Internet connection (DSL/Cable/LAN) for buying and streaming music

Additional Video Requirements

  • 2GHz Pentium class processor or better
  • 512MB RAM
  • 32MB video RAM

(Senior Editor Donald Bell contributed to this response.)

CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze

MP3 Mailbox Monday is a recurring feature where I answer a selection of questions about MP3 players and accessories, such as headphones, speakers, and music services and software. Check back often to see if the advice presented here might be of some use to you, or send your questions directly to me. (Note: We never include last names, but if you prefer to remain completely anonymous, please state as much in your e-mail.)