The MP3 player isn't dead yet, not if Samsung has anything to say about it. Splitting the difference between the Galaxy Player 3.6 and Galaxy Player 5, the new Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 improves upon both with better speakers and a brighter display. Like its older brothers, it gives you access to the full Google Play store for thousands of apps and can even be used as a handset when connected via Bluetooth. This Galaxy Player costs $199, the same as an iPod touch, but can it beat Apple's leading portable media player?
Much like the Galaxy Player 3.6, the Galaxy Player 4.2 looks and feels just like a mid-range Android phone. Samsung's trademark plastic casing makes the Galaxy Player 4.2 much lighter than it looks, but the back picks up fingerprint smudges quickly. Like the iPod touch, there's only one physical button on the front of the device, but the Galaxy Player 4.2 also has two capacitive buttons flanking the main button, Home to the left and Back to the right.
At 4.89 x 2.6 x 0.35 inches, this Galaxy Player is larger and thicker than Apple's iPod touch (4.4 x 2.3 x 0.28 inches) but features a much larger display, dwarfing the touch's 3.5-inch screen. Weighing in at 4.2 ounces, the Galaxy Player 4.2 is understandably heavier than the smaller touch (3.6 ounces) and the Galaxy Player 3.6 (3.9 ounces).
As with the smaller Galaxy Player 3.6, there is a front-facing VGA camera above the screen and a 2-MP camera on the back. The power and volume control buttons sit on the right of the device and a microUSB and 3.5mm headphone jack line the bottom. The back of the device is easily removed to reveal a removable 1500mAh battery and a microSD slot.
The Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 definitely feels like a step up from the Galaxy Player 3.6, and it's not just because of the bigger screen. The dual front-facing speakers located on either side of the screen (when held in landscape mode) provide better sound quality. The large screen also makes the device feel less cramped, although far corners were a bit hard to touch when using the Player one-handed.
The Galaxy Player has a 4.2-inch screen with a somewhat low 800 x 480 resolution, especially compared with Apple's iPod touch, which packs 960 x 640 pixels into its 3.5-inch Retina display. When viewed side-by-side with the iPod touch, the resolution difference was quite apparent. We weren't impressed when we watched the "Django Unchained" trailer on YouTube. It was difficult to distinguish finer details such as bushes and trees.
Despite these flaws, Galaxy Player 4.2 beat both the iPod touch and the Galaxy Player 3.6 in terms of screen brightness, measuring 497 lux. The touch came in second at 364 lux and the Player 3.6 was only 341 lux. You should have no problem using the Player 4.2 in direct sunlight. However, the iPod touch has wider viewing angles.
The Galaxy Player 4.2 two front-facing speakers pack a punch. When we turned up the volume and played Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," Jimmy Page's haunting riffs filled a small office. The bass was also better than many other Android phones.
The music player included with the 4.2 provides numerous setting options and presets to customize the audio, thanks to the SoundAlive equalizer. There are 13 different preset options, and we particularly liked the Rock setting.
For radio lovers, the Galaxy Player also has a built-in FM tuner, a feature missing from Apple's iPod touch. The interface includes a fun radio dial as well as plenty of space for preset stations. Like most other Android FM tuners, you'll need to plug in headphones to get reception.
Software and Interface
Unfortunately, the Galaxy Player ships with an older version of Android, 2.3.6 Gingerbread. Although a decent operating system, we wish this device used the more current Android Ice Cream Sandwich, which makes it easier to multitask and create folders.
Like most of Samsung's phones, the Player 4.2 runs TouchWiz software on top of Android. The first of seven home screens displays a weather widget beneath a huge clock. When you pull down the notification shade, you'll see convenient shortcuts for toggling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sound settings and Auto rotation.
The four shortcuts along the bottom of the screen take you to Music, Videos, Internet and Applications, and you can't customize them.
Just like the smaller Galaxy Player 3.6, the Galaxy Player 4.2 is powered by a 1-GHz Cortex A8 processor and 516MB of RAM. This is definitely on the lower end for Android devices. The Player 4.2 scored 1,719 on the CPU Benchmark test compared to the average score of 2,368. The 4.2 also scored quite low on the An3DBench 3D graphics test: 5,875 against the category average of 6,917.
Real-world performance was better but not blazing. While we played "FIFA 2012" without any glitches or performance issues, we noticed some sluggishness when scrolling websites (especially while they were still loading).
The Galaxy Player 4.2 includes 8GB of internal storage and can be increased by an additional 32GB with a microSD card, a must for this device.
The Galaxy Player 4.2 comes pre-loaded with a bunch of apps, such as Social Hub, AllShare, Kies Air and Smart View. The Standard Google app suite is also on board, including Google Maps, Gmail and the Play Store. The 4.2 also comes with a few popular games, including "Angry Birds," "Hot Pursuit" and "FIFA 2012."
The Social Hub application allows your device to receive push notifications from social media accounts, instant messages, email and SMS messages. Kies Air lets you view and back up your files from any Web browser.
We really enjoyed the AllShare app, which allowed us to wirelessly stream content from the Galaxy Player to any DLNA-enabled device. We connected the 4.2 to a 55-inch Samsung HDTV and were streaming video in seconds.
Along the same lines, Samsung's Smart View turns your Galaxy Player into a remote for your connected TV. It can change channels, access Internet-connected content, and serve as a gaming remote control. You can even turn your TV off with the app, but turning the TV back on will require the actual remote control.
The sheer size of some of the pre-loaded apps will necessitate the use of a microSD expansion card. "FIFA 2012" alone takes up 1.5GB of space, nearly 19 percent of the Player 4.2's 8GB of internal storage. The good news is that both "FIFA" and "Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit" are optional downloads.
Samsung Mobile Link
Samsung's Mobile Link gives the Galaxy Player the ability to be used as a headset for Bluetooth 3.0-enabled phones, adding the capability to receive--but not make--calls. Samsung provides a few examples of times when this might prove useful, like if your smartphone is charging and you want to take a phone call or if you use a feature phone and want smartphone functionality on the cheap.
When paired via Bluetooth, the Galaxy Player will ring at the same time as the connected phone. Answering a call on the Galaxy Player is the same as any other Android Phone, and calls feel natural due to the placement of the speaker and microphone. As long as we remained within Bluetooth range--around 33 feet--everything worked as expected.
Camera and Camcorder
The rear-facing camera on the Galaxy Player 4.2 has a fairly low resolution of 2-MP. As such, photo quality was below what you'll find on most smartphones today. Pictures were slightly grainy and edges and objects weren't crisp and clear. Additionally, the 720p camcorder had trouble keeping up with moving objects, such as cars.
The 4.2 has a front-facing VGA camera that is decent for face-to-face video chatting, although facial features were a little blurry.
The Galaxy Player 4.2 scored high on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuous Wi-Fi surfing with the screen at 40 percent brightness. The 1,500mAh removable battery lasted 7 hours and 56 minutes. The Android phone average is a lower 6:39, but that's over 3G and 4G, which uses more power than Wi-Fi.
If you want a portable media player and gaming device in one with a big screen, the Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 is a good buy at $199. Unlike the equally priced iPod touch, the 4.2 also has a removable battery and expandable media storage. We especially liked using the Player as a remote for our Samsung TV. We still prefer the iPod touch for its sharper screen, more premium design and superior app selection. But if you're looking for an Android-powered alternative with better sound, the Galaxy Player 4.2 is a worthy alternative.