Think of it as an oversized iPod touch that runs Android. The Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0 fills the void for those who want to try the Android platform without having to purchase a whole new smartphone. This 5-inch device runs Android Gingerbread 2.3.5 on a single-core 1-GHz processor, has 8GB internal storage (expandable up to 32GB with microSD), a 800 x 480 VGA display, and front- and back-facing cameras. Those specs don't match up to those of a high-end smartphone, but you get a roomy screen, a decent media experience, and access to more than 250,000 Android apps. Is that enough to take down the touch?
Try to wrap your fingers around the Galaxy Player 5.0, and it quickly becomes clear that the size of the device--stretched out at 5.6 x 3.1 x 0.5 inches--makes it awkward to hold one-handed for folks with small hands.
The Galaxy Player 5.0's size and heft can be most closely compared to the HTC Amaze 4G; it weighs 6.4 ounces versus the Amaze 4G's 6.1 ounces and has the same thickness. It's also bulkier than both the Galaxy S II (4.8 ounces, 0.4 inches thick) and the iPod touch (4.4 x 2.3 x 0.3 inches). We definitely felt the Galaxy Player 5.0 in our pockets--more than other Android smartphones we've tested.
Click to EnlargeWhen you turn this media player over, you'll find a 3.2-megapixel rear-facing camera with an LED flash, two tiny speaker grilles, and the Galaxy Player 5 name scribed in gray on the hard plastic white backside. The device retains fingerprints, but smudges are only visible when you examine the surface closely. The Galaxy Player 5.0 is certainly cheaper-looking than Apple's polished iPod touch and iPhone 4S, but the smooth, rounded edges and glossy finish vaunt an understated, no-frills look that minimalists will appreciate.
The top edge of the Galaxy Player 5.0 contains a microSD slot, the bottom houses a microUSB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the volume rocker sits on the left, right below the power button.
Click to EnlargeThe Galaxy Player 5.0 features a 5-inch, WVGA TFT LCD with a resolution of 800 x 480, while the iPod touch features a 3.5-inch (diagonal) display with a resolution of 960 x 640 at 326 pixels per inch. There's no contest between the Galaxy Player 5.0 and the iPod touch in this regard; the iPod touch's super-sharp Retina display wins hands down. Moreover, the Galaxy Player 5.0's large size will turn away some, though others may appreciate having a larger-than-average screen.
We hardly needed to zoom in and out of full-spread web pages. When we streamed Moulin Rouge from Netflix, the flurry of bright lights and florid costumes during the French can-can scene were vividly displayed, and we noted wide viewing angles. The Player 5.0 leaned towards redder hues, giving actors' faces a ruddier look than usual, and the blacks during the Moulin Rouge's risqué evening shows were shown as muddy grays, instead of deep and dramatic as they should be.
Click to EnlargeMeasuring 333 lux, the Galaxy Player 5.0's display was fairly bright. While that's less than the 406 lux on the Galaxy Player 4.0 (which has a WVGA Super Clear LCD), it's comfortably above the Sprint Samsung Galaxy S II, whose Super AMOLED Plus display notched 286 lux.
But brightness isn't everything. We watched Man On Wire via Netflix on both the Galaxy Player 5.0 and the Galaxy S II, and noted that the Player 5.0 simply could not compete when it came to colors and contrast. Philippe Petit, clad in black and teetering on a wire strung high between the Twin Towers, really popped against the cloudless blue sky on the Galaxy S II. In contrast, it looked as though it might be about to rain in the same scene on the Player 5.0. The Super Clear LCD screen on the Galaxy Player 4.0 is also much more colorful.
Click to EnlargeThe Galaxy Player 5.0's music player can produce impressively loud sound. Higher-pitched tones on "Bourgeois Shangri-La" by Miss Li rang out bright and clear, and were loud enough to fill an entire room. On more bass-heavy tunes such as the Beatles' "Come Together," quality was decent but wasn't as full-bodied as we would have liked, and sound separation was lacking. But overall, audio is exceptional, and it's a plus that Samsung claims audio playback can last for 60 full hours (on default settings, playing MP3s at 128 Kbps, Volume 15, normal sound, and with the display turned off).
Unlike the iPod touch, the Galaxy Player 5.0 features a built-in FM radio, whose app you launch by tapping a convenient icon on the music player's first home screen. The radio's UI is straightforward: Tap on the upper-left corner to power on the radio and use left and right directional arrows to browse the stations automatically, or rotate the silver digital scroll wheel to manually select a station.
The in-ear headset that came with the Galaxy Player 5.0 was about average for a set that comes bundled with a phone, but it includes an in-line mic and play/pause key, and reproduced the FM station's sound accurately. Our one minor quibble was that we heard some static at times, but that's typical of any radio.
It's noteworthy that the Galaxy Player 5.0's software allows you to play multiple formats of media files. It can handle DivX, Xvid, MPEG-4, WMV, AVI, and H.264 videos, and MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, and FLAC audio files.
Click to EnlargeWe appreciated how the Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0's virtual keyboard offered subtle haptic feedback, something the iPod touch doesn't provide, and how it spread nicely across the entire device. The device also lets you choose between a regular and a Swype keyboard. Many users will prefer Swype, which lets you trace between letters to form words, but those who like to type with their thumbs will want to stick with the stock keyboard.
Software and Interface
Click to EnlargeThe Galaxy Player 5.0 runs Android Gingerbread 2.3.5, complemented by Samsung's TouchWiz 3.0 interface. TouchWiz is a skin on top of the default Android operating system that tweaks certain features to create a more versatile user experience. One of the things it adds, for instance, is an app drawer as a permanent icon on the lower-right corner of the device's main screen. Touch the icon, and a grid of all your apps appears; you can scroll through them with a quick horizontal swiping motion.
TouchWiz also includes a custom notification bar for app alerts; you access it by swiping a pull-down menu from the top. You can find icons for important settings across the top of notifications, tapping one time each to toggle them on or off: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Vibration, and Auto Rotation.
The Player 5.0's home screen also has a Live Panel widget, which gives you a preview of certain apps which you can purchase on the device.
As it has the most recent version of Android, the Galaxy Player 5.0 has access to the full bevy of Android apps (more than 250,000) on the Android Market. Sadly, the racing game Asphalt 6 isn't supported, but HBO Go, Pandora, Rdio, and a whole slew of other entertainment apps are available, including Vlingo, a Siri-like assistant. The Galaxy Player comes pre-loaded with Skype for video and audio chat and ThinkFree Office for handling documents.
Click to EnlargeThe iPod touch gives you access to more 500,000 apps on the iTunes Store. But a limitation of both the Galaxy Player 5.0 and the iPod touch is that these devices can't take advantage of location-based apps, since they rely on Wi-Fi for an Internet connection. Also, in weighing the two, we found ourselves wishing that the Galaxy Player 5.0 had some sort of counterpart to Apple's iTunes software to help you organize your music. Sorting tunes on the Player 5.0 was a big chore, since the device didn't come with any desktop software for music management; it forces you to side-load your songs onto the player manually. After you copy your files to it, the Galaxy Player 5.0 auto-classifies the music according to album and artist on its stock Music app, but that's the extent of organization on the player.
The Galaxy Player 5.0 also comes bundled with some proprietary Samsung apps. There's Samsung Smart View, a remote control app that connects to and controls a Samsung Smart TV (if you have one); Social Hub, which makes use of push technology to ping you when you've got newly received emails, IMs, and SMS, and syncs your social networks (Google, Yahoo, Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter and My Space) and AllShare, which lets you take multimedia content from your mobile phone and stream it on DLNA-enabled hardware, grab files from your server to play on your phone, or play these files from the server on another player via the app.
Samsung has previously packed some impressive guts into its smartphones, such as the T-Mobile Galaxy S II's 1.5-GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor. The Galaxy Player 5.0, however, is powered by Samsung's less-ambitious single-core 1-GHz ARM Hummingbird processor. (Similarly, the iPod touch also packs Apple's rather outdated A4 processor, which has since been upgraded in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S to the A5 chip.) The Galaxy Player 5.0 notched 1,823 on the CPU section of the Benchmark test--widely outpaced by the Galaxy S II's score of 3,365. On the other hand, the Galaxy Player 5.0 did slightly better than the smartphone category average of 1,669.
On An3DBench, a test that measures 3D graphics performance, the Galaxy Player 5.0 scored 7,197, which is only slightly less than the T-Mobile Galaxy S II's score of 7,394. That's also 757 poinClick to Enlargets higher than the smartphone category average (6,440).
Click to EnlargeReal-world performance reflected these agreeable results. We were able to play a graphics-intensive game, Asphalt 5, without a hitch and use Netflix and YouTube to play videos smoothly. Additionally, the media player was nimble in handling our web surfing activity on the built-in browser, responsively zooming in and out of pages with the standard pinch gesture, and loading web pages quickly. But the Galaxy Player 5.0 exhibited lag in some tasks: The camera was a little sluggish while changing modes, for instance.
The Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0 has 8GB of internal storage, and users can add up to 32GB using a microSD card that you insert via a (rather flimsy) flap along the top edge of the device.The entry-level iPod touch also has 8GB and costs $30 less, but lacks microSD expansion.
Click to EnlargeThe Galaxy Player 5.0 comes with a 3.2-MP camera on the back. On the whole, it provided decent quality and captured a range of colors, but we weren't fans of the light leaks that were visible on some of our partially dark photos, particularly on the corners. In a shot of a street vendor's table of colorful hats and smartphone cases, the sequined beanies blended out to bleached colors as sunlight leaked into the picture.
We wouldn't recommend using the Player 5.0 as your main camera for important events. In our experience using older iPod touch models (which have the same camera as the curent one), that device took photos of much better quality. That said, Samsung does include multiple scene modes for taking pictures, including Panorama, Smile Shot, and Vintage.
Additionally, the rear camera is capable of 480p video recording, compared to the iPod touch's 720p footage. Footage of Times Square looked a bit shaky, but it recorded good color and detail of the twinkling Broadway lights during the day.
There's also an integrated VGA camera on the front of the Galaxy Player 5.0. We tried this out with a coworker on Skype, and he noted that the picture was not as sharp as it could have been, but audio quality was decent and remained in sync during the entire conversation.
According to Samsung, the Galaxy Player 5.0's 2,500 mAh lithium-polymer battery will provide a solid 8 hours of playback time on video, and a maximum of 60 hours' worth of audio playback (on default settings, playing MP3s at 128 Kbps, Volume 15, normal sound, and with the display turned off). While our LAPTOP Battery Test (web surfing via 4G) didn't run to completion, it lasted 8 hours and 20 minutes with 25 percent left; extrapolating the results gave us an impressive estimated runtime of 10:35,well above the 6:48 category average for tablets..
By comparison, the Galaxy Player 4.0, its more compact counterpart, had an extrapolated runtime of 6:49 on our battery test. Apple claims that its current iPod touch offers 7 hours of video playback and 40 hours of music listening.
Unless they really want the larger 5-inch screen, platform-agnostic users will probably not find enough reasons to pay $70 more for the Galaxy Player 5.0 than they would for the iPod touch, which has more apps, a more colorful screen, and a better camera. Android fans might prefer the more colorful screen on the Galaxy Player 4.0, but those looking to get the full Gingerbread experience on a media player/tiny tablet with a slightly larger display will love the Galaxy Player's solid sound, long battery life, and more-than-adequate performance.