The Samsung YP-P3 ($149 for 8GB) builds upon the success of theSamsung YP-P2, which was a very solid portable media player that delivered excellent audio, a responsive touchscreen, and stereo Bluetooth connectivity (for placing and taking calls with a Bluetooth-enabled phone) to push the device past the "iPod touch wannabe" status. Its update, with a slicker design, text-to-speech capabilities, a haptics-enabled touchscreen, and a wallet-friendly price, solidifies this PMP as the best Samsung has yet produced--and one of the best values on the market.
Slick Hardware and Touchscreen
At 4.0 x 2.1 x 0.4 inches, the P3 has a smaller footprint than the 4.3 x 2.4 x 0.3-inchApple iPod touch, which makes it more pocket-friendly than its rival. Much like its predecessor, the P3 sports a nearly all-black design, and ditches the shiny plastic build of the P2 for one that's far more attractive. The face has a soft-touch matte finish that provides traction when you hold it, and the back is a smooth brushed metal.
The top of the player features two buttons (Power/hold and volume), and a speaker; the bottom contains Samsung's proprietary USB connection port, a headphone jack, and a reset/mic port. We would have preferred the headphone jack on the top or the side of the device, with the volume controls on the side.
Touchscreen and Interface
At the heart of the P3 is a sharp 3-inch, 480 x 272-pixel resolution touchscreen with EmoTure haptic feedback. As soon as we powered on the player, a clock with bouncing digits beckoned us to experience the device's haptic feedback. After tapping the clock, we were not only able to change the clock to correspond with our time zone, but also got the first taste of the haptic rumble that gives the touchscreen an extra tactile sensation.
We went on to explore the numerous widgets that reside on the desktop. When we pressed the lightbulb icon, for example, we could alter the brightness of the display. The P3 lacks an accelerometer, so the screen doesn't reorient itself when you move the player from a vertical to a horizontal position.
Similar to the iPod touch, the desktop is divided into three areas that you can swipe. The center area features multimedia icons (music, video, photos, FM radio); on the right are handy utilities (address book, alarm, calculator, games, and podcasts); on the left are more tools--a subway map, and Sleep Cat (a kitten icon, which, when pressed, lets you set a time to put the screen in sleep mode). The interface isn't all that difficult to master, but it looks and feels a little too hokey for our taste.
Tapping the area just below the display brings up options to select from two additional icon layouts, one of which has a random flying butterfly animation. You can rearrange icons by dragging them into new positions,and add or remove new widgets, such as a calendar. By swiping a finger quickly across this area (in a similar fashion as you would to unlock an iPhone or iPod touch) we were able to instantly access our tunes from any screen. This was incredibly useful, because we didn't have to return to the music icon in order fire up, pause, or skip tracks.
Despite the hard, uncomfortable stock earbuds (fortunately, you can use your own set of standard headphones), it was a joy listening to music on the P3. Samung's proprietary DNSe 3.0 sound-enhancing technology (with 12 audio settings) that brought a fresh vibrancy to our Radiohead MP3s. The entire soundscape sounded far more encompassing and expansive than the iPod touch, and we picked up the subtleties of the bass and lead guitar, as well. The audio was also loud enough to block out the din of a busy Manhattan street. We liked that we could create playlists on the fly and assign songs to play when we set the clock's alarm, but found the integrated speaker somewhat lifeless.
The device supports a wide range of popular and not-so-popular audio formats (AAC, ASF, Ogg FLAC, MP3, WAV, protected and unprotected WMA), and features an FM radio with 30 presets whose audio alternated between clear and static-filled, depending on the station. You can also record FM radio content, or your voice with the built-in mic.
EmoDio desktop software, which comes preloaded on the P3, allows you to manage your media by creating playlists, subscribing to podcasts, burning content to optical media, and transferring content to the player. EmoDio also lets you convert TXT files to MP3 for audio playback. When we typed a short paragraph, converted it to audio, and transferred it to the P3, the player read it back with the expected mechanical cadence, but managed to accurately sound off every word but one (which was a name, Horatio).
Photos and Videos
Our photos looked bright and crisp, and it was a breeze to create slideshows (accompanied by music) using the on-screen option key. Transitions looked cool, and it was easy to move from one photo to the next with a swipe. Unlike the iPod touch, however, the P3 doesn't support multitouch gestures, so you can't pinch your fingers to zoom in; there's a separate zoom control instead. The P3 supports BMP, JPEG, and PNG photo formats.
An episode of Life of Ryan that we purchased from Amazon Unbox played back smoothly without any hiccups on the P3, and maintained a solid frame rate (the P3 managed 30 frames per second on playback). Although the clip wasn't formatted for the P3's 16:9 aspect ratio, an option enabled us to watch the show in full screen to eliminate the vertical letterboxing, even though this made for a slightly squashed experience. This player supports H.264, MPEG-4, and WMV9 protected video formats. Unfortunately, the P3 lacks a Wi-Fi radio and YouTube player.
Several fun diversions are preinstalled on the P3, including ALGGAGI, Bubble Bang, BubbleSmile, Omok2, Pow Wow, Sudoku Champ, and Word Car Puzzle. The most addictive of these was Bubble Bang, which lets you pop bubble wrap (complete with haptic feedback) in a number of fun and interesting ways. If you're looking for more engaging graphics and gameplay, the iPod touch's vast library can't be beat.
Bluetooth and Battery Life
The P3's stereo Bluetooth connection was a snap to set up, and we had no problem pairing the player with a set of Cardo S-2 wireless headphones. We enjoyed audio that didn't suffer from any breakup as we walked approximately 10 feet away from the P3, but it didn't have quite the liveliness that came with listening to tunes through a wired headset.
One of the best features of the P3 is its ability to pair with a Bluetooth-enabled phone. Connecting the P3 to aT-Mobile G1, allowed us to place and receive calls by selecting Call By Number, and keying in a friend's digits with the on-screen keypad. Unfortunately, we couldn't hear our buddies through the Bluetooth headset or the built-in speaker on the two phones (aSamsung Accessand an T-Mobile G1) we used in our test; we had to connect a pair of wired headphones to pick up their end of the conversation. Samsung told us that this feature works with only a handful of phones listed in the manual, including the LG KG77, Motorola Z3, Nokia N72, and Samsung SPH-C3250; compatibility isn't guaranteed with other models.
Once that problem was resolved, we experienced good call quality; voices were clear and we didn't suffer any dropped calls. In a nice touch, music will pause when a call comes in, and automatically resume when you finish your conversation. Samsung rates the P3 at 30 hours for audio playback, and 5 hours for video playback. During our time with the player, we alternated among music, video, and connecting to Bluetooth throughout the day without running out of juice.
If 8GB isn't enough for your multimedia needs, there's also an option to purchase the P3 with either 16GB ($199) or 32GB ($299) of storage.
Samsung has crafted a fine player in the YP-P3, which features a responsive (if kitschy) touchscreen interface, excellent use of Bluetooth, and strong format support. Even better, the P3's price tag matches that of the iPod nano ($149 for 8GB, $199 for 16GB), a device with far less functionality. The lack of Wi-Fi, a Web browser, and a more robust library of apps will be a turnoff for some, but the P3 is a good choice for those whose primarily want media playback.