Hands on with Samsung's Android-based Galaxy Players

Samsung is calling its new Galaxy Players, which come in 4- and 5-inch screen sizes, Android-based ultramobile devices. Both are Wi-Fi-only mini tablets that resemble blown-up versions of Apple's iPod Touch.

Like its 4-inch sibling, the 5-inch version of the Samsung Galaxy Player doesn't have a price or release date yet. Sarah Tew/CNET

Call them what you will. Android-based ultramobile devices. Mini tablets. Jumbo iPod Touches. Or Android smartphones without the phone.

Whatever they are, Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Players, which come in 4- and 5-inch screen sizes and don't have price tags or release dates yet, are intriguing.

Samsung casually unveiled the Galaxy Players at its 2011 product preview at the Samsung Experience showroom in New York on Wednesday. They're essentially mini versions of the Galaxy Tab, running on the same 1GHz processors and featuring front and rear cameras (the 5-inch model has a flash), microSD expansion ports, Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) connectivity, and support for Adobe Flash 10.1. Both models will start off running the Android 2.2 OS (Froyo) but will be upgradable to 2.3 (Gingerbread).

Though neither model has 3G data capabilities, Samsung is highlighting the inclusion of the Qik app for VoIP calls (yes, there's a built-in microphone). Both screens are WVGA displays, though the smaller 4-inch model features a "Super Clear" WVGA LCD display. In addition, the company said, both Galaxy Players support numerous multimedia formats natively, which means you can drag and drop DivX, Xvid, WMV, MPEG4, and H.264 video files onto a microSD (or the device's internal memory) and watch them without having to transcode the files. Audio support includes MP3, WMA, AAC, Ogg, and Flac. Samsung also mentioned that the Galaxy Players are DLNA certified and support AllShare, so you can wirelessly stream your content to and from a PC or television.

Here are the Samsung Galaxy Players' key specs:

  • 4- or 5-inch (WVGA) screen sizes
  • Run on Android 2.2 (Froyo), upgradable to 2.3 (Gingerbread)
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity
  • Cortex A8 1GHz processor (same as Galaxy Tab's processor)
  • Will be available in 8GB and 16GB versions
  • MicroSD card slot accepts cards up to 32GB
  • Rear camera (3.2 megapixels); front camera (VGA)
  • Weight: 5 and 7 ounces, respectively
  • Support for Adobe Flash 10.1
  • Stereo speakers, with Virtual 5.1 surround sound and Samsung's SoundAlive post-processing technology
  • Battery life: unknown
  • Release date: Sometime this year
  • Price: unknown

All this sounds great, but the real question is how Samsung will price these new players. Dell has been selling its version of the 5-inch tablet, the Streak 5, and it hasn't exactly set the market on fire. It carries a list price of around $500, but if you're willing to sign a two-year contract for data service, you can get it for $49.99 at Best Buy.

These types of Android-based ultramobile devices really need to play in the same price range as the iPod Touch, which starts at $229 (8GB) and works its way up to $399 for the 64GB version. These Galaxy Players are supposed to come in 8GB and 16GB versions and they weigh 5 and 7 ounces, respectively.

We spent some time playing around with the 5-inch model at the event and really liked its design and how lightweight and sleek it looked, especially compared with the larger Galaxy Tab (7-inch screen). The screen is an ample size for watching videos, even reading e-books, and the device is zippy and responsive, as well as pocket friendly. It seems well-suited for gaming and video conferencing.

Despite those positives, the problem with these players is that they're competing against other Android smartphones that have 4-inch--and sometimes slightly larger--displays. Why would someone carry around a smartphone and a Galaxy player?

True, plenty of people own both an iPhone and an iPod Touch, and lots of folks own an Android smartphone and an iPod Touch. So yes, there's certainly room in the market for devices like the Galaxy Players. But Samsung will have to do a bang-up job marketing--and pricing them--to compete against the iPod Touch, which will be getting refreshed in September (as long as Apple maintains its product release schedule of the last few years).

The irony, of course, is that if Apple were to release new iPod Touch models in these screen sizes (at price points below $299), it would be huge news--and they'd probably fly off the shelves.

Funny how that works.

 

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