Samsung MP3 player touts built-in speakers

The company takes aim at the party-on-the-go crowd, but are slide-out speakers worth the extra bulk?

Samsung Electronics' new MP3 player, aimed at the party-on-the-go crowd, features a set of compact speakers that slide out from the back of the device.

At first look, the K5 Digital Audio Player, which is slated to be released Sept. 10, doesn't look too different from other portable audio players. It has a 1.7-inch color LCD (liquid crystal display), a one-button scrolling device, and a sleek, black exterior. Its 2GB and 4GB capacity options are nothing unusual, nor are the added FM radio tuner and alarm clock functions.

Photo: Samsung K5

But Samsung hopes to win over music aficionados with the K5's hidden gimmick: mini speakers that can pop out of the back of the flash-memory device, allowing it to be propped up on a flat surface and played sans headphones.

The prices for the speaker-equipped player are similar to those for Apple Computer's iPod Nano devices with corresponding capacities: $209.99 for 2GB and $259.99 for 4GB. But at 3.8 inches long by 1.8 inches wide by 0.7 inches deep, the K5 is significantly larger than the Nano; in fact, it's almost the same size as Apple's 30GB and 60GB iPod models.

However, it's not yet clear whether music lovers are willing to make a size concession--both in terms of physical bulk and memory space--in favor of a set of slide-out speakers. Battery power may be an issue, too. With headphones, the K5 can play for 30 hours, Samsung said. But in speaker mode that time is whittled down to six hours. Apple claims that its iPod Nano can play for 14 hours.

Samsung said it is aiming for compatibility with the K5 as part of a new campaign it calls "MPFreedom." The device can play MP3s as well as content downloaded from subscription services such as Urge, Yahoo Music, Rhapsody and Napster. Recently, Samsung also entered the planning phases of its own download service, partnering with MusicNet.

Following in the footsteps of other companies that think pink, such as Sony with its rosy PSP model and Eastman Kodak's pink EasyShare V705 digital camera, a pink version of the K5 will ship later this year, Samsung said.

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