Samsung Muse review:

When form smothers function

To perform the magic trick of transferring music directly from an Android smartphone, Samsung includes a separate adapter that goes from headphone jack to Micro-USB. In our case, we connected the Muse to a Galaxy Note 2 smartphone using the supplied cable and a quickly downloaded free app called Muse Sync.

The Muse Sync app very simply provides a list of media available on your phone that can be synced with the Muse. Check the box next to the song, album, or artist, and that content will be transferred to the Muse automatically once connected. A button near the bottom of the app toggles a view of all the media currently stored on the Muse, which can be deleted as you see fit.

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In spite of all the miraculous wireless data transfer technologies built in to Samsung's smartphones, the Muse takes advantage of none of them. Josh Miller/CNET

Finally, I feel compelled to mention that Samsung includes a "Sound Alive" audio enhancement switch on the side of the player. Because it's built into the power switch, most users will probably activate it unwittingly in the process of turning the Muse on. Considering that the audio effect seems to salvage the otherwise awful earbuds included with the Muse, any accidental activation should be considered a happy accident.

It's been a while since I've been so completely dumbfounded by a product. In all the time that I've covered MP3 players for CNET, I don't think I've seen an MP3 player design as ill-conceived as the Samsung Muse.

The crux of the problem is the user interface. Somehow, Samsung found a way to take a simple, time-tested navigation formula and complicate it to the point of absurdity.

The first problem with the interface is that it is completely undetectable by touch, and practically invisible to the eye. The icons are inscribed with dark ink on a already dark, completely smooth surface. The end result is that there is simply no easy way to quickly adjust volume or control playback on the Muse without closely inspecting the device, ideally under daylight conditions.

To complicate things further, the Muse's touch-based controls often require two taps to operate any function. As I mentioned, Samsung puts the controls to sleep after about 5 seconds of inactivity, ostensibly to prevent any accidental taps. As a result, you must first wake the controls with a long press, and then tap again to perform the desired function. And because no other MP3 player you've ever used behaves this way, it will take you a while to adjust to this two-tap method. Hand the Muse over to the uninitiated, and they'll likely hand it back to you in frustration claiming that it doesn't seem to work.

Long story short, the Samsung Muse is unnecessarily complicated, and there's not much else going for it that might balance out its frustration factor. The battery life is rated at 6 hours, the clip is made from plastic, and the $60 price is absurd when you compare it with products like the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip that can be had for $20 less.

Final thoughts
I can appreciate that the Samsung Galaxy Muse philosophically embraces a post-PC future in which more people are downloading music directly to their phones than to their computers. I'll even buy the idea that some of those people find their Samsung smartphones a bit too cumbersome to take with them on a morning jog and would prefer an ultraportable MP3 player that can directly siphon music from their phone to take on the go. Unfortunately, the Samsung Galaxy Muse seems wholly unfit for that task.

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Some illuminated navigation buttons would have gone a long way to making this design more practical. Josh Miller/CNET

Perhaps if the interface hadn't been made practically undetectable to sight and touch, or if Samsung had figured out a way to wirelessly transfer songs via Bluetooth or its own AllShare services, then maybe the Muse would be worthy of a recommendation. But as it stands now, the Muse is perhaps the worst-designed MP3 player I've reviewed, and Samsung's decision to market it as a smartphone accessory seems more desperate than visionary.

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