While we prefer to have live radio, the Samsung Nexus's dock-and-record system is second best and well worth it, considering its size and weight. You can either listen to on-air programming via the dock's line-out jack or pick when and which channel to record, and the device does the rest, regardless of whether it's the BBC overnight news, XM Kids, or the network's uncensored comedy routines. Recording a few hours of a channel is the perfect way to reacquaint yourself with the classics or introduce yourself to new music. While both buffer the audio stream enough to capture entire songs, neither can tap into podcasts directly.
The 1GB of flash memory that the Samsung Nexus carries matches the S50 bit for bit, and both can hold about 50 hours of programming; as the name implies, the Nexus 25 can hold 25 hours of content. This is just enough to make for interesting technology but far too little for a musical library. You can connect the Nexus to a PC and transfer your own MP3 and WMA tracks, or you can download tunes from Napster. Unfortunately, the bundled software is often frustrating to use, and it's not compatible with Macs. In addition to not recognizing that you've changed a CD, the software interface doesn't let you know if the device is full, and all transfers to the Nexus start at 50 percent and proceed from there; this is due to the fact that you can use only half the device's storage for non-XM digital audio files. Oddly, Windows Explorer lets you move songs directly to the Nexus, which gets its own drive letter, but MP3 files won't play because Nexus uses and transcodes your music into XM's native AACPlus audio format.
As small as it is, the Samsung Nexus could be a big step forward for satellite-radio technology, since it is the first to use a removable radio receiver. Called Passport, it is the size of a matchbox and as sensitive as Delphi's MyFi, and it has the power to save some cash for those who like to listen all day. Because a single radio can go from home to car to work, it can save on extra hardware and subscriptions to XM, but only if a variety of envisioned equipment for it comes out. Samsung has four home-theater systems that can use the Passport radio, and we've heard rumors about Passport-enabled car stereos, boomboxes, and maybe even notebooks and PDAs. If it catches on, it could change the face of satellite radio. If not, it could be the next Betamax format: a good idea that's quickly forgotten.
Like the Sirius S50, the Samsung Nexus comes with a one-year warranty, but it's too new to have much of anything available on the company's support site. We expect this to change quickly as Samsung adds FAQs, downloads, and personalized help, although you'll need to register. The device comes with English and Spanish manuals, as well as a quickie setup sheet, and Samsung has an e-mail link and a 24-hour phone line for questions and help.
As far as audio quality goes, the Samsung Nexus delivers loads of sonic detail, but its acoustic balance is a bit disappointing, particularly compared with other digital players and Samsung's larger Helix model. There is an equalizer with preset profiles for different programming, but it can't make up for the hollow and sometimes harsh high end and anemic midrange present in its playback.
Once we got used to the idea of having to record satellite-radio programming, the Samsung Nexus became part of our daily routine. We set the device to record our favorite channels at different times during the day, then pocketed it for our day in the real world. We prefer live broadcasts, but it's a small price to pay for such a small device. It never got hot, and we were generally impressed with its reception, which was on a par with that of the Helix and the MyFi units we've used. Transfers using the included XM+Napster are excruciatingly slow, with 10 songs taking nearly 5 minutes to move from PC to Nexus--twice as long as similar action with the Helix. With 7 hours, 15 minutes of playback time, the Nexus is disappointing but offers nearly double the battery life as that of the S50.