When Samsung came out with the K5 in 2006, we were stoked to see an MP3 player with an unusual design trait: a nifty built-in speaker that flipped out from behind the device and propped the player up for optimal listening. It helped, too, that the K5 offered plentiful features and stellar audio quality, though we weren't so keen on the super thick girth required to accommodate the speaker. Enter the S5, the K5's slimmer successor that adds built-in Bluetooth to the mix. While the S5 suffers from a few minor drawbacks such as a small screen and proprietary video support, it's quite the worthy option for those with a penchant for top-notch audio quality and the ability to share tunes on the fly.
Design and interface
Of course, you're going to have to shell out just a bit more for the S5 than you would for its competitors. The 2GB version lists for $119.99, while the 4GB model sells for $159.99 (by comparison, the 4GB Creative Zen goes lists at $129.99). Samsung offers both black and white versions of the player on its site, but black was the only color we could find for sale elsewhere. In the standard MP3 player position, the overall design of the S5 is boxy (it measures 3.8 inches by 1.8 inches by 0.6 inch), though the shiny face and lack of real buttons gives it a sleek look. The controls don't become apparent until you turn the player on, which is when six "keys" light up. There are four directional arrows surrounding a central play/pause/select dot as well as contextual menu and back keys.
Once you get used to the lack of tactile controls, navigating the S5 is a breeze, and the graphically intense interface makes it fun as well. Like the K5, the top menu of this player features morphing dot icons representing the functions (headphones for music, an old school radio for FM tuner, and so on). Alternatively, you can choose a more standard interface with a photo of your choosing as the wallpaper. Once you delve down into the music submenu, tracks are navigable by artist, album, playlist, and so on. (You may also choose to browse by folder.) Samsung also offers a completely separate menu for Datacasts, which are your automatically updated RSS feeds. Sadly, there is no integrated podcast support.
Speaker and more features
The Samsung S5 has just about every other feature in the book, including the super nifty slide-out speaker. Let's face it: it's just more fun to share tunes from something that actually looks like a portable speaker, rather than an MP3 player with two tiny ports on the back. The speaker is silver and decked out in circular dots, and it props the player up at a handy angle. The built-in alarm clock further augments its usefulness: leave the speaker open, and you can be awake to a song of your choice.