Samsung U3 review: Samsung U3

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.0
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Samsung U3 features a cool design and a built-in USB interface. It's inexpensive and easy to use, yet still offers some handy features such as an FM tuner and a voice recorder. It also supports OGG and WMA subscriptions, and the package includes a snap-on belt clip and a headphone cable wrap.

The Bad The Samsung U3 doesn't offer the best sound quality, and the touch-sensitive controls won't appeal to everyone. It has a small, monochrome display.

The Bottom Line The Samsung U3 is the proof that a basic MP3 player doesn't have to be ugly and featureless; it's simple, inexpensive, cool-looking, and perfect for the gym.

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Samsung U3

A basic MP3 player needn't be ugly or featureless to fall into the "simple and inexpensive" category, and Samsung's sticklike U3 provides the proof to that statement. The 2GB flash MP3 player offers a cute design, a simple user interface, and a handy plug-in design. And it will only set you back $80. Sure, it may not have a color screen or video support, but it has the best of basic music playback in spades.

It's hard not to see a pack of gum when first looking at the U3. At 3.2x1x0.5 inches, the thin, rectangular player looks strikingly like a six-stick pack of Doublemint; well, our green version did, anyway. The device is also available in black, blue, or pink versions (all with 2GB storage). The face of the U3 is almost entirely smooth but for the indent of the 1-inch monochrome OLED screen, which sits to the left of the touch-sensitive control pad. Here, you get track shuttle and volume keys, which alternately act as directional arrows within the menus, and a back selector. Continuing around to the right edge, you'll find a thin, retractable USB adapter, which can be popped out via a switch on the bottom side of the player. This area also houses a hold switch, a highly necessary feature in a device with touch-sensitive controls.


Samsung includes a clear belt clip with the U3, which can be snapped onto the back of the player.
Other notable physical features line the edges of the U3. On the top side, there's a play/pause/power button and a record/user-defined key. The left edge comprises a standard 3.5mm headphone jack surrounded completely in opaque plastic, which houses a blue LED that indicates if the player is on or syncing. This combined with the brightly colored, texturized body gives the U3 a cool, designer look--it may not appeal to everyone, but it's certainly not ugly.


We like that the U3's earbuds match the body color of the player, and that Samsung threw a cable wrap into such an inexpensive package.
The Samsung U3 is predictably light on features, given its price and body style, but it does offer some handy ones. It supports MP3, OGG, ASF, and WMA files, including DRM 10 for subscription music. Music is arranged handily by artist, album, genre, and so on. You get standard shuffle and repeat options, a nine-band user equalizer (EQ), and DSNe sound effects, which consist of 13 preset EQs. There's also a built-in mic for making voice recordings and an FM tuner with autoscan and at least 15 preset slots.

If the Samsung U3 disappoints in one area, it's sound quality. Although the sound settings help to fill in the low end and tailor tunes more to your taste, we found that music came across a bit flat, even through our Shure SE310 test headphones. It didn't have the richness or warmth we like, and we noticed some odd feedback during quiet moments on a couple of tracks. That said, the U3's sound is certainly passable; the clarity was quite good overall, and it gets plenty loud--it really is a great player for the gym. The rated 15-hour battery life ain't bad, either, but the actual battery life of 11.8 hours is a bit of a letdown.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Built-in Display OLED
  • Battery Player battery - rechargeable - lithium polymer
  • Tuner Bands FM
  • Run Time (Up To) 15 hour(s)
  • Capacity 2 GB
  • Color pink
  • Weight 0.8 oz
  • Supported Digital Audio Standards ASF
    MP3
    Ogg Vorbis
    WMA
    protected WMA (DRM)
  • Installed Size 2 GB
  • Diagonal Size 1" m
  • Sound Output Mode stereo
  • Type digital player / radio