Portable TVs have an uncomfortable late-80s feel to them. Back then, we all walked around with handheld gadgets from the future that weren’t really handheld at all – the ‘brick’ style mobile phones and laptop computers that weighed more than today’s desktops.
Samsung look like they might have overcome the stigma of the portable TV. The YH-999 is a world away from the clunky ‘pocket’ sized TVs we were once lumbered with. Although the Samsung doesn’t actually let you watch live TV or record it, it does play back TV, video, photos and music transferred from your Windows PC.
The YH-999 is worth considering if you’re a commuter who’d like to spend the wasted hours of your journey watching last night’s episode of Eastenders, or sobbing along with Elliot when ET dies. There’s nothing quite like senseless outpourings of emotion on a packed commuter train.
We can see how the YH-999 might also appeal to those who need to give media-heavy business presentations but hate carting a bulky laptop around. We did find the Samsung’s short battery life to be something of a turn-off though.
It’s a miracle! A ‘pocket-sized’ device that we could actually fit in our pockets. The YH-999 is portable in real-world terms, not just on the packaging.
Imagine the biggest wallet you’ve ever seen – packed with ten pound notes, credit cards, receipts, business cards spilling out the sides – now you’ve got an idea of the YH-999s size. No one could call it tiny, but it definitely will jam into your jeans.
The YH-999 is finished in anodised silver and it remained unscratched throughout our review. The controls on the front are what you’d expect if you’ve used a video player in the last ten years – power, play, fast-forward, rewind. There’s also a small joypad for navigating through onscreen menus, and a small button with a tiny Windows logo on it to bring up the main menu.
The 3.5 inch colour screen is extremely generous given the limitations of keeping this thing pocket-sized. A solid plastic cover means pressure applied to the Samsung’s screen is distributed across its surface – you’re unlikely to knock this hard enough to do any real damage.
On the top edge of the Samsung there’s connectors for your headphones, and a socket labelled “A/V OUT”. There’s a cable for connecting your TV to the Samsung bundled in the box and this is where it plugs in. On the right edge there’s a rotary volume control and reset button. The YH-999 also has a hold button, power supply socket and USB port.
The USB and power ports are covered by a rubber flap which quickly lost its grip on the ports after a week of use. This will leave an odd rubber tongue dangling off the edge of the YH-999 – which will either amuse or irritate you as it jiggles about. A swift tug on the tongue removes it completely from the chassis.
Finally, there’s a kick-stand on the back of the Samsung which props it up in a vertical position for watching movies on a desk or table.
A 20GB drive seems a bit cruel given that you’re likely to be packing videos onto the Samsung. The manufacturer claims 80 hours of video playback on the YH-999, but this will depend on the level of compression you’re willing to deal with.
Considering the Samsung’s 3 hour video-playback battery life, running out of stuff to watch is not going to be your biggest problem – the battery will expire long before your movies do. If you’re near a power socket, this low battery life won’t be a problem, but since the Y-999 is billed as a portable media centre, it’s cheating to leave the thing constantly plugged into the wall.
The menu system on the Samsung is wonderful. We love intuitive navigation and we couldn’t ask for much more from the YH-999. If you’ve used Windows Media Centre Edition on a PC, everything looks very familiar – a child could pick this up and navigate to your videos in seconds. This might be something to bear in mind if you leave the Samsung lying about the place.
Unlike a Media Centre PC, the Samsung cannot record videos or display live TV. This is strictly a playback-only device. Any videos, photos or music we stored on the Samsung were transferred there via a PC.
You can synchronise the Samsung with your desktop computer – this ensures you’ve always got your newest movies and music with you. Unfortunately this process is sluggish – probably down to the USB connection. Firewire might have been a wiser choice here.
We found the Samsung’s screen looked disappointingly washed-out under most lighting conditions. The viewing angle is limited and overall the display looks very much like those you find in your headrest on international economy flights. Compared to a laptop LCD the difference is striking. The brightness on our review model was already maxxed out, so we couldn’t adjust any settings to improve the picture. However, viewing movies in low light makes the screen look bright and clear.
The quality of the YH-999’s display is not overwhelmingly different from the display on most devices of this size – but it’s worth bearing in mind that the screens on these smaller media centres don’t compare to those on modern laptops.
Video playback occasionally stuttered to begin with, but once things got rolling, movies on the Samsung looked smooth and flawless. Unfortunately, because it’s so closely tied to Microsoft’s media software, the YH-999 will only play movies in WMV format. There are a few third-party plug-ins you can use to trick other video formats into playing on the Samsung – but why aren’t these an option out of the box?
Although the process is sometimes slow, one advantage to using Windows Media Player to transfer movies to the Samsung is that the process is so seamless. We didn’t run into any problems uploading TV or video to the YH-999.
Frustratingly, Microsoft have gone out of their way to make it hard to transfer formats like DVD and DivX to Windows Mobile devices like the YH-999. While this may stop a few pirates in their tracks, it’s also incredibly irritating for anyone who own legitimate editions of DVDs they’d like to watch on the move.
Battery performance on the Samsung is also slightly depressing. We averaged 3 hours for video playback and a much more respectable 12 hours for audio only.