So here it is, in our hands at last... The much vaunted Samsung YP-Z5. Father to a murdered son. Husband to a murdered wife. And it will have its vengeance on the iPod -- in this life or the next.
At first glance, the Z5 is thicker than we remembered from our brief preview at CES earlier in the year. It's about a third as thick again as the iPod nano. It's also got more protrusions on its chassis than a 1960s Dodge Plymouth. Where the nano is almost seamless, the Z5 has a more industrial look, and is splattered with corporate hieroglyphs.
Aesthetics aside, the Z5's on-screen graphics are spectacular. The interface gives the impression that you're zooming through menus in a style vaguely reminiscent of Microsoft's uncharacteristically slick Media Center software.
However, although it's an impressive look, it seems to fall down on usability. Initial field-testing shows the Z5's control system to be much less intuitive than the iPod's. Of the three people we've shown the Z5 to, two thought the interface was confusing, and one got to grips with it quickly but condemned it, predictably, for not being "as good as the iPod". These are hard times for any MP3 player manufacturer, but for the love of God, you've got to create something at least equal to the Apple Clickwheel if you're going to have any chance in a fight to the death with the fearsome Podiator.
Will the Z5 beat the iPod in our upcoming review, or will it -- as first impressions suggest -- win the disappointing victory of being known as 'by far the best MP3 player that is not an iPod'? Wait and find out. -CS