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Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0 review: Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0

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Editors' note: The majority of this review is repurposed from CNET's review of the Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0, which offers a larger, 5-inch screen and many of the same features as the Galaxy Player 4.0.

Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0
6.0

Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0

The Good

The <b>Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0</b> offers most of the capabilities of Samsung's popular Android smartphones, minus the phone and monthly fees.

The Bad

Either a 7-inch tablet or an on-contract Android smartphone would be more useful and potentially less expensive. Parents should know there are no safeguards included to restrict access to age-inappropriate content.

The Bottom Line

Samsung delivers Android's answer to the iPod Touch at a time when you can spend less for Android's answer to the iPad.

The logic behind Samsung's Galaxy Player 4.0 seems fairly straightforward. You take Samsung's tailored version of the Android 2.3 smartphone software, put it on a pocket-size device with a 4-inch screen, and you should have an appealing alternative to Apple's popular iPod Touch.

Setting aside the fact that this device is arriving about four years too late if it intends to catch up to the iPod Touch, the first glaring flaw in Samsung's plan is the Galaxy Player 4.0's $230 price tag. Any device like this priced over $199 has to compete not only with the iPod Touch, but with the Amazon Kindle Fire, the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet, and a slew of discounted 7-inch tablets.

Does Samsung offer some killer feature or an eye-catching design to help the Galaxy Player 4.0 stand out from the growing crowd of sub-$300 Android devices? Frankly, no. It's not a bad product, though, and if you still suspect that it might be the perfect match for your particular needs, please read on.

Features
The Galaxy Player 4.0 may not be my cup of tea, but it does offer a few features that you won't find on most of its competition.

First off, let's take the iPod Touch out of the equation and assume that you've found your way to this review because of some deep-seeded aversion to Apple products that acts as a cornerstone of your identity. I get it. With the growing rate of Android phone users out there, clearly you're not alone.

So let's look at the rest of the competition. Compared with a Kindle Fire or a Nook Tablet, the Galaxy Player offers additional features such as front and rear cameras, GPS, Bluetooth, and support for Google's suite of official mobile applications, including Gmail, Google Talk, and the Android Market. If you're someone who's already invested heavily in Android Market apps, it makes sense that you'd want a compatible device that can run them. The Kindle and the Nook won't (easily) run apps downloaded from Android Market.

That said, the kind of user who's already heavily invested in Android Market is bound to already have an Android phone with the same (or better) photo and navigation capabilities and a persistent connection to the Internet. I can think of no reason why you would throw $230 at a Galaxy Player 4.0 if you already had an Android smartphone. The possible gain in screen real estate is negligible compared with the payoff of spending the same or less on a 7-inch tablet.

If you're thinking of picking one up to entertain a kid or placate a teenager who'd rather have a proper smartphone, the Galaxy Player will get the job done, but it may provide more than you bargained for.

As a parent myself, I get a little uneasy about the idea of apps potentially tracking the whereabouts of my kid using a mobile device's built-in GPS. You can decline to use these features, but with no way to lock them out, there's no stopping your child from enabling location services when you're not around. I'm also concerned about my kid having an unfiltered connection to the Internet. I think we can all admit that the World Wide Web is the greatest repository of pornography mankind has ever invented. Call me naive, call me prudish, but I think Apple got it right with the parental controls and feature lockouts that have been included in iOS from its inception.

Design
OK, so the Samsung Galaxy Player probably isn't for Android smartphone fans and it's arguably an inappropriate gift for kids--so who's left? Well, you can count out the design snobs.

Rimmed in chromed plastic and backed with the kind of glossy white plastic used on the original Galaxy Tab 7, the Galaxy Player 4.0 lacks the fit and finish found on Samsung's modern smartphones and tablets. It feels like a 2010 Samsung design that was slow to make it on to the market--which makes sense considering the device was unveiled in January 2011 during CES.

Audio performance
Well, what about audio purists? Given the Galaxy Player's emphasis on media playback, surely Samsung has taken extra pains to make it sound great, right? Nope.

I remember the era when Samsung's portable media players would routinely dominate CNET's roundups of best-sounding music players. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Player seems to be descended from the company's Android phone division and not its legacy of high-quality music players. The end result sounds fine by most standards, but careful listening will uncover the kind of background hiss we're accustomed to hearing from mobile phones. Also, the volume doesn't get very loud if you're looking to power a proper pair of over-ear headphones. These issues with volume level and hiss aren't a big deal for casual listening, especially if you're just using the included in-ear headphones. But if you're a stickler for audio quality who would usually turn up your nose at the cell phone music experience, the Galaxy Player 4.0 is beneath you.

Video performance
The Galaxy Player's bright 4-inch screen offers excellent viewing angles and responds well to touch. Its resolution maxes out at 800x480 pixels, which is close to the more tightly packed 960x640-pixel resolution of an iPod Touch, but not quite there. On the plus side, the Galaxy Player handles a dizzying selection of video formats, including DivX, XVID, MPEG4, and WMV. Streaming video from Netflix and YouTube works well.

In terms of video-recording quality, the rear camera is capable of capturing footage at a standard-definition 720x480-pixel resolution. Still-photo resolution goes up to 2,048x1,536 pixels, or 3.2 megapixels. In either case, the results won't blow you away. Not to beat a dead horse, but the 720p camcorder on the iPod Touch runs rings around the Galaxy Player.

Battery and system performance
Samsung rates the Galaxy Player 4.0 at 5 hours of video playback and 36 hours of audio playback. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
Samsung Galaxy 4.0 5.5

In terms of system performance, Samsung is using a single-core 1GHz processor to get the job done, which isn't quite up to the standards Samsung has set with its dual-core smartphones. It works, though, and feels very much like a shrunken version of 2010's Galaxy Tab 7.

Onboard storage is listed as 8GB, but the storage available to the user is closer to 5GB. Expect to invest in a microSD card if you want to load up a substantial music and video collection.

Final thoughts
The Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0 is a tough sell. If you're looking for a fun, pocketable, kid-friendly media player with a glut of games and apps, the $199 iPod Touch is a slam dunk. If you have an axe to grind with Apple, 7-inch tablets like the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet offer more media bang for your buck.

Editors' note: This review was updated with CNET Labs' battery life test results.

Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0
6.0

Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 6