Editors' note: The majority of this review is repurposed from CNET's review of the Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0, which offers a slightly smaller, 4-inch screen and many of the same features as the Galaxy Player 4.2.
The logic behind Samsung's Galaxy Player 4.2 seems fairly straightforward. You take Samsung's tailored version of the Android 2.3 smartphone software and put it on a pocket-size device with a 4-inch screen, and you should have an appealing alternative to Apple's popular
Now, we've already seen Samsung ruin this recipe a few times, in its overpriced, underperforming Galaxy Player 4.0 and Galaxy Player 5.0. Where the Galaxy Player 4.2 has an advantage is its $199 retail price, which matches the iPod Touch's.
Does Samsung offer some killer feature or an eye-catching design to help the Galaxy Player 4.2 stand out from the growing crowd of sub-$300 Android devices? After having reviewed the three other Galaxy Player products Samsung has pumped out over the past six months, I can say that Samsung finally got the design right. The fact that the company didn't spoil this one with a low-resolution screen also helps.
This is by far the prettiest Galaxy Player device I've seen yet. I know I said the same thing about the Galaxy Player 3.6, but the 4.2 is newer, prettier, and thinner. The lightweight, black (or white if you have that model) plastic casing feels good in your hand, though it does smudge easily.
It measures a slender 0.35 inch thick, again putting it in the ballpark of the 0.28-inch iPod Touch. When you account for the fact that the Player's removable back plate conceals a replaceable battery and a microSD memory card slot, the extra girth seems excusable.
You get a standard volume rocker and power button on the right edge of the Player 4.2, along with a headphone jack and Micro-USB port on the bottom. Samsung throws in a pair of decent in-ear headphones (with in-line mic), a USB cable, and a power outlet adapter.
The Galaxy Player offers most of the features you'd expect in a modern smartphone, minus the phone or cellular data connection. You'll find front and rear cameras (maxing out at 2 megapixels), GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, and support for Google's suite of official mobile applications, including Gmail, Google Talk, and the Android Market (now Google Play). If you're someone who's already invested heavily in Android Market apps, it makes sense that you'd want a device that can run them.
One unique feature worth mentioning is the inclusion of an FM radio tuner. People are still nuts for radio, and it also comes in handy for tuning into TV audio at the gym.
Other notable apps include Quickoffice, AllShare (DLNA), Kies Air, Samsung's Smart View TV remote app, and an app called ChatOn you can use to send and receive text messages over Wi-Fi. On the gaming front, you get Angry Birds, EA FIFA 12, and EA Need For Speed Hot Pursuit included. Both of the EA titles do require some additional download time (and storage) to play out of the box, however.
To my ears, the Galaxy Player 4.2 gives the best sound of Samsung's Player series. During playback I heard none of the hiss and interference that was present when I listened to music on the Player 4.0 and 5.0. The default sound quality is a little narrow with a midfocused nasal quality, but once you kick in Samsung's SoundAlive audio enhancement settings, it's hard to put down. Of course, you can go overboard with the included 3D audio options or virtual concert hall reverbs, but if you exercise some restraint it's easy to dial in great sound.
The Galaxy Player's bright 4.2-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.
The rear camera is capable of capturing video footage at a standard-definition 640x480-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's video camera. Photos are also disappointing, as the 2-megapixel camera doesn't have touch-to-focus, macro focus, or a flash.
Battery and system performance
Samsung rates the Galaxy Player 4.2 at 6 hours of video playback and 40 hours of audio playback. We'll update this review with results from CNET Labs once testing is complete.
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 makes the Player 4.2 feel 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.
So far, the Galaxy Player 4.2 is my favorite of the entire Galaxy Player line. Its street price is sure to drop below that of the iPod Touch (which is as it should be). Its audio quality and hardware features will please those looking for a surefooted media player. The Android experience isn't hobbled or twisted, even if it is a little dated. If you can look beyond the disappointing camera and camcorder quality, I believe that this is the iPod Touch alternative that Android fans have been waiting for. It probably won't make iPod fans envious, but this Galaxy Player can finally hold its own.