Touch-screen MP3 players and PVPs are all the rage, and it's no wonder: the migration of controls to the display of a device makes it possible to dedicate most of a player's surface area to the screen. Thus, larger screens on smaller gadgets. Surely, the Apple iPod Touch is a testament to the potential success of this setup, and Samsung's first foray into this arena, the P2, was no slouch, either, drawing praise from critics and consumers alike. As such, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Samsung's follow-up, the P3, is quite the impressive device, packing a wealth of features and some of the best sound to be found in a portable media player. Better yet, the P3 is priced to sell at $149, $199, and $299 for the 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB models, respectively. For those who are keeping track: that's the same price as the iPod Nano, not the Touch.
To look and feel
At first blush, the Samsung P3 doesn't look strikingly different from its predecessor, the P2, and in fact, the design updates are far from massive. However, the few changes Samsung did make give the device a more polished and put-together feel. First, the P3 is slightly thinner, measuring 4 inches by 2 inches by 0.3 inch. Also, while both the P2 and P3 are constructed mainly of metal, the P3 lacks the shiny clear coat that gave the P2 a more plasticky appearance. All in all, the P3 comes across as sleeker than its predecessor, and it also feels more durable than the iPod Touch, though whether or not this is a fact is up for debate.
Like the P2 and the Touch, the P3's face is dominated by a bright, full-color touch screen, this one measuring 3-inches diagonally. The display, a 480 x 272 WQVGA number, is undeniably gorgeous--we almost feel guilty muddying it up with our fingerprints constantly, a necessity given the fact that the screen serves to control most major functions, such as menu navigation and media playback. Samsung does include a few tactile buttons--a power/hold key and volume controls--on the top spine of the device. You'll also find a tiny mono speaker in this area, which allows you to listen to music sans headphones as well as use the P3 as a speakerphone when paired with your cell phone (more on this feature later).
While it must be said that the iPod Touch has rather cornered the market on touch-screen functionality, Samsung implements it quite well on the P3. You can tap, double-tap, swipe, and drag to move through and among the various menus. And while we're on the topic of menus, it's worth mentioning that those on the P3 are laid out well. The main screen displays icons for all the chief features of the device--music, video, photos, settings, and so on. You can then swipe left or right to enter the two side screens, which contain icons for the various widgets. Tapping on any icon takes you into the respective submenu, where for long lists (such as songs), you can drag or tap to move speedily through the selections. All in all, we found navigation to be quite intuitive, though as with any touch-screen device, getting proficient at accurate tapping may take some practice.
Initially, it's tempting to compare the P3's features with those of the iPod Touch; after all, that is the most obvious competitor in the design and interface department. However, the P3 is actually priced to square off against the iPod Nano, and the Samsung player clearly has a leg up when it comes to extras. In fact, there's little the P3 can't do--all that's missing is integrated Wi-Fi and elegant podcast support.
Naturally, the P3 offers extensive multimedia playback. It supports MP3, WMA (including subscription), AAC, OGG, and FLAC audio; WMV9 (including Amazon Unbox), MPEG4 (.AVI, .SVI), and H.264 (.MP4) video (some conversion required); JPEG, BMP, and PNG photo; and text files. You can even create your own memos (in TXT format) on the device, using virtual buttons that mimic a standard telephone keypad. If you tire of your own content, the P3 offers an excellent FM radio with autoscan and up to 30 presets. In addition, the player includes both FM and voice recording. Other fairly standard features consist of support for Windows, Mac, and Linux; slideshows with transition effects; a clock with an alarm function; a seven-band user-customizable EQ; and Samsung's DNSe 3.0 sound enhancement technology. Plus, there's a file browser for those who prefer to navigate content by folders (rather than the step-down artist > album > song method).