By aligning itself with Napster's reincarnated online music service, Samsung's first hard drive-based MP3 player takes a page out of Apple's playbook, which has made the iPod- pairing a lethal combination. We unearthed a few minor problems with the YP-910GS, and the $400 price tag is steep, but overall, this is a decent player with features you won't find on an iPod. The YP-910GS's design didn't blow us away, but its brushed-silver casing is clean and feels sturdy. At 2.54 by 4.19 by 0.78 inches and 6 ounces, it's a hair larger and heavier than the iPod and players but still fairly compact. All of the buttons feel solid and are well spaced, so you're not likely to hit the wrong one. The up/down navigation buttons don't let you scroll through songs and options as quickly and easily as the iPod's scrollwheel or even the Dell DJ's roller wheel, but they get the job done. On the downside, you can't scroll up and down through Settings menus, which means you have to click through the entire cycle of, say, EQ options before making a choice.
The blue-backlit LCD shows artist, album, and track information but is a little too dim for low-light environments. Samsung smartly included a plastic flap to protect the USB and line-in ports when not in use. You'll want to employ the Hold switch on the player while using the remote, as it's easy to accidentally turn off the player or move to the next or previous track.
The player comes with a carrying case, but a belt clip on the pouch would have been nice. There's no LCD on the included in-line remote, but it lets you operate basic playback functions using a joystick (Play/Pause, FF/RW, and Volume) while the player is stowed in the carrying case or your bag. The Samsung Napster YP-910GS is, of course, designed to integrate seamlessly with and its secure WMA files. To load purchased (or ripped) songs, simply drag and drop files from the Napster library on your PC to the device. The Samsung also supports , as well as Windows Explorer for file transfers. Once you've put music on the player, you can browse by artist, album, track, or playlist, the last of which must be created in Napster.
The only way to upload songs to another computer is to sneakily select "View hidden files and folders," enabling you to drag and drop tracks from the device to any PC's hard drive that has the drivers installed.
Now for the nitpicks. First, once you establish a playlist on the device, you can't add songs to it later; you have to change the list in the Napster library, then retransfer the entire playlist to the device--including the songs that are already on the unit. This resulted in a few (apparently random) duplicate tracks in our playlist.
Also, we found it puzzling that there's no option to play all of the tracks on the player; you can play only individual tracks, albums, artists, or playlists. Selecting a song from the main library lets you play that song only. If you want to shuffle between all tracks, you need to create a playlist that includes every tune.
But Samsung should attract more than a few customers with features not found in most of the competition: line-in recording, FM tuning, recording, and even transmission (useful for wirelessly playing the player's music over a car stereo). To transmit, simply plug the small FM antenna into the line-in/antenna port and choose one of the five channels on which to transmit.
The YP-910GS also records audio through its analog line-in jack to the MP3 format--though there's no WAV recording--so you can digitize your vinyl or encode MP3s directly from a CD player without a computer (line-in cable included). Line-in recordings end up in the device's current playlist; we'd prefer that it set aside a separate folder for line-in recordings instead.
As for audio options, you get five preset EQ selections: Bass Boost, Rock, Pop, Classical, and Jazz. Bass Boost was a bit much for our taste, but listeners who need pounding rhythm will be satisfied. Sound quality was impressive, thanks to a 90dB signal-to-noise ratio. The included earbuds are decent, but predictably, music sounded much better with full-size Koss headphones. If you like your music ear-splittingly loud, however, you'll find the 7mW output per channel at 16 ohms disappointing when using larger headphones, though it was plenty loud with the earbuds. In addition, intervals between volume levels were too large, so there's not enough middle ground between a little too loud and not loud enough.
Most hard drive-based players lack an FM-recording feature because spinning hard drives create interference. Apparently, Samsung found a solution to this problem, as our FM recordings sounded clear. The transmitter was only marginally less clear; we used it to play music through our home stereo with only minor background hiss. As for MP3 recordings created by attaching a portable CD player to the line-in jack, they sounded just about as clear as if we'd ripped them on a computer.
One minor performance quibble was that while the unit supports variable bit rate (VBR), the time display was way off while playing them.
Music transfers to the player over USB 2.0 at just less than 2MB per second (slower than other players that support USB 2.0), although speeds over USB 1.1 were relatively quick at 0.82MB per second.
We squeezed nearly 11 hours of continuous playback from the rechargeable battery, just beating the rated 10 hours of battery life--longer than the iPod, but significantly less than the or the Dell Digital Jukebox DJ.
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