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Samsung YP-K5 (2GB) review: Samsung YP-K5 (2GB)

The Good Simple drag-and-drop transfer system; ingenious, resilient design.

The Bad The size -- it's massive for a 2GB player, but then it does have speakers built-in.

The Bottom Line Samsung once again launches an impressive but slightly quirky assualt on the MP3 player market. In a gadget landscape polluted by boring nano rip-offs, the K5 surprises and delights

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.5 Overall

Review Sections

Famous on account of a YouTube video, in which someone drives a truck over it, the Samsung YP-K5 (available in 1, 2 or 4GB -- we reviewed the 2GB version) is a surprisingly resilient flash-based MP3 player. The K5 is instantly recognisable because of its built-in speakers, a feature that may inform your decision to buy.

This speaker section forms half of the player and extends and retracts from underneath the unit, like a slider phone. This mechanism seems quite flimsy in theory -- there are two thin rails along which the lower section of the player rides. In practice it seems hard-wearing -- as evidenced by the truck video.

The K5 is certainly a unique flash player. It may be ambitiously priced at £125 and rather chubby (it's as thick as three iPod nanos, which are only £100 at this capacity), but it's the most plausible option for anyone who longs to share their taste in music with the rest of the bus. If you are considering it for this purpose, also consider this: whenever someone's playing loud music, why is it always a song you don't like?

Design
When shut, the YP-K5 is unspectacular. The understated minimalist styling makes it look like a highly-polished obsidian block. There are no obvious controls. It's from a time in the near future where all electronics are featureless until activated. Think 80s Bang and Olufsen; think Minority Report.

The K5's smooth, black body feels good in the hand -- it's svelte and slick. The shiny face is eye-catching, and when the player is powered on, this visual confection becomes even more electrifying. Like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the K5 features touch-sensitive controls, backlit in shades of blue. The central, circular select key is orbited by four arrow indicators, while Back and Menu selectors sit in the corners. A 43mm (1.7-inch) colour OLED screen is above the controls, and along the top edge we found the power/hold switch. The bottom edge of the player houses the headphone jack and a custom USB port (meaning, like the iPod, it won't accept a standard USB cable).

The K5 is on the large side for a flash player, but there's a good reason for this. If you twizzle the player on its side and push up the bottom edge, the built-in speaker slides out. What's splendid about this is that the speaker is designed to angle itself upwards like the aerofoil on a jet. This props the face of the player at an ideal viewing angle. Pointing the speakers up and forwards directs the sound at the listener.

Sure, we've seen MP3 players with built-in speakers before, but none have shown this kind of ingenuity. It may well find its natural home with the hoodied wannabe gangstas of London's faux-ghettos, but it deserves more.

Features
The K5 comes with an acceptable pair of rubber-tipped earbuds, a USB cable and a software disc. Samsung's Media Studio 5 is bundled, but it's not necessary to use this to transfer music to the player -- drag-and-drop works just fine, thanks, and we're sticking with it.

The K5 is compatible with various jukeboxes and services, including Windows Media Player 10, Rhapsody and Napster. Supported audio formats are MP3 and WMA.

The interface on the K5 automatically rotates when the speakers are pushed out, and on-screen graphics are unusually attractive -- Samsung is making some progress towards toppling Apple on this front. The playback screen is dominated by a large equaliser graphic, below which song information scrolls -- you also get a battery meter and a time-elapsed counter on this screen. When you don't touch the controls for a while, this screen fades to a screensaver of your choosing (analogue clock, various animation graphics, photos). The music menu offers the usual choices of artists, albums, playlists and so on, and as you scroll through these options a bouncing sphere indicates your position.

The K5 has an FM radio with plenty of presets and it displays JPEG photos, though we don't recommend it as a photo viewer -- images are dark and have a noticable screendoor effect.

Performance
The YP-K5's internal speakers actually sound plausible. Predictably, they're slightly tinny and lack bass at volume, but there's good definition and they're certainly loud enough to fill a room. We'll take a wild guess that fidelity is not top of the potential buyer's list -- so, yes, it is loud enough to attract the attention of the top deck of any bus.

Overall, the K5 proved to be a solid performer. The touchpad is not overly sensitive and the device responds quickly -- even through the included headphones, sound quality was pretty damn good.

There's a rich mid-range, well-represented bass and a high end that stops sensibly short of shrill. We got clear, detailed sound across most genres of music. Rated battery life for the player is 6 hours through the speakers or 30 hours through headphones.

Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield

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