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Editors' note: The Samsung P2 underwent an extensive update via the release of several complementing pieces of firmware known as Blue Wave. The player was reevaluated once all the updates became available and the editors' rating was updated accordingly. Other than the pricing information, the text of this review has not been changed due to the large number of updates and additions. All P2s purchased on or after September 14, 2008, will have all the Blue Wave firmware updates preloaded. Find out more about the Samsung P2.
There's no denying that the Apple iPod Touch has the cool design appeal down to a tee, but not everyone wants to pay a premium for Internet connectivity on their MP3 players/PVPs. Some may instead prefer to cut the cord between their player and headphones, and for those users, there's the Samsung YP-P2, a touch-screen device with a sweet interface and stereo Bluetooth capability. And there's more good news: the P2, which is available in black, white, and red versions with 4GB ($149) or 8GB ($179) of flash memory, sounds great. This player ain't cheap, but audio enthusiasts will be satisfied.
Although it's noticeably smaller at 3.8 inches by 2.0 inches by 0.4 inch, the Samsung P2 resembles the iPod Touch more than any other MP3 player. Like the Touch, the P2 offers virtually no tactile controls, instead relying on its face-dominating (3-inch) touch screen for interface navigation. The similarities basically end there--the player's interface is decidedly less Mac-like than that of its iPod counterpart, but we daresay this is a good thing. Back to that momentarily. Rounding out the physical characteristics of the P2 are a mic hole, proprietary dock, and headphone jack lining its bottom edge; dedicated volume controls along the right spine; and a play/pause/power button and hold switch on the left side. There's also a multicolored, circular LED below the screen on the front that we originally thought might function as a home key; however, it is merely a visual status indicator.
So back to that interface: It's awesome. In the Samsung P2's settings, you can select from three fonts and three menu types. Our favorite is Cosmos, where the selections sit in different depths of field (as if in space) and as you swipe your finger up or down, the selections orbit into view. You may select any visible option on the screen, even if it appears "farther away" on the screen. There's also a My Skin setting: set any image as wallpaper and the menu selections appear as small icons across the bottom. Here, you swipe your finger left or right to move through options. Finally, there's the rather standard Matrix interface, which displays the icons in a grid--our least favorite because there's no swiping involved, and we think the finger dragging is what makes a touch screen fun.
The main menu is a good place to start delving into the features of the Samsung P2. Function numero uno is--of course--music, and the P2 knows what it's doing in this regard. Step into the Music option and files are organized by artist, album, genre and so on; or if you prefer, there's even a file browser. Once a selection is made, you're taken to a detailed playback screen, lined at the very bottom with onscreen back, contextual menu, and sound effect buttons. Just above these are play/pause and track shuttle selectors, and then a time elapsed/remaining bar (swipe your finger left or right along this to jog through the song). The very top of the display shows the time and battery meter, and the track name is always present a bit below that. The majority of the screen is dedicated to one of several available visual settings, which can be shuttled through by tapping the screen. Choose to display full track info, large album art, or one of four moving visualizations (a la G-Force), including a graphic equalizer.
Sadly, the Samsung P2 doesn't support a vast array of audio formats, just MP3 and both protected and unprotected WMA. However, it somewhat makes up for that by offering a massive amount of sound effects, including a nine-band custom EQ. In addition to music, the device plays video in SVI or WMV at a resolution of up to 480x272 and supports JPEG photos, which you can view while listening to music. There's also something called Datacasts, which are essentially bits of RSS feeds that you can transfer to the player (detailed instructions to be found in the manual), and a selection called PrimePack, where you can find a calendar, an alarm, and text files. Sadly, there is no separate sorting for podcasts, although you can make a folder of them to access via the file browser on the P2.
Of course, the Samsung P2's most compelling feature might be the built-in A2DP (stereo) Bluetooth. That means there's no adapter required for those who want to cut the cord between their MP3 players and headphones, provided the headphones use Bluetooth as well. The P2 can also be paired with Bluetooth speakers, such as Samsung's BS300. And you can even pair the player with your cell phone; playback will mute during an incoming call, and you can use the P2's built in mic to talk. The player can be paired with up to 30 devices.
Insofar as performance is concerned, the Samsung P2 is almost entirely impressive. Our one point of contention is that the touch screen is not always precise and responsive, so it sometimes takes a couple tries to get the desired reaction. However, the player really shines in all other areas. Photos look stunning on the screen--they are exceedingly bright and crisp. Videos at the highest possible resolution look similarly excellent, though we noticed some pixelation in the videos with a resolution of 320x240. And we're pleased that you can set bookmarks and choose from a few video-specific sound settings to enhance the experience (normal, action, or drama). Rated battery life is great for audio (35 hours) and good for video (5 hours); sadly, CNET Labs came nowhere near matching the music-only number, squeezing out a comparatively paltry 15.7 hours. Video endurance proved better at 5.7 hours
Clearly, the Samsung P2 is an audio enthusiast's MP3 player. Music sounds simply fantastic, and the nine-band user EQ--a rarity--makes it easy to fine-tune audio to your exact specifications. (Several other enhancement options help, as well.) With a pair of Shure SE310s, we got clear, sparkly highs; rich mids; and a tight and sneaky low-end response--enveloping but not overwhelming. The acoustic guitar Nick Drake's folk track "Things Behind the Sun" was pleasantly plunky, while his vocals were warm and buttery. The Black Eyed Peas' "Request + Line" featured super thumping bass that highlighted--rather than overshadowed--the shimmering Middle Eastern strings in the background. Overall, the P2 provides a highly pleasant and engaging listening experience.