What is it with the speakers lately? Though we've previously struggled to think of practical applications for speakers in MP3 players, two devices with such enhancements have crossed our desks of late: Creative's Zen Stone Plus with Speaker and the Samsung YP-S5.
Sure, these are great for annoying the heck out of tired commuters on the train ride home, but beyond such socially suicidal situations, what good are MP3 players with speakers? Samsung reckons the Bluetooth-enabled S5 will be used as a speakerphone by wirelessly linking the device to a mobile phone. Possible, but prior to using the S5 we were still resisting the idea that speakers are a feature that portable-audio buyers are clamouring for. After completing the review, we're coming around to the notion.
If things are looking familiar, you've probably encountered the S5's predecessor: 2006's YP-K5. In its closed state, the S5 is a scaled-down, slimline version of the 2006 player. It looks like a black box until you slide the on switch and the illuminated touch keys appear beneath the glossy surface. These keys are in the exact same configuration as those on the S5 and the recent YP-T10: four directional buttons surround a selection key, with menu and back keys lurking on the periphery.
The coolest design feature is the snazzy slide-out speaker, which flips out from beneath the main section of the player. When pushed out, the speaker snaps into position at an angle, allowing you to sit the S5 on a table in a position that's comfortable for menu navigation and video viewing.
The TFT LCD is on the small side at 1.8 inches (or 45.7 millimetres), and is composed of a pretty measly 176 by 220 pixels.
Regarding the headphones: yowza. These things are among the oddest-looking earbuds we've seen. Instead of supplying the stock-standard models that accompany your average flash MP3 device, Samsung has gotten artistic and bunged in a pair with extra knobbly bits. The buds are circular with a small semi-circular protuberance that burrows its way into your ear canal. The effect is uncomfortable, precarious, and, frankly, a little upsetting. We recommend ditching these mutant 'phones in favour of a tried-and-true model.
The main upgrade from the K5 is the addition of Bluetooth. Unlike the T10, which is limited to stereo music streaming, the S5's Bluetooth offers the ability to browse devices and transfer files.
The cool menu effects that so charmed us during our YP-K5 review have been retained in the S5. Animations, sparkling stars and bouncing balls give the whole thing a fun feel, but the graphics would have been truly dazzling if the screen's resolution was higher.
Audio format support is fairly decent, with the standard MP3 and WMA joined by AAC and OGG.
Other features include an FM radio; recording for the radio, voice and line-in; an alarm clock and a pile of cute-yet-pointless basic games such as the anime-styled Pizza Delivery title.
First, the good news: that funky angled speaker sounds surprisingly good. Sure, it won't compete with your home hi-fi, but it's far better than the tinny monstrosities you tend to get on music-focused mobile phones.
One speaker quirk to note: if you want to listen to the radio via the speaker, you'll still need to plug in the headphones. The player tunes into wireless waves using the cable as an antenna, but will transmit audio through the speaker if it's folded out. You may need to move the headphones around or tie them to a post in order to get static-free reception.
Videos and photos were satisfactory, but having just reviewed the YP-T10, we can't help but feel let down by their relative graininess on the S5. We wish the screen was larger and the resolution higher.
As for that quirky speakerphone function, set-up was easy, and both parties sounded clear, but you need to be in a quiet environment in order to hear the speaker -- even at the highest volume.
All up, the YP-S5 is a decent successor to the K5. As for whether the speaker is useful enough to justify the extra pocket bulk, we must say we were pleasantly surprised by its multiple applications. It transforms the player into an alarm clock and speakerphone and allows you to share songs and video with friends without having to share earwax via headphones. Anything that wakes us up, frees our hands and prevents unnecessary body-fluid swapping is grand in our book.