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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The bottom of the P3 houses a proprietary port for syncing and charging as well as a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Then, of course, you have the multitude of widgets. One is a light bulb that you tap to adjust the brightness of the screen; another is a globe you can spin to see the time in various cities around the world; yet another is a "sleep cat" that you can tap to set a sleep timer (naturally, it meows as you do so). There's also a calculator as well as support for several games, such as Bubble Bang, World Car Puzzle, and Sudoku Champ.

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As with the P2, the P3 offers a customizable interface with various fonts and themes to choose from, plus the ability to set any image as wallpaper. The player is also fully updatable via firmware updates, so you never know what games and widgets may be added going forward.

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Given the Samsung P2's impressive performance, we had our hopes set high for the P3. We were not disappointed. During preliminary testing, the P3 excelled in every area. Audio quality is stellar, and video and images look fantastic.

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