Samsung Galaxy Player 50 £149
7th Jan 2011 | 01:10
Can Samsung and Android combine to best the iPod touch?
Samsung Galaxy Player 50 review: Overview
With the Samsung Galaxy Player 50, we seem to finally be seeing a household name come out with major competition to the iPod touch. Now that the Galaxy brand is strong, the time seems right for this Android media player.
Samsung's plan seems simple enough: forget the over-engineering and compete on extra features and price. It's a familiar Android tune, and one that's worked pretty damn well in the smartphone market.
What we have is a touchscreen PMP with Android 2.1, Wi-Fi, micro-USB connectivity, a two-megapixel camera and a built-in microphone. It beats the iPod touch in a couple of key areas, with a built-in GPS chip, removable battery, FM radio and a microSD card slot for adding up to 32GB of additional memory.
There's already 8GB of on-board memory, so all that looks pretty good for £149 – £40 less than the 8GB iPod Touch. There's also a 16GB version for £179.
All of that sounds enticing, but there are a few caveats. The 3.2-inch screen is slightly smaller than the iPod's 3.5 inches, which isn't that big a deal in itself, but the resolution is only 240 x 400 pixels.
While we weren't expecting Samsung to match the glorious 480 x 960 of Apple's Retina display, we were hoping for something more like the 480 x 800 four-inch screen on the Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Omnia 7 or Google Nexus S.
One other thing those handsets have in common? They're all AMOLED. This isn't.
The screen on the Galaxy Player really looks low-res, too. It's pixelated and text can appear unclear.
The other advantages the iPod has is its front-facing camera and the ability to record video in HD. Spec for spec, are these worth the £30 more that Apple's charging? We'd say yes, primarily for the Retina display, but the microSD expansion and GPS chip mean we'd probably call it even on value for money based purely on the specs.
The Galaxy Player is plastic, and feels light and a little cheap. However, that's not to say it's low quality. It's feels solid in the hand, and the lightly bumped battery cover adds some grip to it.
At 54 x 11 x 105.5mm, it's a fair bit thicker than the iPod Touch, but is smaller in the other two dimensions. At just 84g, the Galaxy Player trounces the iPod when it comes to weight, with the latter coming in 101g.
On the front of the player, underneath the multi-touch screen, are three buttons: Menu, Home and Back. The Home is a physical button, while the others are touch sensitive.
On the device's right side is a lock/on/off key and the microphone, while volume controls are on the left. On the top is the 3.5mm headphone socket and the micro-USB port, which has a little slide-over cover that actually feels pretty solid and reliable.
The removable battery is 1000mAh, which is much smaller than what you'd get on a smartphone. This isn't so much of a problem as there's no cellular radio constantly going here (unless you let the GPS run all the time), so battery life is actually pretty acceptable. Not really any better than its competitors, but not bad by any means.
Samsung Galaxy Player 50 review: Camera samples
Camera samples from the Samsung Galaxy Player 50's two-megapixel camera.
Samsung Galaxy Player 50 review: Video sample
Video sample from the Samsung Galaxy Player 50.
Samsung Galaxy Player 50 review: Verdict
You'll have already seen the score for the Samsung Galaxy Player, so you're probably wondering what's wrong, considering nothing on the previous page was that bad.
Most of the time, at least on the model we tested, the Galaxy Player is unusable. By that, we don't just mean that it's a bit slow or awkward. It spends the majority of its time crashed when you try to launch apps, or even when you just wake it from the lock screen. It's unusable in the sense that you are completely unable to use it.
The most ridiculous thing is that it works fine sometimes. On those occasions, getting around the Android Home screens and menu is exceptionally fast. Opening an app is like a game of Russian Roulette, though.
Will the notifications bar bring everything to a standstill? Will your email inbox simply fail to load? Will the Maps app cause a totally blank screen? Connecting to Wi-Fi can cause it, as can plugging in earphones.
The worst part about these crashes is that they don't fix themselves quickly (as they almost always do on iOS, for example). You're simply left hanging until the task manager finally catches on and gives you the option to force close things. This can take 10 or 15 minutes sometimes, and still isn't guaranteed to get everything back on track.
The Android Market is almost certain to make the device crash whenever opened. What should be the Galaxy Player's major selling point was totally useless. It crashed the operating system nearly every time, and even when it did load, we couldn't install any apps.
We were told there wasn't enough space on the device. Checking the settings told us that there were zero bytes available in Program Data Memory, which is ridiculous whene there's 6GB of internal memory that could be used and we had an 8GB microSD card installed.
Sometimes, the crashes got so bad we had to restart the Galaxy Player, and when you did, it forgets your settings! Every single time we turned the device off it forgot all of our email inboxes, our synced Google accounts and our Wi-Fi passwords.
On the plus side, the Music and Video apps crashed far fewer times, but the music player slowed right down a few times, which is just as bad. Music quality was on a par with the iPod touch, but it supports a far wider range of codecs, including MP3, AAC, OGG, WMA, WAV and more. It's the same story with video, with MPEG4, H.264, H.263, WMV, DivX and Xvid all supported.
Our music was spotted and sorted easily enough over drag-and-drop, though you can use Samsung's Kies software if you want an iTunes-style option.
The SoundAlive equaliser mode is a nice idea, but trying to move a load of sliders when the device is barely responding is a recipe for frustration.
Video playback is generally smooth, and the screen is nice and bright, but the low resolution means that everything will inevitably look pixelated.
If a video doesn't fill the screen natively, you can make it bigger. However, instead of enlarging and cropping it, in the way Apple's devices do, it simply gets stretched to fill the space, meaning you really have to watch it in whatever the original aspect ratio was.
As far as the internet goes, the Galaxy Player is quite slow to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot, but the browser is as fast to render as Android always is. No Android 2.2 means no Flash 10.1, but Eclair still has some great internet capabilities.
Alas, the usual Galaxy Player restrictions come into play. When it's working well, panning around and zooming on websites is smooth, but then it starts misbehaving and you might as well write into TechRadar using snail mail asking for the latest news, and we could write out the contents of the site by hand and post them back before you'd get anywhere with the Galaxy Player.
The two-megapixel camera has a fair few options, as well as a video recording mode. However, the quality is generally pretty low, as you can see on the the picture and video sample pages. Video recordings are 15 frames per second at a resolution of 320 x 240 allegedly, but when we played it back on our PC our software said it was 478 x 358.
There is the option to geotag photos, but that would depend on the GPS chip working, which it didn't for us. At all. Not once. Which also made the Maps app quite a bit less useful.
The Samsung Galaxy Player 50 has a nice build quality that makes it really very light. It feels plasticky, but we don't mind that. It's still incredibly solid.
The price is pretty good, especially considering the opportunity for microSD expansion. Even if you got the 16GB and a 32GB card, you couldn't match the 64GB maximum offered in the iPod touch range, but you really pay for that kind of storage. Add in the fact that there's a GPS chip and some other handy features and we think Samsung is aiming in the right area.
The software is simply appalling. Frankly, if you tried to use this implementation of Android 2.1 to show someone how Google's OS can match Apple's iOS on non-phone devices, they'd laugh in your face (it also still frequently mentions 'your phone' in menus and alerts). How can it be that Android is so good on Samsung-made phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S and Google Nexus S, but so bad here?
It may be £40 less than the iPod touch, but if it's only going to work a third of the time at most, it needs to cost a third of the price at most. It's the very definition of false economy.
With the Market refusing to install apps (if it even runs), it also loses the ability to stand up to Apple on expanded functionality.
The screen is even lower quality than the original iPod touch, let alone the new one's Retina display. The size is also getting a bit small for it to be any good for internet browsing – we reckon 3.5 inches is the minimum to be comfortable, though you may not mind this.
The gulf in quality between this and the iPod touch is incredible. There's simply no reason to choose this over any other PMP, even if you really want the expandable storage. It barely functions, and you never know how long its grace will last even if it does work.
Frankly, if you want to go Android, buy an Orange San Francisco (for £50 less!) and just use it without a contract. Otherwise, do your sanity and blood pressure a favour and get an iPod touch.