Make no mistake: this looks like a phone. Specifically, a Samsung-made Android phone. Why, more than once during our testing period we were asked if this was that new Galaxy handset. Makes sense to us -- the similarities are endless. There's the plastic body, the "home" button, the capacitive buttons at the bottom, even the top and bottom speaker grills. The only notable differences are under the battery cover. Whereas you might typically expect to see a SIM slot, there is, of course, nothing. Well, not nothing, exactly, as there is a 1,500 mAh battery and microSD slot (to augment the on-board eight or 16 gigs by up to 32GB). Still, you get what we mean. While it shares much of the DNA of the Galaxy line of cellphones, it does seem to lack a little of their flare. It's by no means ugly, just serviceable. Screen, button, ports, done.
As you'd expect, that display is a 4.2-inch WVGA affair. That screen is ringed by a thin band of chrome, which adds a dash of variety to an otherwise generic device. If you take a close look at the player's profile, there's a tiny lip created by the chrome band, but fortunately it's not enough to catch the dirt and fluff that might circulate in your pocket. The home button, however, manages to stand ever so slightly proud of this, making it protrude just a touch above everything else on the front face. This didn't cause any functional issues and it sits nicely under the thumb. However, the button's placement might expose it to a little more wear than if it were less pronounced. The devil is in the details.
If you've ever clasped one of the larger Samsung Galaxy phones in your palm, you'll have a good idea of what this is like: well-built, from ho-hum materials.
The only other punctuation marks on the device are the volume rocker / power buttons flanking the right, a 3.5mm headphone port down the bottom, the micro-USB port next to it, and the front (VGA) and back (two-megapixel) cameras. Unlike the Galaxy Player 4.0, the speakers are around the front (those grills we mentioned earlier). The end result is a device that looks better than some of its PMP siblings, but lacks the visual character of some of its mobile cousins. If you've ever clasped one of the larger Samsung Galaxy phones in your palm, you'll have a good idea of what this is like: well-built, from ho-hum materials.
Performance and battery life
Given that it's expected to perform many of the same tasks you'd want from a higher-end phone (media, apps, games, etc.), it's odd Samsung only saw fit to bless the Player 4.2 with a 1GHz OMAP processor. To be fair, navigating menus, viewing videos and listening to music all seemed to be taken well in its stride, so no complaints there. But as you add more apps, and things get more demanding, we can imagine cracks starting to form. And what about the battery? Well, the product page on Samsung's website promises six hours of video playback time. That honestly matches pretty closely with our own testing. In fact, we actually got six hours and 43 minutes out of it when playing a looped video at 50 percent brightness, so better than expected.
As for everyday use, the runtime will naturally depend on your usage habits. As we played with it, occasionally web surfing or firing up some tunes, it tended to hold out for the better part of two days, which seems average. While it might have one less radio to deal with compared to a phone, it's also burning through the battery when playing back your media, which has its own power demands. Speaking of which, we know you love a good benchmark, so we thought we'd run a few just out of curiosity. The Player 4.2 rolled through SunSpider with a lowly 6748.6 score, down in Samsung Stratosphere territory. Vellamo ranked it just behind the Nexus S, however. Meanwhile, it managed only 9fps in GLBench. A mixed bag at best.
Maybe we're foolish, maybe we just like to get in the zone, but the Galaxy Player 4.2 is simply not loud enough. If you like your music at more pedestrian levels, then it will likely suffice, but more than once we found ourselves mashing the volume rocker in an attempt to eke out a little more juice. Sure, you don't want it cranked up all the time, but when your favorite song comes on, it's nice to pump it up a touch, right? To be fair, it's about as loud as the Galaxy Nexus, so it's not as if Samsung's notched it down on this device. Still, though, the OG iPod shuffle handily trounces it when it comes to straining those eardrums.
There are EQ controls, which might help you tweak the sound to your taste, but it's far from ideal. If anything, we were more inclined to just jack all the sliders up to milk a little more volume out of it.
The sound you do get, however, is fine. This is of course assuming you binned the accompanying headphones for something much more suitable. We took a holistic approach to critiquing the audio, which is to say we did nothing more scientific than spend lots of time listening to it. We assume this is likely what you will be doing with it too, so it only seemed apt. In this regard, the Galaxy Player 4.2 is most definitely adequate. It would be unfair to call the sound bad, so we won't. In fact, it's only when you directly compare it to another player that you realize it's a bit flat. We loaded up the same track on an iPod, let the two play and swapped the headphones back and forth. The Galaxy Player initially sounds okay, but when you switch over to the iPod, you can suddenly hear the mid and high frequencies poking through, and bass sounds feel more, well, bassy. There are EQ controls, which might help you tweak the sound to your taste, but it's far from ideal. If anything, we were more inclined to just jack all the sliders up to milk a little more volume out of it.
We also tried another music app -- Jet Audio, from Cowon -- for playing back tracks to see how it compared to Samsung's stock application. The result? Well, more of the same really. You get a little more control over the sound, and even a little workaround for the volume issue, but it's a kludge, rather than a fix. As for those front-facing speakers? They'll suffice for providing sound on the occasions you want to share a video with someone next to you etc, but for prolonged amounts of time, they're just going to annoy.
It's only fitting that something that can play media should be able to create it too. The pair of cameras on the device will allow you to do just that. The VGA camera up front is really only there –- we hope at least –- for any applications, like Skype, that might necessitate it. You're never going to get anything more than an okay picture out of it, at best. And, to be fair, Samsung likely wouldn't claim any different. As for the main camera? Well, at two megapixels, we weren't holding out for anything sensational either. And it seems we were right. First of all, the camera is slow –- an issue we experienced in the Galaxy Player 4.0 before it. Secondly, the camera struggles in anything other than the optimum conditions. Photos on a cloudy day? Forget it. Trying to shoot a moving target? Good luck. In short, forget about the camera, unless you really need to grab a shot of something and this is your only option.