Samsung YP-Z5 portable MP3 music player review
I've been wanting to buy a portable music player for years but been put off by a number of things. First was that I really wanted a flash-memory based player (rather than harddisk based) so that I could carry it while running, but I wasn't happy with the capacity offered by most models. Then Apple released the first iPod Nano with 4Gb of memory and as Apple have done so many times before, they changed the market. All of a sudden 1Gb was no longer the top capacity available in a flash-memory based player. However it's taken a long time for other manufacturers to catch up with Apple's iPod Nano.
Before I talk about the player I eventually bought, the Samsung YP-Z5, let me explain why I didn't just buy an iPod Nano. If I just wanted to rip my own CDs and maybe play a few mp3 files I *ahem* collected from other places, the iPod would have been a fine choice. But ever since all-you-can-download subscription services have been available (like Napster, Rhapsody, etc.) I've been quite taken with the idea of being able to fill up the player with whatever music I want, all for a flat fee. Sadly, Apple has not seen the light on subscription services and their iTunes Store only supports pay-per-track downloads. Due to all the incompatabilities that DRM (Digital Rights Management) introduces, that means all Apple players are out of consideration. The other big player in DRM is Microsoft and the good thing about Microsoft's Windows Media DRM is that it is licenced to many manufacturers so you get a wide choice of players rather than being locked into those of one manufacturer (Apple). It has to be said that there are very few products as good as Apple's, but I believe the YP-Z5 is one of them.
The Samsung YP-Z5 is available in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB models, although there's so little price difference you'd be mad to buy anything but the 4GB model. The YP-Z5 is a bit thicker and heavier than the iPod Nano, but the reason is that it packs a much longer battery life (35 hours!) and a tough metal casing. I've heard it said that the iPod Nano is cursed by scratching of the case. Now the YP-Z5 is still going to get scratched since the front and back panels are pained (the sides are chromed), but it still feels like it can take quite a bit of abuse.
The control of the YP-Z5 was apparently designed by the same company that designed the first iPod "click wheel". However, to avoid patent/ design rights issues, the YP-Z5 uses a square touch-sensitive direction panel in the centre, with a ring of four buttons around the outside. The buttons all feel effective and should be reliable. The touch panel in the centre is, for my taste anyway, a bit fiddly. Because it's a direction pad, you don't slide your finger around it like with the click-wheel, you either repeatedly tap the up or down spot or hold your finger on it and wait for the auto-repeat (like a computer keyboard). This takes a bit of getting used to, but it's certainly masterable. Just be aware that if you lend your player to someone you might have to spend some time explaining it to them. The upside of the control difference to the iPod is that the YP-Z5 has a dedicated (metal!) volume control on the side of it. All my iPod owning friends have lemented the use of the click-wheel to control volume on the iPod - one stray press while adjusting volume and you can end up skipping tracks - very annoying.
As I mentioned at the top of the article, the Samsung YP-Z5 supports Microsoft's Pays For Sure(tm) initiative. This come along with Windows Media Player 10 and it's designed to make it easy for consumers to know which players are fully compatable with Windows Media 10. A lot of cheap, nasty MP3 players will play non-protected WMA files, but will not necessarilly play the tracks that you have paid to download. Fewer still are compatible with subscription based services like Napster To Go(tm) because they need to use a clock to enforce the "rental" model for downloaded files. Using my Napster To Go(tm) subscription is the only time I feel a little regret at buying a flash-memory based player instead of one containing a 30GB harddrive as even with 4GB of memory (enough for about 60 albums), you are always having to look at which albums to remove from the player so you can copy over your fresh downloads. I think people that pay for every single track they download have less of a problem here :)
When you've downloaded a ton of music to the YP-Z5 you'll want to play it. You can select music by Album, Artist or list all tracks at once. One thing you'll notice pretty quickly if you have downloaded MP3 files on your player is that the menu system relies entirely on meta-data (ID3 tags in MP3 files). You'll notice it because if you don't have the Artist or Album name set, or it's not set the same on all the tracks in the album, they'll appear in unexpected places. You also need the track number set in the ID3 data for the tracks to be listed in the right order and that is very rarely set in my experience. You might then have to spend some time 'cleaning up' the ID3 tags on your MP3 files before you download them to the YP-Z5. I'm told that it's pretty common for portable music players to work like this, but I really wish there was a "File System View" like you have with programs like winamp. I don't expect track numbers to be stored in the ID3 tags because I have "sort by filename" set and the files all have the track number at the beggining of their filename. Oh, and it's worth mentioning that with DRM protected files, you cannot change the meta-data, so if Napster (or whoever) have typed in the album name different on one track from the CD, you're out of luck - the only way you're going to get them to play in the right order is to make a custom playlist.
Talking of playlists, you can make them in Windows Media Player or Napster and download them to the player, but you cannot make them on the player itself. In fact that leads me to a wider point: This player is completely useless without a PC. Not only can you only charge it via the supplied USB cable, but there is no record function, you can't edit playlists or edit any of the file data on the player without a computer. Everything except actually playing music needs a PC with Windows Media 10 installed on it.
One major omission on the YP-Z5 in my opinion is the lack of any kind of sound equalizer. Sometimes you have to use headphones that aren't that great, or you just want a bit more bass on the track you're playing. It does have some things called DNSe effects, but these are like the cheesy sound effect modes you get on all music player apps - they muddy the sound or add superfluous echo/reverb and I don't understand why anyone would want to do that. There is also a "street mode", but as far as I can tell all that does is boost the volume some.
A few other things... The volume control is very wide ranging. I've read some user comments that say they think it is only adequate. All I can say is that they are either using very high impedance headphones, or they have hearing damage. I rarely get the volume above about 1/3rd of its range. On the headphone front, the YP-Z5 comes with some basic 'earbud' type earphones. They're not very comfortable, but if you can get them to seal in your ear, the sound is good, but like all earbuds, if they don't fill your ear canal, the bass will be very thin. Also on the accessory front, this player for reasons best known to Samsung, uses a proprietary connector on its lower edge. So if you lose or break the USB cable that comes with the player, you're really in trouble because the cable is needed even to charge the battery.
Priced at the same level as the iPod Nano, the Samsung YP-Z5 is the perfect alternative for those who want to use subscription music services. Also if you're only wanting to play your own CD rips, you might consider it instead of the iPod because of the much improved battery life and the greater robustness.
Since I bought my YP-Z5, Creative have made their own high-capacity flash-memory based player, the Creative Zen V. That has some extra features (built-in recording and the ability to play video), but it doesn't have such a good battery life and it's more 'plasticy'. Also, Apple have introduced a new version of the iPod Nano with up to 8Gb of memory and better battery life (although still I believe not as good as the YP-Z5). These will have to be considered, but I'm still very happy with my Samsung YP-Z5.
i think my samsung is 50000X better the the bloody ipod the ipods only cool cause everyones got 1. i think they r overated
samsung - 26 04 07 - 21:32
i’m still using my samsung ypz5 and i bought it in spring 2005, and i plan to use it for years to come!
its an awesome product. it does scratch some if you throw it in your backpack on a daily basis but it’s still very useable and unharmed
also it’s cooler to have a player that’s different from what everyone else has
oli - 22 02 09 - 11:34
I’ve had my Yp-Z5 for a long time. I originally had an older Samsung that was like a 2 Gig, but when the mp3 player’s internal memory crashed Samsung sent me a new one, no questions asked. With just that little gesture, my grandmother has sworn to always use Samsung. I believe that was 4 years ago and the only problem I have with my YP-Z5 is that the output sometimes messes up. I believe this to be because of the heavy uses I have forced upon it, and I often drop things which could effect the output.
My friend had a Nano the same time I got my Samsung n his totally froze and just kept messing up and they wouldn’t send him a new one. So, all in all, I believe IPods are a rip off.
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