Product Review: touchscreen media player

5 Feb 2008

Can Samsung give Apple CEO Steve Jobs sleepless nights with this cheeky little touchscreen media player?

Samsung’s naked ambition is obvious. In the mobile phone world it has already surpassed Motorola in volume terms to be the world’s No 2 manufacturer and the company’s ambition is clear with this cheeky little MP3 player, which is not dissimilar to the Apple iTouch. The question is, will it cause Apple’s Steve Jobs sleepless nights?

Samsung hung around for years in cosy limbo. It was a consumer electronics manufacturer to be reckoned with, but nowhere near the likes of Sony or Toshiba in terms of trend-setting or visibility.

But something’s changed. Samsung has upped the design stakes and is capturing market share in those markets it previously wasn’t considered a major player. The company’s trend-setting devices include the Samsung Chocolate mobile phone and the Touch of Colour range of plasma TVs.

The P2 touchscreen media player is strikingly similar in appearance to the Apple iTouch device. You could be forgiven for confusing the two. The only difference is that the P2, which comes with 2GB of data storage, is slightly thicker.

The touchscreen technology works quite well and the device is capable of playing music, videos and podcasts, as well as displaying pictures. It also comes with a built-in FM radio.

Finger control is quite elegant and the screen technology brilliant in terms of colour and responsiveness.

The device also boasts Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity so that if you don’t want to bother with a USB lead, you can simply synch it wirelessly with your mobile phone or laptop computer.

But it was with the synching that I ran into difficulties. After uploading the necessary software and agreeing to numerous terms and conditions, I was presented with a fairly attractive user interface to manage my songs, videos and pictures.

This, I thought, is going swimmingly. Unfortunately, transferring music and pictures was trickier than I thought. Despite the fact that I own a Samsung digital camera, the software was unable to recognise any of the files in my pictures folder on my PC. This was disappointing and I felt a lot of time was wasted.

Audio quality on the P2, I have to admit, was superb, very crisp and the touchscreen control has corrupted me insofar as media devices without this feature won’t measure up after this.

Video playback on the device was again a great experience. The picture quality was clear and vivid. But the problem with video players is that if you want to transfer a DVD onto one of these devices, it is next to impossible.

But will it give Steve Jobs a bloody nose? I don’t think so. Apple has been very clever in building its own music retail empire with iTunes while simultaneously breaking new ground with its iPod devices. I’m sure he has many more tricks up his sleeve.

As I’ve been an iPod user for the past five years, all the music I own is in iTunes format, which unfortunately doesn’t transfer to devices like Samsung’s P2.

Another drawback is that the music store Samsung recommends for downloading music for the P2 device isn’t yet available to Irish users. Which means you’re confined to your CD collection for the moment.

Devices like the P2 will appeal more to brand new digital music buyers or music lovers not afraid to broaden their horizons. It is a brave effort bristling with the right technologies.

It will give Steve Jobs something to think about now that touchscreen media players aren’t unique but I think his music retail empire is still safe…for now.

Pros: Nice design, bursting with technology

Cons: File transfer is tricky

Price: €159

By John Kennedy