MP3-player manufacturers can count on one thing: there will always be a demand for cheap, basic portable music players. These minimally featured devices are often perfect for the gym or brief, day-to-day use. The Samsung YP-S2 Pebble, a screenless MP3 player that looks like a shiny stone, is such a device.
It's typically light on extras, but its sleek design, straightforward operation, and super-affordable price tag are sure to appeal to those looking for a basic-yet-stylish device. The 1GB version is available for around £20, and the 2GB version is available for around £30.
The S2 is perhaps the most stylish MP3 player we've come across in the budget category. It looks like the ideal skipping stone: smooth, flat and almost perfectly circular, but just imperfect enough to look like a rock. The outer casing is a high-gloss plastic that looks like marble in some of the available colours, such as the white version. It also comes in black, red, green and purple versions, all of which are shiny and dark. The device is predictably small, measuring just 38mm in diameter and less than 18mm thick.
Unlike nearly all other MP3 players, the front of the S2 is almost completely plain, except for a large, oblong LED that glows from beneath the outer shell to let you know the status of the device. The controls are housed on the back side and are indented in a bowl shape, which gives them a pleasant feel. A central play/pause/power key -- the only bit of silver on the device -- is surrounded by track shuttle and volume buttons.
Jutting out from the bottom right-hand side of the control pad is a smart key, which is used for placing the player in shuffle or playlist mode, turning the LED function on and off, and switching through a set of three sound effects: normal, studio and concert hall. The playlist mode is a decent extra that lets you create and listen to an on-the-go playlist. The S2 plays back files in the MP3, WMA and OGG formats.
The earbuds that are included with the S2 may offer a convenient design for wearing the player, but they're not particularly comfortable, nor are they the best option for taking advantage of the player's sound. Still, we found that, when we had the player in studio mode, the audio coming from the earbuds was above average for a stock set.
We swapped in our standard test earphones, the , and we were really impressed by the capabilities of the S2. Music sounds rich and clear, with plenty of sparkling high-end detail and a reasonable amount of low-end thump. The rated battery life of 13 hours isn't fantastic, but it's about standard for a player of this size.
The Samsung YP-S2 Pebble is extremely stylish, boasts impressive audio quality and offers a number of useful extra features. At this price, you can't really ask for more.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet