The 1GB, flash-based Samsung YP-T8 can't boast the small dimensions of the 1GB Apple iPod Shuffle, but then the Shuffle is always mysterious in use, never giving away exactly what it's playing. In contrast, the YP-T8 features a 41mm (1.8-inch) colour screen, and -- impressively for such a small device -- will even play video.
The YP-T8 is compatible with many online music stores like Napster. Unfortunately, like all non-Apple players, it won't work with iTunes. The YP-T8 is available in black or white, the 1GB version will set you back about £140 online. The 512MB iteration is around £100 and the 2GB version about £160. All are flash-based and identical in appearance.
We initally mistook the YP-T8 for a mobile phone. The similarity is not subtle -- most people will assume you're using a mobile phone when you pull the player out of your pocket.
Our review model was coated in a white plastic/faux-titanium paint job -- the YP-T8 is an attractive player, but won't ignite the Hoxton set. What seems like a novel mix of mobile phone and iPod aesthetics is let down by a fiddly control system. The YP-T8 uses a clickable rocker switch for scrolling up and down through menus. Depressing the left arrow switch then selects the currently highlighted option. Unlike the Clickwheel on the iPod, there is a definite learning curve to this process.
As with all manufacturers, Samsung faced the uncomfortable challenge of bettering or at least matching Apple's Clickwheel interface. No one has come up with a preferable alternative yet, and the YP-T8's unusual toggle switch, though ambitious, inevitably won't impress anyone who's spent any time with the iPod.
The YP-T8 brushed off our best efforts to dent its casing with
keys. It's reasonably scratch-resistant, certainly more so than the
nano. Both players will react badly to abrasive surfaces, so you'll
want to take advantage of the rubber skin bundled with the T8.
Samsung's players are not well catered for by the accessories market,
but the bundled skin is excellent.
The headphones included with the YP-T8 are good enough for casual
listening, but won't have audiophiles grinning. The simple solution is
to replace these with a better pair -- something most users do as a
matter of course with any player.
Samsung is taking things in the right direction: the YP-T8 is much
better looking than most of the players Apple's competitors were
producing last year. There's still some way to go before the T8 matches
the nano for styling, but the upcoming YP-Z5 may be worth looking out
for if the styling on the T8 doesn't grip you.
Unusually, the microphone on the YP-T8 is located on the lower end of the player. Though this is not a huge problem, it does increase the risk of obscuring the microphone and muffling your recorded sound. You could use the player upside-down, but this means that if you need to check the length of the voice file, you'll be reading the display the wrong way around.
The LCD on the T8 is clear and vivid with plenty of room to show ID3
tag details, including artist name, album, song title and bit rate.
There's also three visualizers to play with, although only one of them
actually reacts to the music being played. The other two are just
animated looping graphics.
Unusually for such a small player, the YP-T8 can display JPEG photographs, and even more unusually, MPEG-4 videos. The only problem with this is that the screen is irritatingly small for detailed previews of photos or watching video for any length of time.
There's provision for recording sound directly into the YP-T8 and encoding it on the fly. This makes it great for use as a voice recorder using the built-in microphone.
The audio transfer software, 'Samsung Media Studio', has recently been to the plastic-surgeons, and is now decked out in white. The new layout is simple, and easy to navigate -- compared to previous efforts it's a revelation. The software allows you to create playlists and edit ID3 tags. Predictably it's still no iTunes, but stands strong against Sony's efforts.
The YP-T8 includes all the standard codec support (MP3, WMA, OGG and WAV). But
it exceeds the iPod's feature set by offering several important
features not available to an iPod user: FM/voice/line-in recording,
playlist creation and FM radio. The photo
viewer function on the YP-T8 does not support thumbnails, whereas the iPod does. This can make
searching for a specific photograph tricky.
Battery life on the YP-T8 is an impressive 21 hours.
In our tests, sound quality on the YP-T8 was good, but discerning ears will find it falls short of the Shuffle. We connected the two players to flat-response studio monitors to compare the sound and found that the YP-T8 sounded slightly weaker on tracks like Landed by Ben Folds.
The YP-T8's equaliser effects give the audio some interesting new character, but also make for a more strained sound. There's a host of equalizer preset like 3D effects (club, stage, studio, user), preset equalizers (classical, R&B, ballad, jazz, rock, house, dance) and a seven-band user defined equalizer. There's also a 'Street' setting which Samsung claims will enhance the audio quality of the T8 in a loud environment. There's been a lot of controversy over listening to iPods in a noisy environment because of the damage this may do to your hearing -- use this setting with caution.
Although it's no iPod killer, the Samsung YP-T8 has a strong sound and a novel style. Its video feature is underwhelming because of the impractically small screen, but there's enough resolution to make out a basic image. The most persuasive reason to pick the YP-T8 over an iPod is the built-in microphone and recording capability. Apple still don't offer this on any iPod.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide