Samsung employs the twin weapons of Bluetooth and video playback on its YP-T9 in an attempt to blast the iPod nano out of the water. Designed for anyone interested in doing more than just listening to music on the move, this is one player destined to get some admiring looks from your friends.
At £150, our 4GB model costs around £30 more than than the equivalent Apple player (you can also get 2GB and 8GB versions), so the key question is whether the extra features are worth the extra cash.
What we love most about the YP-T9 is that it feels as good as it looks. The glossy piano-black finish is smooth and sleek, and is complemented by a matte silver edging. It's a very lightweight device that's shorter than a nano but doesn't feel cheap -- there's a tough feel to it that separates it from similar devices, such as Creative's Zen V Plus.
The four-way navigational pad is easy to operate with one hand and with practice can feel very natural. Putting the play/pause, menu, record and back functions on the sides is a good decision as it keeps the design of the front clean.
Should Samsung choose to produce a docking station in the future, the connection port is in the right place at the bottom of the player. The headphone socket and built-in microphone are located on the top, along with a small hook for a lanyard or neck-strap attachment.
Unusually, the YP-T9 features stereo Bluetooth connectivity and will happily connect to a set of Bluetooth headphones. The player discovered our nearby set of 'phones quickly and paired with them in seconds. Bluetooth is version 1.2 and sound quality is as good as a wired pair.
Also rare is the unit's support for the OGG format. This is very popular among the open-source community, and is not supported by Apple's iPod range of players. MP3-wise, you'll fit around 1,000 songs on to the 4GB of space in this unit.
Videos are supported when they're converted into Samsung's SVI video format, using the bundled software and music manager. It's a simple process that took exactly 7 minutes to convert a 4-minute video on our office machine, which uses a 2GHz Athlon 64 chip.
Photos can be transferred to the player in JPEG format and Samsung has built a very handy thumbnail preview gallery and zoom function.
The bundled media-management software, Samsung Media Manager, is easy to use -- we didn't have to read the manual to start using it.
The YP-T9 features a built-in FM radio. If you hear something you particularly like the sound of on your favourite station, one push of the record button automatically starts recording live radio into MP3 format.
A built-in microphone allows you to record voice at a range of bit rates. The lowest setting allows over 100 hours of voice recording (ideal for lectures), while the highest setting, 128kbps, produces CD-quality recordings.
The player also comes with an impressive equaliser with 12 presets, and a nine-band user equaliser. There's also an option to limit the volume, which is very useful if you plan on buying this for a sibling. Two simple flash games are included too: Baseball and Pizza Delivery.
One noticeable problem was the slight lag with the navigation. There's a tiny gap between button presses and the system responding, and a slight delay when skipping tracks. It's off-putting, but it's made more bearable by the easy-to-use menus. There are no other significant navigation problems, though we'd rather use the back button on the front to go back a step than the button on the side.
The bundled stock headphones are only average, although this is par for the course. We tested the T9 with a pair of mid-range Sennheiser headphones and heard an astonishing improvement over the bundled set. The bass of Yeah Yeah by Bodyrox was powerful and full-bodied, while the high-pitched operatic vocals from Sarah Brightman's performance of Naturaleza Muerta were sharp and clear. Audiophiles will certainly find the YP-T9 offers excellent audio performance, but a pair of quality 'phones will have to be on their shopping list.
It's getting more common for small players such as this to support video playback, and the YP-T9 does a good job of playing back video encoded with the software provided. Video files are automatically rotated to take full advantage of the screen size. Although the player is smaller than a nano, the screen is larger, making video clips very watchable. You wouldn't want to watch a full-length movie on here, granted, but music videos and occasional TV shows are perfectly watchable without eyestrain. Photos are also well taken care of and look good on the bright colour LCD screen.
Samsung claims a battery life of 30 hours for music -- this was borne out by our tests. Our model played music continuously for 30 hours and video for 6, which are excellent figures.
Samsung has produced an astounding MP3 player that's packed with features, easy to use, a pleasure to operate and delivers excellent sound quality. If you're after a slimline, lightweight and feature-packed music player then don't miss the Samsung YP-T9.
It's the only model we've seen that could deliver a knockout blow to the iPod nano, thanks to the extra features such as radio, Bluetooth, voice and radio recording, and crucially, video playback. Don't worry about paying the extra -- it's worth it.
Available from AdvancedMP3Players.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide