Samsung TicToc YP-S1AL
Although many brands have bowed to down to Apple's dominance and quietly pulled out of the MP3 market, Samsung is still a big player when it comes to portable music players. The Korean manufacturer's latest offering - the TicToc - is aimed squarely at kids, specifically girls. But boys, are included too - as well as a pink version, there's also a blue model, so that you can keep your gender stereotyping in order.
Available in 2 or 4GB variants, the TicToc is motion-controlled, so if you can't afford a PlayStation Move or a Kinect then just maybe you can placate the kids with one of these.
It's certainly a very pretty device, featuring a white cuboid-shaped design with neatly rounded edges and either pink or blue accents. The player also comes with a removable, clear plastic case that's decorated in an attractive pattern and also includes a clip that can slip onto a bag or belt. Unfortunately it's not a secure clip like those found on Apple's iPod Shuffle. It's more like the slip-on clip that you find on the top of biro, so it doesn't feel entirely secure. And while the player's exceptionally feather-like weight of just 12g means that you'll barely notice it in your bag, it also means that you might not notice if the clip slips and it falls off your belt while you're not listening to it.
Our review sample was one of the 4GB variety which can hold up to 1000 songs, says Samsung. The Tic Toc is supplied with a small docking station that plugs in to your computer via USB for charging and transferring music files.
On connecting the player for the first time, you're prompted to install Samsung's bundled TicToc-specific mini app software as well as the maker's Kies software that can also be used for managing your Samsung mobile phone.
You can transfer music simply by dragging and dropping files and the player can handle MP3, AAC, WMA, Ogg, FLAC and WAV audio files. Powered by the DNSe 3.0 sound engine, the TicToc can be used with one of seven DNSe sound fields. These can be adjusted using the mini app and include Auto, Normal, Studio, Rock, R&B, Dance and Concert Hall.
The motion control actually works surprisingly well. Although it may sound like a bit of novelty, it is actually very intuitive to use and you should be up and running in no time. You can skip to the next track by holding the player on its side and pressing the solitary button once, while quickly pressing it twice will skip back to the previous track and three brief clicks will clock to the next folder. To adjust the volume, you simply hold the device upright and click to the turn up the sound, or invert the player and click to lower the volume. Shaking the player once instigagtes the voice guide which will tell you what you're listening to, while shaking three times will switch between the the four play modes - Normal, Shuffle, Fast and Slow.
The mini app features Tempo Analysis which can differentiate between slow and fast songs, so that you can pick the the right sort of music to suit your mood. We don't find these type of modes very useful at all, but they may appeal to some. You can also change the appearance of the mini app on your computer to match your player.
When talking about portable devices, one of the all-important factors is battery life as nobody wants their music source conking out halfway through the day. According to Samsung, the TicToc offers 12 hours of playback which should see you through the day.
Audio performance is fair but not the best we've heard, and the sonics start to sound extremely tinny as soon as the volume is turned up to a decent level. Having said that, after switching to a better pair of headphones, the improvement was significant. The sound copes well with bass-heavy tracks and the mid range is also punchy and clear. We can't really mark the player down for its poor headphones as that's pretty much standard on affordable MP3 players.
Firmly at the entry-level of the market, the TicToc will set you back £49.99, although you might be able to find it a bit cheaper online if you shop around.
This friendly little MP3 player stands out thanks to its unusual design and its motion control. If you're simply after an entry-level music player for the kids then there might be better ones available, such as Apple's iPod shuffle which is also about £10 cheaper. However, its dinstinctive looks and functionality make the TicToc worth considering, and if you switch to a decent pair of headphones, the audio is pretty good, too.