Samsung Galaxy Player 50 review

2 out of 5
£149

For

Gives you full Android suite of apps

Against

Software buggy, expensive given the quality of the hardware, low res screen, crashed and restarted continually

The Samsung Galaxy Player 50 is an Android-based portable media player, offering up a healthy dose of connected magic and Android goodness, along with Samsung’s trademark additions that have made the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S a popular media-savvy device.

Essentially, the Galaxy Player 50 is a phone without the telecommunications, just as the iPod touch is. Where the iPod touch offers practically the same spec as the iPhone 4, the Galaxy Player 50 is more of an entry-level smartphone spec. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: although it won’t be as capable as the iPod touch, it retails at £149.99, some £30 cheaper than the lowest capacity iPod touch.

It was always inevitable that we’d see the rise of this type of device to challenge the iPod touch. When the iPod touch first launched it was obvious that it had gone beyond just music and video playback. Whilst there have been various attempts at this, using the Android platform means that there is already an existing user and developer base, so it stands a better chance of offering more than a straight PMP.

Recently we’ve seen Archos moving into this space and we’ve seen a number of devices from them, including the recently-reviewed Archos 32. Generally the Archos devices offer good video support (which is what the company is known for) but fail to offer the full Android experience. The Samsung Galaxy Player 50 doesn’t suffer in the same way, potentially offering a better Android experience out the box. (You’ll see why we see potentially in a minute.)

Measuring 105 x 54 x 11mm the Galaxy Player 50 is light in the hand and easily pocketable. It features a 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen display on the front, underneath which sits a central “home” button, flanked by menu and back touch controls. Around the sides of the device you’ll find a power button and volume controls. A 3.5mm headphone jack resides on the top, and around the back is the opening for the on-board speaker and the lens for the 2-megapixel camera.

Power the Galaxy Player 50 on and you are presented with Android 2.1, skinned with Samsung’s TouchWiz 3.0 interface. If you’ve seen or used a Samsung Android device before (those from the Galaxy range) then you’ll know what it is all about. You get customisable homepages that swipe from side-to-side, so you can drop widgets, shortcuts, bookmarks and so on. A fixed bar along the bottom offers music, video, browser and application access.

Open the menu up and you’ll see everything on offer. The Galaxy Player 50 comes preinstalled with a number of applications, including those from the full Google Android suite, so you get Android Market, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Talk, Google Mail, Voice Search and email, calendar and contacts syncing from the word go. All you have to do is sign into your Google account and you’ll find your device fill with your friends, emails and schedule (assuming you use Google’s services, that is).

Dive into the Android Market and you’ll have a huge range of applications that you can download and install on your device. The range isn’t quite as extensive as offered by Apple’s App Store, and the limited hardware means you can’t get to everything, but it means you can have your Facebook and Twitter apps happily running, or download a barcode scanner to lap up all those QR codes using the camera.

Android 2.1 isn’t the latest version of Android, but some of the advantages of updated version of the mobile platform would be lost on this device because of its limited hardware specs. You wouldn’t be able to use Adobe Flash Player even if you did have Android 2.2 on the device.

We said that the Samsung Galaxy Player 50 “potentially” offers a great Android experience, however our sample struggled with those core Android functions. We had regular failures and restarts, often wiping out our account details and resetting the device. We also found it would often refuse to install applications, citing that there was no space, as well as experiencing failures in the Market application almost every time we tried to use it. We assume this is an early software problem, but it is well worth scouting around the Internet for other reviews to see if this is a wider problem. As it is, the Samsung Galaxy Player 50 simply doesn’t work in the wider functions it aims to offer, but we found the core music and video players to be stable enough.

Under the skin you’ll find a music player that is capable, also offering up audio customisation controls, letting you move around a grid to switch the emphasis of how the music sounds. It also features an FM radio so you’ll be able to tune in on your commute. The bundled headphones are reasonable, with a choice of buds to get the best fit for your ears. The result are a little muted, but swapping for good quality third-party headphones will give you a much better sounding device.

Internally you get 6GB of memory, but a microSD card slot provides the opportunity for quick and easy expansion, as well as offering a direct method of adding content. Be aware that using a syncing application will often convert your file formats for you we used DoubleTwist on the Mac, rather than use the poor Samsung Kies software that the company uses with its mobile devices. Updates would be applied through Samsung Kies however, something to be mindful of.

The 3.2-inch display offers up a resolution of 240 x 400, so it falls short of many Android devices, and a long way short of the iPod touch. However, given the smaller screen size, video looks passable, and we had it happily playing back common file types, including DivX videos. We also had some success using the bundled All Share app to stream music from our home server to the device.

The camera also doesn't really impress, offering low res photos and video that fall behind the current expectations. 

Verdict

As it is, it’s difficult to see past the overly-expensive £149 price tag, as you’ll get a much greater return, both in terms of quality and entertainment, by stumping up a little more cash and getting the iPod touch. Even giving the Samsung Galaxy Player 50 the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the software failures, the plastic build just isn’t up to the mark for this type of device, representing an entry-level mobile device, rather than a desirable PMP.

It's difficult to judge the Samsung Galaxy Player 50 as a devices because the software failures were invasive, so we've given it a low score. If this is a limited problem, then we'd say that the Samsung Galaxy Player 50 is probably worth considering if you can find it at a more realistic price - under £100 certainly.