My Samsung P2 Review: great device with room for improvement

Any review of a touch screen digital audio player or phone is going to inevitably compare to the iPhone/iPod touch, but touch interfaces are the way forward because they just make sense. So here’s my quick and dirty review of the Samsung P2 which turned up this morning.

First up - why go with the P2? I must confess it’s got a lot to do with the touch screen. I’ve previously used the Rio Karma and the Creative Zen V Plus which have both been good players. The Rio Karma was an awesome DAP with excellent sound and features but it was butt ugly and the interface left something to be desired. The Creative Zen V Plus has served me well too, but it’s starting to fall apart with the navigation button on the front having split and is currently somewhere inside the player. While I’m really impressed with the iPhone and iPod touch, I don’t feel like transcoding 40GB worth of Windows Media files into AAC to play on the iPod and I’m just not a fan of iTunes. If I was to move to a Mac, the iPod would be a no brainer, but right now, Windows is my platform of choice.

Before I purchased this player I had considered the Creative Zen which has had some good reviews but after checking out the iPhone and a couple of months with my TyTN II I’ve found a touch interface to a device is just too good pass up. I ordered the 8 GB version of the P2 from Amazon way back in late September so it’s been a long wait for this device to turn up.

My first impression of the P2 is that it’s well built. It’s all plastic but it feels solid, even the buttons on the side feel nice too. Another great but simple feature is that the headphone socket is on the bottom of the player. This is actually much better than it sounds - when pulling the player out of my pocket, which is usually headphone socket up, I don’t have to spin the player around and the cable doesn’t get in the way.

A power pack is not supplied with the player so charging must be done by plugging the player into your computer. It also does not have a standard USB interface but uses a propriety connector, which turns out to be the same connector used on Samsung’s mobile phones. I can only presume that this interface will provide connection for peripherals but at the moment I can’t find any evidence of that.

Overall though navigation is pretty good, the interface looks good and works well, however I’d like an easier way to get back to the Now Playing screen. I have noticed that on occasion hitting a menu option isn’t as precise as it should be and I end up hitting a different option. If it’s not my passion fingers, I would expect a firmware update will fix this up.

The default interface for the menu doesn’t respond as I would have expected. When you move your finger across the screen to scroll through the options, the menu moves after you’ve made the finger movement - it doesn’t move with the finger movement. Because of this it doesn’t feel as responsive as the iPhone/iPod touch but perhaps that’s not what Samsung was going for. You can change the menu to just display a list of options which ends up being a faster way of moving around the system.

When I first transferred music to the player it wouldn’t play my WMA files even though it could read the song titles from the files. It seems that the P2 (and I presume other players) won’t play file encoded higher than 160 Kbps. As I’ve been encoding to 192 Kbps from CD, I’ve had to configure WMP to convert the files to 160 when transferring to the player. Not a big issue, but I would prefer if it could play the files just as I recorded them.

Sound quality is excellent - the bass sounds full and the higher tones are nice and clear. I haven’t used the included headphones, instead I’m using my Sennheiser in-ear headphones and I’m able to hear sounds within some songs that I just wasn’t hearing on the Zen. Unfortunately it appears that the P2 does not support gapless playback. Samsung, if you’re listening, gapless playback is not optional; please fix this and soon.

I’m not sure yet how much use I’ll get out of watching videos on the player, however the screen quality is great and videos look good, but I’m finding myself holding the player about 30 cm from my face when watching them. One feature that does look interesting is the ability to read text files. You can drop a plain text file on the player and, well, read it. Not much more to say about that one really.

I was able to team the player with my phone and my laptop over Bluetooth, but it currently doesn’t offer any services to those devices. I’ll have to wait for a future firmware update to get integration with my phone - music should stop playing when the phone rings. Useful because I’ve often missed calls when while listening to music even though I’ve got vibrate turned on, on the phone.

Overall I pretty impressed with the player and would recommend it to anyone looking at purchasing a new DAP especially if you’re not in the market for an iPod touch. There are a few things I’d like to change and I’m counting on Samsung being proactive with their firmware updates, but only time will tell.

There’s already a few reviews of the Samsung P2 around the place that are worth checking out too: Engadget’s got hand’s on and unboxing so I don’t need to post any photos; CNET has a review here and you can find a video of the player’s interface on YouTube.

And lastly, the inevitability of comparisons can be summed up in something my wife said as an iPhone advertisement was playing on TV: “Hey honey, that’s your MP3 player.”