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Samsung YP-S5 Multimedia Player Review

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SKYMTL

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Samsung YP-S5 Multimedia Player Review




Product Number: YP-S5JAB
Price: Click Here To Compare Prices
Warranty: 1 year
Colors Available: Black
Manufacturer's Product Page: YP-S5JAB MP3 players - MP3 players SAMSUNG




With technology changing in the blink of an eye on an almost daily basis, companies are forced to find innovative ways to stay at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Being that as it may, Samsung has always been ahead of the technology curve and is considered one of the primary innovators in the consumer electronics world. This Korea-based high tech juggernaut was founded over 70 years ago and currently employs over a quarter million people in its various factories and offices around the world. Their products touch on nearly every part of the electronics world and in this review we will be looking at one of their smaller yet by no means insignificant products: a multimedia player. Samsung has been producing MP3 players since their inception and this unit we will be testing today represents the next logical step in the evolution of the MP3 player into a fully-fledged multimedia player.

Here at Hardware Canucks we show you the best (and sometimes worst) of what the computer component world has to offer but it sometimes feels good to take a short detour and show you what the rest of the high tech world is doing. So, when Samsung Canada approached us with an offer to review their new YP-S5 multimedia player, we gladly pulled our heads out of the pile of power supplies, graphics cards and whatnot to see what Samsung had to offer.

With the advent of players like Microsoft’s Zune and Creative’s Zen players not to mention the ever-present Apple iPod, MP3 players are quickly evolving into a one-stop-shop for everything multimedia related. While the S5 is not targeting the same market as some of the larger-screened devices, it is still the kind of player which wants to offer something for everyone. It is able to play MPEG and WMV video formats and WMA, OGG, ASF music formats in addition to AAC files so all you iTunes lovers will have something to listen to. It also boasts Bluetooth connectivity to headphones or your cell phone (yes, we said cell phone but more about that later), the ability to view JPEG images and even has built in speakers. This all comes in a sleek package which is reminiscent of the award-winning Samsung YP-K3 and is available in only one capacity: 4GB. Unfortunately, the S5 is not expandable via SD cards so the consumer will have to make due with its somewhat limited storage size.

The Samsung YP-S5 is quite widely available at Canadian retailers and etailers even though it was launched a few short months ago. Prices seem to range from $160 all the way up to around $200CAD which is quite a bit for this product if you are using it JUST as a music player. However, the S5 is capable of so much more than mere music playback so its asking price is somewhat less extreme when you consider the versatility it seems to offer.

Is the Samsung YP-S5 a jack of all trade but master of none or is it the first and last word in portable multimedia players? Read on to find out…


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SKYMTL

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories

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The Samsung YP-S5 comes in a compact package which is protected by a thick clear plastic cover. Through this plastic you are able to see the player in all its glory as well as the headphones. Meanwhile, the back of the package hold some quick blurbs about the S5’s compatibility and features.

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In order to get access to the player, all you have to do is wedge you finger nails in between the top and bottom pieces of the plastic cover and lightly pull them apart. We know firsthand that eyen though the S5 is in full view it is still extremely well protected; the box dropped down a flight of stairs without a scratch and the player itself did not even budge from the protective embrace of the packaging.

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All of the driver and software CDs along with the cables are located underneath the cardboard sheet which holds the S5.

You get the following:

- Driver and software CD
- Quick install guide
- USB data cable
- Audio In cable
- Headphones

Conspicuously missing is an actual wall charger and a full printed instruction manual. While it is understandable that Samsung wanted to save a few bucks by not including the quite large 117 page instruction manual, its inclusion would have been nice nonetheless. The inquiring minds among you can find the full instruction manual either on the included CD or here:

English: http://downloadcenter.samsung.com/content/UM/200710/20071024083133484_YPS5J-CANADA-ENGLISH0.0.pdf
French: http://downloadcenter.samsung.com/content/UM/200710/20071024083133484_YPS5J-CANADA-FRENCH0.0.pdf

However, the inclusion of a wall charger with any MP3 or multimedia player is a must since we will not always have a computer on-hand to charge our player. The K3 series also came without a wall charger and we were hoping to see this situation rectified here…but we were once again left without one. As you will see in the Long-Term Testing section, frustration ensued.

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The two cables which come with the Samsung YP-S5 have the same adaptor to plug into the player but their input sides are completely different. One of them is the audio-in cable with a 3.5mm TRS connector which is used to bring audio signals (from another audio source’s headphone jack) to your S5 so it can be played via the built-in speakers. Meanwhile, the other cable is used as the USB data connector.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the Samsung YP-S5

A Closer Look at the Samsung YP-S5

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The YP-S5’s design is highly reminiscent of that of the Samsung YP-K3 which won numerous international design awards. However, where this player differs is in the fact that it is more than twice the thickness of its sibling due to the built-in speakers and other feature changes. Also unlike the K3 which comes in many different colors, the S5 is only available in the gloss black finish we see here. This means it is quite susceptible to scratches and the appearance of fingerprints but it looks nothing short of stunning when it is clean.

The upper portion of the S5 holds the somewhat small 1.8” TFT display while the lower area houses touch-sensitive buttons which glow white once the unit is turned on.

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The bottom of the S5 holds the USB connection port as well as the earphone connection jack while the top houses the power / hold switch. This switch must be pushed to the right (in relation to the picture above) in order to turn on and off the unit while pushing it to the left will lock the front-panel button functions.

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As you may recall, we said there were built-in speakers and up until now you were probably wondering where the heck they were hiding. Samsung has actually developed an ingenious sliding mechanism which allows the rear portion of the S5 to glide out to an angle in order to expose the speakers. Not only does this mechanism secure the speakers in place well enough that you don’t have to worry about it opening of is own accord but it can also be opened with the flip of a finger.

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This mechanism basically consists of a pair of rails and which slide the upper portion of the S5 forwards and backwards but hardly take up any space due to the fact that they are recessed within the player.

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The reflective silver coating on the speaker housing is protected by a thin plastic film which is extremely easy to miss when you first open the YP-S5. Make sure you remove this if you will be using the speakers since it seriously muffles their directional sound.

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The back of the player has an opening for the microphone and the obligatory reset button. As you will see later, the microphone can be used for anything from making or receiving a phone call to recording voice memos.
 
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SKYMTL

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Size Comparison / Headphone Impressions

Size Comparison

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While this may not be a “fair” comparison, here we are placing our trusty Cowon D2 2GB media player next to the Samsung YP-S5 in order to get a fair approximation of the size difference between the two products.

As we can see, the Samsung player is quite a bit narrower than the D2 which should make it much easier to fit into a tight pocket in a pair of jeans. Looking at it in a more profile view we see that even with the built-in speakers, the S5 is also a few millimeters thinner than the year-old Cowon.

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To make a bit more literal comparison, the thickness of the Samsung YP-S5 is very close to that of an AA battery.


Headphone Impressions

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Upon first glance, the headphones which come with the S5 look like your standard earbud-type affairs which we have seen a million times in the past from a thousand different players. They have a four foot cord which is quite a good length for those of you who tend to wander a bit to and fro when listening to music. However, there is more than what meets the eye when it comes to these particular headphones…

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These are most definitely not your standard, run of the mill earbuds. While they employ the same single driver design as is evident in nearly every other small-sized headphone on the market, their shape is anything but ordinary. While they did not have a problem fitting into most people’s ears, three of the six people who tried them on (after a thorough cleaning of course), found them extremely uncomfortable and could not wear them for more than a few minutes. While their unique shape does well in canceling out a lot of background sound, this design also works against them since not everyone’s ears are shaped the same. We would have much rather seen a more universal design with some form of functional padding.
 
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SKYMTL

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Menu Layout / Button Functionality

Menu Layout

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Overall, the menus on the Samsung YP-S5 are very well laid out with everything accessible at the touch of a few buttons. Other than the usual generic Music, Videos and Pictures options, Samsung has also included an FM radio receiver, the ability to view datacast files such as RSS feeds and Bluetooth wireless capability. The so-called Prime-Pack is also a great little extra with features like some basic games (baseball, Honey Bee and a few others), voice recording and the option to pump in an exterior audio source through the speakers via an Audio In menu.

However, even with all of these options the most interesting addition is the inclusion of Bluetooth wireless with which you can use wireless headphones, transfer files without a data cable and even use your cell phone with the YP-S5. This brings a whole new dimension to this multimedia player which adds both functionality and versatility.


Button Functionality

The buttons on this player take some getting used to for those of you used to the satisfying “click” of regular buttons but nonetheless, they are easy to become accustomed to. Since these buttons are touch sensitive, you will have to lightly touch a finger to the area on the player displaying the button you want to select. However, since there is sometimes a quite significant lag time between when you press the button and the response of the player so sometimes you will press down more times than is warranted. This becomes a bit annoying since it seems that the hardware Samsung used sometimes isn’t quite up to the task of properly functioning with the software they have loaded.

When used in conjunction with the extremely easy to navigate menus, before long you will be controlling every function of the S5 like you have been using it your whole life. Not only is the button layout very intuitive but when used hand in hand with the brilliant menu design we were able to blaze through the options, play with the equalizer and browse songs in a matter of seconds.

The keys are broken down into easy-to-understand pictograms which are broken down as follows:

It is very important to remember that when you are using the player horizontally rather than the usual vertically, the key functions will rotate themselves accordingly.

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The main touchpad is pretty much what we see with nearly every other MP3 and multimedia player on the market: the up and down keys controlling menu selection and volume while the left and right buttons also control menu selection but have the added function of scrolling through media files. Meanwhile, the large center button dubs as both a selection button as well a play / pause selector.

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The odd-looking “U” button functions as a “back” selector in order to move to the previous screen or if you hold it for a few seconds it will bring you to the main menu screen. The final stop of our whirlwind button tour is the menu button which can be tapped to display the main menu no matter which sub-section you are in.
 
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SKYMTL

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Samsung Media Studio

Samsung Media Studio

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The file transfer program which ships with the YP-S5 is Samsung’s Media Studio. This software allows you to rip music or video to your hard drive from a CD or DVD and then quickly transfer it to your player by providing you with an easy-to-understand menu and a great interface. Where some programs which come with players hinder more than help (the archaic Sony programs come to mind), throughout the month we used this player the Media Studio software provided a solid backbone for all our file transfer needs. There weren’t any longterm issues with it and indeed it was one of the more stable examples of a file transfer program we have come across in quite some time.

There was however one oddity that came up when we first installed Media Studio onto our Vista Ultimate x64 test system. We know from experience that if a program is going to show its faults, it will do so under a Vista 64-bit operating environment and Samsung’s program did not disappoint. When we first installed the latest version of Media Studio (downloaded from Samsung’s website) it kept crashing whenever we opened it up and tried to move it around on the desktop. The problem was eventually traced back to the fact that we were running Microsoft’s über-cool DreamScene desktop program with the DeskScapes add-on in order to animate our desktop image. While we were told that Media Studio should be compatible with DreamScene, it seems that the .Dream files did not play nice with the Samsung software. Since this could have very much been an issue with the myriad of ways DeskScapes can be set up, this seems to be more of a user-specific issue than a problem with the Media Studio software.

So, other than that small wrinkle, working with the included Samsung Media Studio went very smoothly and indeed, it surpassed all of our expectations in terms of user friendliness.
 

SKYMTL

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Overall Sound Quality / Battery Life

Overall Sound Quality

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It should be noted that listening tests are very subjective and thus, your listening experience may vary quite a bit from ours. At times we will be comparing this to the Cowon D2 since we have one in our possession and thus comparisons can be quickly done. When listening to the YP-S5, we substituted the standard (and uncomfortable) headphones out for a pair of Razer Pro Solutions M100 headphones.

When listening to the Samsung S5, you quickly realize that this player has the potential to really pump out some high quality sound. We listened to a variety of music from rock to classic to trance in all of the supported file formats and in gradually larger file sizes and were constantly amazed at the sound quality of this diminutive player. The highs were clear while the bass was quite good as well but a bit lacking when we really wanted some “oomph” in the music.

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As you can see, there is a fairly wide range of user-defined equalizer and bass settings aside from the usual “Rock”, “Dance” and other presets. However, no matter how much we played around with these setting, the sound quality of the Samsung YP-S5 never met that of our older Cowon D2. Yes, the sound was great but when listening a song and format on the S5 and then switching to listen to that exact same song on the Cowon, there were differences in quite a few areas.

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First of all it seems that the S5 likes the higher frequency sounds more than it does the lower frequency which basically boils down to limited bass even when the equalizer settings are tuned to give the highest bass response possible. In this same vein, we were never quite able to tune in that “sweet spot” where every song sounded just the way we wanted it to. The Cowon D2 was able to provide eyeball-rattling bass and crystal clear highs through the Razer M100 headphones but the S5 could not repeat that feat.

Other than those few very minor and highly subjective criticisms, the Samsung YP-S5 was able to deliver a rich soundstage which would be perfect for almost anyone. MP3s sounded particularly good when compared to the Cowon and even when some files were compressed, they still sounded a lot better than we expected.


Battery Life

Battery life was extremely good but a bit lower than Samsung’s claimed 24 hours when playing music and 4 hours of video viewing. On average we received about 19 hours of music playback with the volume set between 50% and 65% and 3 ½ hours of MPEG video playback with the screen set at its default settings. The speakers also take a significant amount of power and when using them at ¾ volume, battery life was further reduced to about three hours.

Charging time via a PC USB port wasn’t too bad at around three hours from a completely drained battery to full charge but here again we have to mention that the lack of a wall charger hurts this player. Not all of us want to keep out desktop or laptop on for two or more hours to do nothing other than charge a media player and as you will see later, an aftermarket wall charger will probably do more harm than its worth. Also, in case you were wondering; Samsung does NOT produce a stand-alone wall charger for this player. Shame.
 
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SKYMTL

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Stock Headphone & Speaker Quality

Stock Headphone & Speaker Quality

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Remember these uncomfortable things from a few pages back? Well, we took the time and fought through the discomfort to give them a good listen so we could determine the sound quality which they can output. We wore them for a few days for about an hour each day in order to get accustomed to the sound they produced and came away with some lasting impressions (and sore ears)

To be honest, the headphones that come with the S5 do nothing to showcase what this player is capable of. After we switched the headphones out for a pair of Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 3 earbuds which were on loan from a friend, we were simply floored by the difference in sound quality versus the stock units that came with the S5. While those headphones nearly cost as much as the YP-S5, even the much more mundane Razer Pro Solutions M100 earbuds showed a substantial improvement over these stock headphones.

Not did this show that this Samsung player is capable of so much more than its stock headphones allow but it also shows that the age-old adage is true here as well: the headphones that come with a media player usually get the short end of the budget. While they are definitely a step above some of the included headphones we have seen with other players (don’t get me started on the things that came with the Cowon…ugh), they provide a bottleneck where this player can’t stretch its legs and deliver the sound that it wants to.

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The two speakers that are hidden away on the YP-S5 have a total output of a mere 1.5W but that is understandable since a balance needed to be struck between size, power consumption and sound quality. They are perfect if you want to share music with a friend in a close environment but don’t expect them to fill a good-sized room with high quality sound. For their size, the sound produced is quite good but it has next to no bass and they need to be turned up to ¾ volume in order for the sound to be heard in anything but the smallest cubicle. If you do want to get good speaker sound, hook up the S5 to an external receiver via the audio-out option and let rip.

For their size and the way they are implemented into the hide-away design these speakers are perfect for situation where you don’t want to or can’t use your headphones. While we can’t see many people using these on a regular basis, their inclusion does add a new dimension in the listening options of this player.
 
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SKYMTL

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Screen Quality / Bluetooth and You

Screen Quality

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The Samsung YP-S5 comes with a 1.8” TFT display which has a resolution of 176x220 pixels and this is quite a bit smaller than some competing players on the market. In other words, it is fit for displaying the menus and not much else since the low resolution cannot display pictures in all their glory and watching a video on it is like trying to watch a 27” TV from fifty feet away.

No matter how much we gripe about its size, the quality of the display is actually quite good for a multimedia player in the S5’s price range. You can easily upload your vacation shots through Samsung’s Media Studio and brag about them to your friends if you can put up with the somewhat slow transition from picture to picture.


Bluetooth and You

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On of the more interesting features of the Samsung YP-S5 is its Bluetooth capability which you can use to listen wirelessly to you music through a wireless headset or transfer files to you player. Both of these options worked extremely well in our testing but the one thing that stood out the most was the seamless transition we had when using it as a hands-free device for our cell phone.

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Samsung gives you the option to send and receive calls through the YP-S5 and even though it sounds a bit complicated, it works ridiculously well. While the manual states that this wireless feature is compatible with only a few cell phones we found that it also worked on the Motorola Razr V3c, the LG Chocolate and a Blackberry Curve without any problem at all. So, it is safe to assume that if you have bought a Bluetooth-enabled phone within the last year or so, it should be compatible with the S5.

All you have to do is link the cell phone and the player the same way you would with a hands-free device and you are off to the races. To send a call, you select Mobile Phone through the Bluetooth menu, type in the number and talk using the built-in mic and hear the person you are calling through the headphones. When you receive a call, a tone plays through the player and you either flip out the speakers to hear the person on the other end or press the center button to accept the call. It is absolutely seamlessly done.

Are there any issues with his feature? The only problem we had was that there was a fair amount of background noise when using the built-in mic. The person on the other end of the line found it extremely hard to hear us if we were driving or if there was any sort of wind blowing.
 
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