For a manufacturer which has only been in the MP3 music playing game for around a year, Samsung has so far impressed with its PMP efforts.
The Samsung YP-Q1 is the company's latest offering and continues to show Samsung as a company who just might take, albeit small bites, out of Apple's world domination.
Continuing the YP range, the Q1 is a successor to both the YP-P2 and YP-T10. Forgoing the touchscreen elegance of the YP-P2, and updating the looks of the YP-P2, the Q1 is a sleek player.
Immediately, the PMP looks like it has been designed by the same folks that created Samsung's U700 mobile range.
The chassis is the same thickness of an iPod classic, while the screen is the most dominant feature of the player – beneath it is a diamond-shaped, touch-sensitive control panel.
The minimal look
Other than the front controls, features on the phone's body are kept to an absolute minimum. On the right there is a plasticky on/off switch. Flick it down and the Q1 starts up in around five seconds, signified by a blue glow.
At the bottom of the Q1 is a 3.5mm earphone jack, and a USB2.0 adaptor connection. Supplied in the box are the said adaptor and some ear buds.
Unfortunately, Samsung has managed to do the impossible and create some 'phones that are worse than the ones Apple supplies. While the sound is immersive, the plastic-moulding digs into your ears, making wearing them for longer the 20 minutes a tad painful.
Switch on the Q1, and immediately it impresses. Nice big graphical icons spell out where your content is housed. Navigation is done by the diamond which is responsive – actually, it's a tad too responsive.
Occasionally this reviewer's fumbly fingers brought up the video page, instead of music and vice versa. The options available in full are: Music, Video, Pictures, Texts, Radio, Datacasts, Prime Pack, File Browser, Settings.
The inclusion of File Browser and Texts option makes the Q1 stand out from the crowded PMP market.
While designed primarily to play audio and video, the device will carry text documents, and act as a file mule for when you find yourself without a USB stick, While many other devices to this – including Apple's popular players – it's never been easier to access the non-audiovisual content.
Plug in the Q1 into a computer and your PC – and it's Windows-only we're afraid folks – will automatically assume that your player is just a USB storage device. No messy music-store compatibility, and you're not tied to, say, iTunes.
If you wanted, you could use the device like this, dragging and dropping your music and video into the right folders.
Samsung has, however, included a disc into the package, where you can download EmoDio. This music portal was introduced by Samsung back in May of this year and is a rival to the iTunes Store.
Installing EmoDio took five minutes to get it on to the PC and then a further five minutes to download an update. We would love to tell you what was updated but no information was given.
Click on EmoDio and prepare to be underwhelmed. Newbies to music portals will be pleased that the whole thing is clean, and easy to use with six tab options at the top, labelled: MyPC, Playlists, Datacasts, Store, EmoDio.com and CD.
Immediately you are asked if you want EmoDio to scan your PC for compatible media to add to the portal. The time this takes to do depends on how large you music and video collection is. One coffee later and, for us, the computer was ready for business.
While the name of the EmoDio will only excite those whose band of choice is Fall Out Boy, despite the plain look of the portal, it's a neat rival to iTunes.
Clicking on the store, we were never prompted to sign up, but could access all the content we wanted. It was only when we went to purchase some music that the registration process began.
For podcast lovers, there was the option for EmoDio to automatically choose some content for you to listen to. When we tried it, the podcasts that started downloading was for CNN. Considering the portal isn't available in America, it was quite an odd choice.
Once you have gathered all your music into EmoDio – and when we say all, we pretty much mean all, with MP3, Flac, WMA and Ogg Vorbis all supported – you can start creating some playlists.
There's a choice of five pre-determined categories – Exercise, Study, Driving, Party and Meditation. Two playlists will automatically be created, and these are Favourite Tracks and Top 25 Tracks.
Playing music on the Q1 is a joy. For a start, audio sounds crisp and clear. There's no tininess that us sometimes associated with MP3 playback. This has something to do with the Q1 using Samsung's audio tech, called DNSe 3.0 (Digital Natural Sound engine). Instead of manually mucking around with audio setting, there's 13 pre-sets. If you do want to dabble in manually sorting out the sound, then you can do so through the player's equaliser.
If you're fed up with your downloaded albums, then there's an RDS FM radio on board. Using your earphones as an antenna, it's fairly straightforward to pre-program your favourite stations. Sound quality again is quibble-free.
One of the things that Samsung is most proud of with the Q1 is the player's video mode. Annoyingly you can only watch WMV and something called SVI MPEG4 files on the player – the latter being Samsung's proprietary format. This means that if you want to watch any other video file type, you need to bung it into EmoDio to get it decoded.
The inclusion of the WMV does mean that the player is compatible with the BBC's hugely successful iPlayer. Downloading content to the player from the iPlayer didn't prove to be any problem, and the 320 x 240 screen was surprisingly vibrant.
The Q1 is an impressive MP3 player that holds it own in a very competitive marketplace. We reviewed the 4GB version of the device, but the Q1 is available in 8GB and 16GB respectively. It's competitively priced too – at around £60 for the 4GB version and £100 for the 16GB. It may never knock the domineering iPod from its PMP perch, but those who chose not to follow the cult of Apple will find the Samsung Q1 a pleasant and viable alternative.