Although the Galaxy Player 4.2 isn't tied to a cellular carrier like a smartphone, Samsung couldn't stop itself from preinstalling a variety of apps. Thankfully, most of it is fairly worthwhile.

Two Electronic Arts titles have been preloaded for mobile gamers: Need for Speed Hot Pursuit for racing fans and FIFA 2012 for soccer lovers. However, "preloaded" isn't the correct description in this case, since you'll have to download 590MB of data for the former and 1.5GB to play the latter, making a mini-SD card nearly a requirement for gamers.

Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2

One of the coolest preinstalled apps included here is Kies Air, a utility for wirelessly connecting to the Galaxy Player from any web browser on the same network. Connecting our Mac to the device was a snap, and instantly we had full access to photos, videos, music, contacts, calendars and bookmarks without even looking at a USB cable.

In addition to the usual assortment of Google apps, users can install the likes of Netflix from Google Play, while enjoying other bundled titles ranging from ChatON to NFL Mobile, QuickOffice and Samsung Smart View, for controlling the company's HDTVs and Blu-ray players.

Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2

Sadly, while Hulu Plus installed just fine, the app threw up an error whenever we tried to open it or play a video. We were also unable to install Google's Chrome browser, which is not compatible with versions of Android prior to 4.0.

Verdict

Google Nexus 7 tablet competition aside, the decision to buy a Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 comes down to one's allegiance to ecosystems: Apple's iPod touch is firmly locked into iTunes, while Google Play allows Android users to have mostly the same type of experience with a little less spit and polish.

We liked

The hardware is pretty good and the stereo speakers in particular are a nice touch. Although it's not quite as svelte as an iPod touch, the larger screen makes the extra heft easier to accept.

Although we're usually not fans of preinstalled software, Samsung's Kies Air really gave us something to get excited about here. In fact, our biggest lament was that we couldn't install the app on our Samsung Galaxy Nexus, as well.

We disliked

For its core functionality as a media player, the Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 gets the job done. The included earbuds don't accurately reproduce low frequencies, while our third-party earbuds seemed too midrange and lacking in higher end frequencies compared to our iPhone 4S.

We also could find no compelling reason why Samsung couldn't have shipped the Galaxy Player 4.2 with Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich, and even more disheartening, the media player doesn't seem to be on Samsung's radar for an upgrade anytime soon.

Verdict

While there's nothing inherently wrong with the Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 and the concept of a cellular (and contract) free Android device is admirable, it's doomed to be a niche product aimed at entertaining kids whose parents are already fans of Google's mobile ecosystem.

Samsung could soon find its niche even smaller thanks to Google's Nexus 7 tablet, which offers better hardware and a larger display at the same price. While Apple's iPod sales have slowly receded since the dawn of the iPad, Samsung has no such wildly successful tablet to fall back on.

For those squarely in the niche, the Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 is a capable media player, offering a decent mix of style and expandability at a competitive price – particularly for users not tied into the iTunes ecosystem.