When building its first 'portable media center', Samsung joined forces with computer giant Microsoft - to this end, the £400 YH-999 sports the company's seal of approval in the form of a 'designed for Windows Mobile' logo.
The player itself has a real quality feel to it. Full marks to the 3.5in 4:3 TFT display,it's bright,crisp and has a resolution of 320 x 240.Full marks too,to the in-line remote-control unit, which forms part of the headphone lead. Another nod of acknowledgement goes to the robust carrying-case and to the flip-out desk-stand.
In use, the YH-999 is redolent of Windows XP Media Center Edition. The user interface is both slick and intuitive,offering easy access to your TV,music, pictures or video stored on the YH-999's 20GB hard disk (enough for up to 50hr of video).
A final menu option provides access to various set-up functions including a preset audio-equaliser, display brightness,TV output settings,language and diskspace/ contents monitor.
Operating controls on the front panel include track selection, play/pause and menu access (via a joypad arrangement).
Getting video into the device requires a PC with a USB port - but it lacks an AV input. Regrettably, the device only works with Windows XP.Note,by the way, that digital rights-management (DRM) is supported.
In terms of audio,the YH-999 supports both MP3 and WMA formats. Personal playlists can be created,too. The unit is also happy with JPEG still-images and will display them sequentially as a slide-show.
Alas,in video terms,the YH-999 only supports WMV (Windows Media Video) files. If you require other formats,a conversion process is instigated and there's no guarantee, at least if our experiences are anything to go by,that the files will be converted.
Trying to convert files created in DiVX (any version!) resulted in a 'codec not found' error message.And Dr.DiVX,together with the required codecs,were installed on the PC in question! Trying to convert other files (MPEG and ASF, for example) threw up yet more cryptic error messages.
If your video is already in the required format,then we advise dragging it directly to the relevant folders on the YH-999.
It's not all bad,however. The video quality is first-rate, as might one expect from Samsung, a 'blue-chip' AV manufacturer. What a pity that the accompanying audio is comparatively weak,with a somewhat gutless and muddy character, even with decent headphones. Battery life - up to 12hr audio, 3hr for video - is another strong point. But Microsoft's attempts to force its own standards on an industry of which it has little experience restricts consumer choice, and ultimately dampens the YH-999's appeal.