Samsung YP-K3 (2GB) Portable Audio Player - Review

Samsung YP-K3 (2GB) Portable Audio Player - Review

For Samsung, 2007 is the year of reckoning for its MP3 player division and its promise to knock the iPod off its pedestal. By the end of 2006, the firm had cobbled together the YP-K5 and the YP-T9, MP3 players that bear the looks and functionalities that would place the electronics firm in a strong position to challenge Apple in 2007.

Slick has been a big draw for MP3 players. In fact, the entire iPod series is counting on that factor to keep a distance from its competitors. Samsung recognizes this and has worked on achieving it beginning with the YP-Z5. The YP-T9 was a latter refinement.

The YP-K5, on the other hand, may turn out to be a staple design for Samsung MP3 players. The cool blue lighted touch sensor controls on a jet black body is a strong counterpoint to the uber white iPod and its Click Wheel. Pundits, however, disdain it for being too thick. Even the inclusion of built-in speakers failed to ward off the detractors.

Design of the Samsung YP-K3 Portable Audio Player

We don't know if the speaker-less YP-K3 was a planned product, or one that was quickly designed after criticisms of the YP-K5's heft. But historically, Samsung has shown a preference to release two versions of the same product. Take the Bluetooth-enabled YP-T9B and the toothless YP-T9; the FM-equipped YP-Z5F and the radio-less YP-Z5; the camera-equipped YP-D1 and the lens-less YP-T8.

The YP-K3 is a very slim number. While it is still a hair thicker than the iPod nano and a tad longer, its piano-black finish, gentle curves and chrome metal highlights make it an engaging sight to behold.

Turn it on and you will find the YP-K3 retains the same pleasing visual experience of the YP-K5--electric blue lights and a screen display with the same bluish theme. It's understated cool and it's clear to see that Samsung is seriously considering using beauty to tame the iPod beast.

The layout of the buttons, on the other hand, is not revolutionary. A center select button sits in the middle of four arrows arranged in compass directions. A Back and Menu button rests on the adjacent two corners, while the bottom edge of the player houses the headphone jack and a proprietary USB port. Even though the touch-sensor buttons are spaced out, be prepared for the occasional accidental activation. The lack of tactile input also makes "blind controlling" (while the K3 is in a pocket) unfeasible.

Fingerprint smudges on the YP-K3 are a problem. Though it's nothing that a swift wipe on the shirt sleeve wouldn't remedy, it's still a deal-breaker for some nonetheless.

The screen on the YP-K3 is larger (1.8 inch) than its K5 counterpart (1.71 inch), and brighter, too. But for a display that would not be taxed for more than the occasional picture viewing, the larger panel adds more to the user experience than serving as an important feature.

Controls on the K3 are minimal yet offer decent functionality. We find the graphics user interface (GUI) to be organic, much akin to the iPod and Creative Zen players. There's a button that calls up a contextual sub-menu based on the current active feature. And unlike the Creative Zen V Plus which does not include sound equalizer controls in the sub-menu, the YP-K3 does.

Features of the Samsung YP-K3 Portable Audio Player

It's a pity the YP-K3 does not include video playback. Like the YP-Z3, the screen works well for pictures and it's too bad support is not extended to videos. The YP-K3 lets the user listen to radio, read text files and view pictures on top of music playback, which is pretty close to what the iPod nano is capable of.

The YP-K3 supports ID3 tags and this is shown by how music is arranged by Artists, Albums, Playlists and Song Tracks. Samsung has kept the same animated blue dots (that morph into different icons) in the main menu from the K5. We also like how the display fades to a screensaver of your choosing (analog clock, various animation graphics, photos).

The new Media Studio software that's packaged with the YP-K3 is frankly gorgeous and feels like a hybrid of both Apple's iTunes and Sony's SonicStage. Most of the flab from the earlier versions had been ironed out and the software has a notably clean, spaced-out feel, elegant graphics user interface and tab browsing to access different features. There is also an inclusion of a music store feature that lets users choose between a subscription-based (all you can listen to) and pay-per-download account.

In a nod to the music sommelier feature found in Panasonic's music management software, which analyses songs by their acoustic characteristics, the Media Studio has a scaled-down version called My Music Style. Clicking the My Style button will have the software analyzing all songs in the active window and classifying them according to four styles: Passionate, cheerful, sweet and quiet.

In our test of the software, it was spot on, sometimes. The program had surprised us such as when it classified Garbage's Boys Wanna Fight as "cheerful". We think it's a lack of categories that's limiting the software. After all, fighting can be considered a cheerful activity, depending on who's on the receiving end.

Besides being able to burn CDs, rip music and edit ID3 tags, the Media Studio also has a song rating feature, though it's not available on the YP-K3. Like the smart playlist feature in iTunes, Samsung's own is called auto albums. It allows users to input multiple rule filters such as song ratings, play count and artist name, and import the playlist into the YP-K3.

Performance of the Samsung YP-K3 (2GB) Portable Audio Player

Bass was loud and tight with Massive Attack's Angel and vocals were clear on Diana Krall's You are Getting to be a Habit with Me. But if it is not enough for you, there are some preset equalization options (vocal, bass boost, 3D sound, concert hall). A small detail we liked was that once the earphones were tugged out, playback would stop immediately.

Radio reception on the YP-K3 was stellar. It captured all the stations in our test location and audio quality was good.

Battery life for the YP-K3 was above average at 26 hours 50 minutes which we obtained from looping 240MB worth of MP3 tracks. We obtained a drag-and-drop transfer rate of 2.5MB per second using 240MB worth of assorted MP3 files which was pretty average. However, the speed was slower (1.69MB per second) when we drove the tracks via the Media Studio software.