Review: Samsung K5 MP3 player

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The Propaganda

If you haven’t already heard enough about the Samsung K5 today, you will have in about 3 minutes time. As we’ve said, it’s available in the UK now, and was the shining star at the Samsung stand this month at IFA.

The MP3 player features an FM radio, touch sensitive buttons and most importantly, a slide out speaker. It’s available as a 1GB,  2GB or 4GB model.

The Good

Samsung are selling the K5 based on the strength of the design, as well as the fact that it’s got integrated speakers. And I’ll admit, people do like the design – the touch sensitive keypad is lit with blue buttons (very Samsung), which is echoed on the screen with blue and green graphics, very much like the skins on Windows Media Player.

The speaker is hid underneath the screen, and flicks out with a satisfying clunk. Once it’s displayed the player automatically switches to playing through the speakers. It also switches the display to horizontal so that you can lean it on a desk or where ever you happen to be.

Because of the speaker, you can set the player to act as an alarm, allowing you to either wake to one of several preset tunes, or to a song selected from your library. Like many mobile phone alarms, you can set it to come on on specific day. But, because of the lack of keypads, you’re offered a  selection from Mon-Fri, Mon-Sat or Sat-Sun. Poor you if you need to choose the last option. You also can’t wake to the FM radio, since the headphones act as a antenna.

The Bad

When I first whipped this out in front of someone, the first question they asked was ‘why the speakers’. To which I answered, without really thinking, that it was so you could listen without headphones. And then they asked again – why? And they’re right. The speakers are tinny, and although go quite loud, tend to be full of distortion at it’s highest volume point.  There are actually no circumstances where you’d choose the speaker over headphones, as far as I can see.  They also double the width of the player, which seems to go against what every other manufacturer is striving for at the moment. And it’s not that I begrudge not following the pack. It’s just that if you do, I think you have to prove that you did it well.

The keypad is touch sensitive, which makes for a lovely design. Unfortunately, I suffer from lazy fingers, which means although I mean to hit only one button, I often stray over and pause the tracks accidentally. For a while, this lead me to conclude that it had an awful interface, until I realised it was the fault of my lazy fingers. Damn them. And of course with a touch sensitive keypad comes grubby finger marks. No matter how clean you think you are, this player wants to prove otherwise.

I’ve never come across Samsung earplugs like these before, and they’re really difficult to describe, hence the picture to the left.  The bulk of them sit outside the ear, and it is a bulk, making them feel like they’re going to drop out at any moment. There’s probably some designer whose ears they fit perfectly, sitting somewhere at Samsung’s head office, but it’s not mine.  However, having said that, the sound through the headphones is very good.

Compatible formats for the K5 are MP3, WMA and Jpegs. However, with a screen size of 1.7" you won’t be able to see a whole lot of your pictures, and some of the detail is inevitably lost.

Geek sheet

Plays MP3, WMA

Available in 2GB or 4GB, flash storage

FM Tuner

Playback 30hours, 6 hours with speaker

Built-in Li-Poly rechargeable battery

In our opinion

There’s no getting around it – you’re paying a premium for the speaker in the K5. A 1GB model costs £120 whilst you’ll pay up to £180 for the 4GB version. That’s £50 more than the recently released iPod Nano, which, lets face it, is likely to be the leader in this market of attractive medium sized memory MP3 players.  I just don’t think I’d be happy to pay the extra for speakers I don’t think I’d use, at the cost of not just a serious chunk of cash, but also the line of my jeans when I stick it in my pocket.

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