Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Small, thin and lightweight, User Interface, Drop and Drag music transfer, Battery life
- Touchpad has some issues, Screen could be clearer, Lacks some other features (Radio, Recording etc.)
This is the closest you'll get to an iPod killer. Its features are well implemented and designed and the end result is a fantastic MP3 player that perhaps just falls short due to the moody controls. A definite winner in our books.
Price$ 319.00 (AUD)
Every time a new MP3 player is released by a company other than Apple, it is always compared directly to the famous iPod. We have no doubt that the multitude of manufacturers are getting sick of it, but as with all market leaders, their needs to be a standard to aim at and at the moment, this is definitely the iPod.
But when Samsungs new YP-Z5 fell onto our doorstep, we weren't hesitant to compare it to the iPod nano; arguably the flagship flash based MP3 player on the market. Why? Well, because it's a direct competitor. And when we say direct, we mean it! Small, compact, light, thin and boasting a colour screen as well as a touchpad, the Z5 is the closest thing we've seen in terms of looks, features and functions to a nano. But does it stack up? We definitely think so.
Aesthetically, the Z5 (dubbed the dreaded tagline "iPod killer") is pleasing to the eye. Our review unit was black and chrome in colour, and while the chrome highlights are a menace to keep free of fingerprints, they look fantastic; especially given the contrast the deep black metal finish provides. Weighing in at just 56g, the Z5 is a joy to cup in the palm of your hand - just like the nano. In fact, the metal finish ensures the Z5 feels well built, unlike the delicate and somewhat scratch prone nano.
The most interesting feature of the Z5 is arguably the touchpad control system. As we all know, the iPod has set the standard when it comes to MP3 player controls with the click wheel. While some may dislike the iPod in all its glory, absolutely no-one can deny the fact that the click wheel is the best control system we've ever seen - and no one else has even come close. Well, Samsung have desperately tried to at least be on par with the click wheel and although we really like it, it just falls short.
The main issue we have with the touchpad is its sensitivity; sometimes you'll touch it and it will work, other times you'll use all the force possible and it just won't budge. It's very temperamental and this tends to get a little frustrating at times. Although you'll get used to it, it isn't ideal and detracts from the overall user experience, which is disappointing in the overall scheme of things. The touchpad utlises Enter/Select, Left, Right, Up and Down, with Next/Previous Track, Back and Power/Play/Pause as normal buttons around the perimeter of the pad. A handy volume control is located on the right hand side of the unit, which is definitely a function we like to see.
A factor where the Z5 has beaten the nano is the display; it's longer, wider, larger and the user interface is utlised excellently within it. Perhaps the only criticism we have is that it isn't as crisp or clear as we would have liked, especially when displaying album art and photos. But if Samsung has one thing almost spot on, it's the user interface. After copping a bit of criticism for their previous efforts, it seems as though a lot more time, effort and feedback has gone into developing the Z5 and the results are extremely pleasing. Both intuitive and visually impressive, the Z5 menu is a welcome addition to the Samsung range and while it still doesn't beat the iPod interface, it's the closest you'll get to it whilst still forging its own unique style and aura.
We're guessing most of you are waiting in anticipation to hear about the software the Z5 uses to transfer music. Many MP3 players on the market are fine players themselves, but a lot of them have horrid software that isn't very user friendly or compatible with many OS's - so this is always an important factor when considering an MP3 purchase. Well, you'll be over the moon, as we were, to learn that the Z5 doesn't require any software. Yep, that's right, the Z5 will mount onto any computer (be it PC, Macintosh, Linux etc.) as a generic USB drive - meaning files can be dropped and dragged directly onto the player. This is an outstanding feature that seems to be overlooked by many players on the market so to learn that Samsung has opted for it on the Z5 was a pleasant surprise. We had no issues with music transfer, and if you use Windows Media Player 10, it will automatically add album art to your tunes where available. Perfect!
Despite the USB drop and drag function, Samsung still decided to stick with a proprietary USB cable, for reasons unknown. The convenience of being able to use a standard USB cable for connectivity would have been a bonus, although this may open some doors for generic accessories for the Z5, so we'll be waiting in anticipation to see if this comes to fruition.
Sound quality was fairly good for most part and definitely at the same level as the nano. However yet another surprise were the headphones - they're good. Shock! Horror! It seems that finally a standard set of headphones aren't lacking in quality; it's good to see our requests being adhered to. While they're not the greatest, the bass levels are more than adequate and most people will find the earphones comfortable and easy to listen to. A welcome change.
There is no custom equaliser present, but we were able to get an appropriate quality sound from the many preset settings - including 3D Studio, Stage, Club, Rock, Jazz and R & B. There are enough presets to ensure that no matter what genre of music you listen to, you should be able to find an appropriate sound setting on the Z5.
Overall the Z5 certainly surpassed our expectations. And throughout our testing we were constantly impressed. None more so than the battery life, which is rated at a whopping 40 hours. We found it was closer to 35, but even so, this is impressive. Samsung had known issues with battery life in their previous players, so it's pleasing to know that they have finally improved this.
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