Apple may be king of the MP3 player hill, but there are several companies hoping to dethrone the big red, and Samsung’s in line. The new YH-820 micro HDD based MP3 player is not only smaller than the iPod mini, but it sports a bright color display, and dare-we-say it, is just as attractive. But are good looks and solid sound enough to convince users to shun the Apple iPod mini? Read on to find out.
Features and Design
Measuring in at just under 3.5-inches tall, the YH-820 is not only smaller than the iPod mini, but it’s lighter as well. Definitely designed with forward thinking in mind, the YH-820 has a very contemporary look to it. Bathed in an alloy casing and adorned with white plastic trim, the YH-820 is one of the better looking players out there. It is also the second micro HDD player we have reviewed with a color display. Once you see a player with a color display, there is literally no going back, they look that good.
The YH-820 features a 5GB micro HDD which Samsung says can store up to 1200 songs. It also features an integrated 8-hour lithium-ion battery and USB 2.0 support. Music formats are limited to MP3, Secure WMA, Janus and WMA. If you record or encode audio, you can store them in uncompressed WAV or MP3 file formats. The 1.5-inch color screen is capable of showing up to 65,000 colors and allows viewing images stored on the device using the image viewer option. If you want to store files that are not music or picture related, you can opt to use the YH-820 as a mass storage device.
The button layout is sort of odd on the YH-820 with three square buttons acting as your play/pause, and forward/rewind controls. For some reason, everyone thinks that touch sensitive buttons are the way to go, but we have to argue otherwise; there is nothing quite like pushing a button with a nice snap to it. The lower control pad lets you navigate the menu and select options you want. Having physical buttons to push is great because you can control your MP3 player through your shirt or pants pockets without having to remove the player. Button layout is pretty slick though. The Hold button, line-in, microphone and headphones jack are located on the top of the unit and the A-B repeat is on the right hand side. There is a small reset button on the back in case your YH-820 locks up on you (ours didn’t lock up on us despite slow navigation).
Image courtesy of Samsung
Setup and Use
Samsung includes a very detailed manual that shows how to use the YH-820 with your PC, the Samsung software, and Napster. One thing the manual does not do a good job of explaining is how to use the YH-820 with Windows Media Player 10. But fear not, because this little player does support Microsoft’s PlaysForSure, a Windows Media transfer protocol. So you can opt to just install the Samsung drivers and use Windows Media Player 10 to transfer music to your YH-820; and that’s what we recommend.
It’s not that the Samsung Music Studio is bad, but it’s redundant software and transfer speeds are slower than if you used WMP 10. One word of advice though; WMP 10 is setup to convert songs to the WMA format by default, and this can slow down your transfer time. If you go into the WMP 10 options, you can turn this off which will speed things up considerably when transferring MP3s.
Using the YH-820 as a mass storage device is nice, but it will not work with music files. You either have to use the Samsung software or WMP 10, which is a major bummer. But at least you can store regular files on the YH-820; it’s better than nothing.
When powering up the YH-820, the whole start-up process is painfully slow. It literally takes 25 seconds from hitting the power button to when you can start playing music, and there is no excuse for this. And while navigation and menu layout is very simple to use, we experienced considerable lag while browsing through the interface. It’s not like the YH-820 is bulging with features to slow it down, so it appears to just be a case of bad programming. Hopefully a firmware download can fix this in a future update.
The ear buds that come with the YH-820 actually sound much better than they look. The player itself is made up of metal alloy and white plastic, so it’s beyond us why Samsung opted to go with grey ear buds. The cable attached to the ear buds is also very thin and “clingy” which causes them to get tangled up very easily if you are not careful. We found ourselves constantly untangling these things – a major pain in the butt. But at least they sound good.
There are nine total equalizer settings to choose from including SRS, WOW and Trubass which help to give special effects to the music you are listening too. Electronica fans will be particularly happy with the Trubass setting which gives a noticeable bass boost to the music. The ear buds are better sounding than most of the ones included with MP3 players and should be fine for most people. Audiophiles should also have no problem using their own cans with the YH-820. We did not notice distortion at the higher volumes, but the player could be louder.
Compared to the iRiver H10, the YH-820 is better sounding out of the box, but if you were to use your own headphones, they both would be equally good, although the H10 can support higher volume levels.
The picture viewer on the YH-820 is very basic. Once you have your images transferred over to the device, you can browse them in a slideshow format. The 1.5-inch screen is not as large as the iRiver H10 or the iPod photo so it can be difficult to see. We love how you can output images to a television using an iPod photo and would love to see this implemented in the smaller players but no one has done this yet, including Samsung. The picture viewer really is nothing more than a novelty at this point.
The Samsung YH-820 has a lot going for it, a simple to use interface, attractive looks and good audio fidelity. But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and Samsung has made several mistakes. The startup time is a dreadful killer that will keep you waiting, and the YH-820 simply feels lacking in features. For the same price you can get the iRiver H10 which comes with an integrated FM tuner, can read text files, a shorter startup sequence and a larger color screen; you get the picture we hope.
The biggest problem we have with the YH-820 is that we wanted so much to like it. Hopefully an updated firmware will fix the slow startup process, and maybe even help speed navigation up a little bit. But if you look at the MP3 player timeline, the market has matured, which means there is no reason why Samsung should skimp on features when there are so many more alternatives out there.
The bottom line: if you do not need an FM tuner, don’t mind a slow startup time and prefer the looks of the YH-820 over competing models, then go for it; you will not be disappointed. Otherwise, your money is better spent on the other color screen model, the iRiver H10.
- Great sound
- Simple navigation
- Has a pretty good color screen
- Easy to use
- Lags when navigating through the menu
- Slow startup time
- Pretty skimpy on features, no FM tuner etc
- Good sounding ear buds, but the cable looks cheap and gets tangled easily