People love to throw around the term “iPod killer”, and if ever there was an iPod nano killer, the Samsung T9 is it. Boasting features usually reserved for larger hard drive based players, a super-sleak design and one of the most intuitive interfaces since the original iPod, the T9 trounces the nano on nearly every front. Skeptical? Read on…
Features and Design
The nano is dead; long live the nano. The Samsung YP-T9 is everything the iconic Apple MP3 player is, plus much, much more. In fact, we would go so far as to say that unless you are married to a library full of music from iTunes, there is no reason to consider a nano if the T9 is any indication of where Windows Media Player compatible devices are headed.
The T9 is Samsung’s latest nano competitor, and as such sports impressively small dimensions – approximately 1.5”x3”x.5”. Clocking in at smaller than the nano, the T9 is available in capacities from 2GB up to 8GB. But size isn’t everything – or so they say. The T9 supports video playback, picture slideshows, text file reading, music playback, and even comes with a couple, albeit poor, games. Additionally, the T9 sports voice recording, an FM tuner (with support for recording), and a file browser application. Aside from Zune-like WiFi capabilities and an FM transmitter, we can’t think of anything else you could put in a media player close to this size!
Included with the T9, is the sync cable, ear buds, and software CD. The T9 is available in black and purple colors, though the purple version is limited to 2GB. The front surface is home to the clearest small screen we’ve seen on an MP3 player, and a five directional pad. The bottom edge of the player has only enough room for the proprietary sync cable connector. Along the left side is the hold button, which is essential for this player. The top surface includes the headphone connector, lanyard loop, and built in microphone, while the right side includes the record, back, menu and play/pause buttons. The placements of the side buttons make them easy to accidentally bump, which is why the hold switch is something we found ourselves using more than with other players. The player is turned on by pressing the play button, and off by holding it down for 2 seconds. The booting process is slightly sluggish, taking approximately 9 seconds to turn on and 5 seconds to turn off.
The T9 syncs with Windows Media Player 10 and 11, the included Samsung Media Studio 5 application, or it can be mounted as a mass storage device and manually updated. Unlike the iPod, the T9 does not need an external application to update the player’s database; in other words, the nifty meta-information that you use to navigate the iPod (genre, artist, album, etc.) is generated by iTunes and uploaded onto the iPod with each sync. The Samsung player itself actually takes care of database management, which means the user is free to manipulate files with any number of programs and the player will sort out the specifics. When the device is disconnected from the PC, using the proprietary USB 2.0 connector, the player will update the database, which takes a few seconds.
The Samsung YP-T9
Use and Testing
The most striking feature, beyond the small size and physical design elements, is the interface. The animated color customizable interface absolutely shines on this little player. Dots along the left side indicate which features you are selecting out of a list of nine. The default category is music, but the setting allows the player to return to the last activity immediately upon booting up.
Music is categorized very similarly to Windows Media Player, with the selection of Now Playing, Artists, Albums, Tracks, Genres and Playlists greeting the user at launch. While playing tracks, you can adjust the equalizer setting, activate street mode, change the play mode, change the visualization, the play speed, and skip interval. Street mode sounds like it boosts the low volume sounds and reduces higher volume sounds. You can think of it as volume limiting in both directions, providing a smoother audio experience that doesn’t require pumping the volume up. There are 13 equalizer settings in all, with four 3D sound settings and one user definable equalizer setting. Play modes include the usual suspects: Normal, Repeat, Repeat Once, and Shuffle. The visualizations really shine on the T9’s screen, and you can choose to have a pulsing circle, raindrop pattern, graphical equalizer, randomize between those choices, play music to a slide show, or just show the album cover. What’s nicer is that the power setting let you choose the display off-time from anywhere from 15 seconds to never. The visualizations look so nice, you’ll be sure to get a few crooked necks trying to catch a glimpse of what that fine, fine techno-gadget is by onlookers. Play speed settings, useful for listening to audio books and recorded lectures, go from ¼ speed to 3x.
The skip interval, again useful for audiobooks and lectures allows for skipping a track by clicking the next track button, or 3, 5, 7, 10, 30, and 60 second jumps instead. If you turn the T9 off while listening to music above the ‘20’ setting (half the maximum volume), it will automatically reset to 20 the unit is powered back on. The T9 supports MPEG 1, 2, 2.5 layer 3 up to 320kHnz, and WMA. We’ll leave you to figure out which of these features are available on the iPod nano…
The File browser allows for directly locating individual files and playing them. It also has a “Favorites” feature, which allows you to compile a list to be used for quick access later.
The FM radio tuner allows adding presets, auto tuning, setting FM region and FM sensitivity. FM regions include Korea/US, Japan, and the ubiquitously named ‘Other Countries’. This simply sets the range of frequencies and the tuning intervals. The Sensitivity setting range goes from High-to-Middle-to-Low.
The text file browser will just display the contents of a text file without formatting; nothing too exciting, but useful if you want to throw a quick grocery list or backup sheet of phone numbers.
The Samsung YP-T9 compared to some AAA batteries
Setup and Use Part 2
The Photo browser initially displays three thumbnails along the right side, with a large, though distorted image to the left. Once selected, images can be set to the current track’s background, zoomed (from 100% to 400%), or set to the first image of a slideshow. There is no control over the speed of the transitions. JPEGs under 3MB can be viewed on this tiny gem.
Video playback is smooth, but lacks customization. Only bookmarking, fast forwarding and reversing is supported. Still, impressive for a player this size. The T9 supports MPEG 4 at 15fps at 208×176 resolution, which is converted to SVI format using the Samsung Media Studio program.
The two games included on the T9 are mostly useless. One is a baseball game where you play the pitcher or batter, and requires nothing but luck. The other is a paperboy type game where all you go is jump over things. Hopefully Samsung will release a few decent games in the future. Also worth noting is that playing games will turn off any music in the background.
The recording feature, which records to MP3 format, is a nice added addition. The internal microphone recorded with respectable quality, and the bit rate can be adjusted to either 32, 64, 96, or 128Kbps. The higher bit rates allow for better isolation of voice in noisier environments, and of course make the file sizes larger. Most quiet lecture halls will be served well by 32 or 64 Kbps. FM Recording can be set to 96, 128, 160, or 192 Kbps. Recorded files can be accessed directly from the Record menu.
And finally, the Settings menu allows for many customizations found within the relevant sections, and is divided into Music, Record, Time, Display, Language, and System. Of particular interest are the timings for LCD off, screensaver activation (the screen saver is an easy to read clock with date), LCD Brightness, Color theme, Resume mode, Volume limit, and button sound (whether the button presses make and audible beep).
We briefly used the Samsung Media Studio 5 application, which is convenient if you will be using the video playback feature often. Otherwise, we opted for good ole’ manual management. Transfers felt a little pokey, but not exceptionally slow. Battery life is rated at approximately 23-25 hours. Even with the LCD set to maximum brightness, we used the player daily for over a week before needing a recharge. The battery is rated at 30 hours of music, and we found it to last for approximately 26 hours with the LCD set to time out after 5 minutes and playing music at ¾ volume. Music quality was on par with other MP3 players we’ve auditioned, including iPods, and the volume output is higher than most.
The Samsung YP-T9 is thinner than a AAA battery
This is one of the few gadgets we’ve seen that have truly lived up to the marketing hype. In fact, this player hasn’t been hyped enough. It is arguably the best MP3 player on the market today. We found no significant faults, and were delighted and surprised by the extreme depth of the user experience. If you want a simple player that just plays your tunes, the T9 delivers. If you want a level of customization not seen in most portable players, the T9 also delivers. Simply put, if you are looking for a high capacity flash player, the Samsung YP-T9 is what you want. The competition won’t catch up for years.
• Tiny size
• Large and bright screen
• Video/picture/text/music playback
• No AAC support
• Sluggish startup and shutdown times