When it comes to the feature set, the Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0 is basically a smartphone, without the phone. Everything else though is still there: Not just Wi-Fi and Bluetooth which you’d expect, but also GPS, a good-quality camera, even full access to the Android Market, something that many cheaper tablets don’t have.
Both versions of the Galaxy Player are loaded with a 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor. This is a slightly older single-core chip, resulting in performance well back from the cutting edge. In Quadrant Standard benchmarks, the Galaxy Player averaged around 1650: a decent score for it’s hardware, and comparable to last year’s smartphones, albeit lagging behind the newer models.
The biggest point of complaint in the Galaxy Player’s specs is memory. Both the 4-inch and 5-inch versions have just 8 GB of internal memory, and out of the box you have only 5 GB available for media, with another 1.8 set aside for loading apps. Thus, you’ve got 6.8 gigs actually available to you. And while the expansion slot means you can add a microSD card up to 32 GB, it still feels stingy to me. Even just another 8 GB would make the GP a lot more useful without a memory card.
Without cellular wireless, all your communicating with the GP will be over either WiFi or Bluetooth. Since Bluetooth is best applied to moving files back and forth, chances are you’ll be using WiFi for internet. It may not be as sexy as 4G, but it definitely gets the job done.
Although it’s not a smartphone, if you’re determined you can actually use the Galaxy Player as a VoIP phone if you add the right software. The speaker and mic are in the right place, and it fully supports headset/microphones. The included pair of headphones even have a built in microphone, and the front camera allows for video calling.
Although it’s mostly an entertainment device, the Galaxy Player does have a nice surprise for serious work. Aside from the basic email client, organization apps, etcetera, it also features the full version of ThinkFree Office, allowing you to view, create, and edit Microsoft Office documents, and view PDFs. A nice unexpected bonus.
This is what the Galaxy Player was built for, and where it shines. Out of the box it boasts support for most of the popular media formats, including Matroska (MKV), Flash Video, MPEG-4, Windows Media, AAC, MP3, FLAC, and Ogg. That covers the overwhelming majority of recorded content you’ll find. Plus there’s the YouTube app pre-loaded, and clients available in the Android Market for Pandora, Last.fm, Slingbox, and many others.
This Samsung device also has a built in FM radio receiver, although whether this is useful depends a lot on where you are. Its effective range of reception is much, much lower than a normal car or portable radio, but it is the only option for live streaming audio when you’re not near Wi-Fi.
There is one glaring oversight in the Galaxy Player. For all the focus on multimedia, it doesn’t include HDMI output to hook up to a TV. On a video player, you would think that this would be a no-brainer. Even more so since the original version of the Galaxy Players sold in South Korea did include HDMI, and it was taken out for the version being marketed in the US.
There are still ways to get the contents of the Galaxy Player to a TV screen, but only through very limited means. The GP supports DLNA streaming, so if you have a DLNA-capable TV or set top box, you can stream over Wi-Fi. DLNA isn’t very common, though, at least not yet. It also supports Samsung’s own AllShare technology which does something similar, but only with Samsung TVs. If like me or millions of others, you have a basic HDMI-capable TV, you’re simply out of luck.
Otherwise, media playback is good, when staying within practical limits — don’t try to feed the Galaxy Player 1080P Blu-Rays, but it will play back movies as high quality as the screen can display.
Or in this case, cameras. The GP has both a rear-facing 3.2 megapixel camera, and a front-facing camera for video conferencing. Quality is decent, about what you would expect on a low to medium device without seriously competing with higher end phones which have better optics.
One of the Galaxy Player 5.0’s biggest attractions is the battery. At 2500 mAh, it dwarfs even the recent “big” smartphone batteries, and Samsung promises that it’ll power the Galaxy Player for 8 hours of video playback, or 60 hours of music. As it turns out, that’s an understatement.
I had a few small hiccups with the battery, particularly with charging it. At the beginning, the device seemed to refuse to charge beyond 80%. It also at that point seemed to be draining too fast. A factory reset cured both of these issues, but even then immediately after unplugging it from external power the battery meter would read 80%. Eventually after a little more use and charging, this too worked itself out. So if you experience difficulty getting the advertised performance, be persistent.
Once you get past the hiccups, though, the Galaxy Player’s battery gives power to spare — enough, in fact, that it more than lives up to Samsung’s claims. I tested it looping video continuously, brightness set to half (plenty bright in a lit room), with Wi-Fi, GPS, and all other potential power drains turned off. The Galaxy Player 5.0 finally shut down, after looping video continuously for… ten hours and forty one minutes.
No, that’s not a typo. If you assume the music-only performance is similarly undersold, you’re looking at 78 hours of music playback. You’ll understand why I didn’t run a continuous test to actually check that out — you’d be waiting at least three more days for this review.