With a 4.2 inch screen, 1GHz processor, and a $200 suggested retail price, the Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 is the latest version of Android's answer to the Apple iPod Touch. Brighthand investigates how well it fares.
For more on this device be sure to check out the full review.
That $200 price tag might cause some users to balk right away, noting that they could buy a much higher-end smartphone from a carrier for the same price. But the real price of a smartphone isn't up front, it's in installments basically made when paying for your data plan and two-year contract. At $30 a month, that turns out to be $720 over the course of the phone's life, while the Galaxy Player never has to cost you more than you spent when you walked out of the store.
That lack of a data plan and the associated costs are also what makes the Galaxy Player a good choices for people who want a gadget, but don't need a smartphone: kids, casual users, or that one friend/relative who's constantly "borrowing" other people's devices to play Angry Birds or Words With Friends.
With that noted, on to the review.
Build and Design
The Galaxy Player 4.2 doesn't stray very far from the design basics; in essence, it's a flat black plastic rectangle. It's not bad looking, but it's pretty much completely lacking anything eye catching.
Unfortunately, Samsung chose a fairly bad plastic for the casing. It looks generic at best; at the worst, it's a fingerprint magnet. Unless you don't mind your device being covered with smudges (and I do mean covered) you should probably plan on a case.
It's a shame, because the rest of the physical design of the GP4.2 is pretty good. It's surprisingly thin and light, coming in at around a third of an inch thick, and a little over 4 ounces. That makes it competitive with or beating most of the available smartphones out there. It's the sort of design that you could easily drop in a pocket without even thinking about it, even a shirt pocket, and is light enough that you're not going to object to carrying it whether you're jogging or at the office.
And despite the bad finish on the plastic, the overall quality of the device I think is decent. It's not going to take a drop-kicking down a flight of metal stairs, but it's not going to fall apart under normal use, either.
At 4.2 inches like the name implies, the Galaxy Player's screen is pretty good. While it's only a regular LCD, not an AMOLED screen like on most of Samsung's smartphones, it's got good crispness and a nice vividness of color. It's also right at that line where typing on a touchscreen starts to be at least close to comfortable even if you have big thumbs, which make text entry greatly improved.
And with an 800 x 480 resolution, it sports a very comfortable and readable 220 DPI pixel density. Not as sharp as the high end HD screens above 300, but about the best you can get in an inexpensive device. Or even a slightly expensive one.
Other Buttons and Ports
The rest of the design remains simple, with the power button and volume controls along the side. A simple pry-off battery cover reveals the battery itself, as well as the device's microSD card slot.
The only place it's at all unusual is when it comes to the "home" button, which in this case, is an actual button instead of just a spot on the touchscreen. This actually throws you off a little after you've been working with capacitive "buttons" for so long, but I imagine you'll get used to it. Along the bottom is where we find both the micro-USB port and the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Driven by a 1GHz single-core processor, and running Android 2.3, the Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 packs 8GB of internal memory (1.9GB available for apps, 4.6GB for general storage, 6.5GB total). Of course that's just out of the box; the Player's microSD slot allows you to drop in a memory card of up to 32GB capacity. With cards that size under $30, that's quite an economical option, particularly if you feel like carrying a lot of music around.
As it has only a single-core CPU, the Player falls well behind even an average new smartphone in terms of raw performance. In Quadrant benchmarks, it consistently scored around 1850. That's actually much better than the average 1GHz single core, but weak compared to the dual-core chips standard in smartphones and tablets.
Should you care? Well, the Galaxy Player isn't going to be well suited to playing back really high-quality video. But with an 800 x 480 screen and no HDMI out, HD video is kind of wasted on it anyway. If video beyond YouTube and an occasional movie on a plane ride is a concern for you, you might want to look at a small tablet instead. If that's not your angle, you're not going to be disappointed by the speed. "Not as fast as a dual core" isn't the same thing as "not fast" by a long shot. The subjective experience of moving around the device is plenty snappy, and it has the horsepower for lots of games and lighter weight video to boot.
In short, the GP4.2 has basically all the usual capabilities of a smartphone minus the phone. Although it doesn't have truly mobile internet, it still has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a full GPS receiver. Add to that a built in FM radio receiver, just in case you ever get bored of the music you've already got.
The Player does have one added feature however, that's not found in most other devices: the ability to link up to a regular phone via Bluetooth. Once connected, the Player acts like a really advanced headset -- you can dial calls from it, receive calls, and talk into the player as if it were a smartphone, all while your regular phone is tucked away in a pocket or case. This has some serious limits of course, such as not being able to dial numbers you don't have in your contacts. But it's nonetheless pretty impressive, and useful if you want an Android smartphone, but either don't want the expensive data plans, or have to use some other type of phone for work.
There's not much about the Galaxy Player that's geared to productivity. In fact, beyond the standard Android apps like email, calendar, web browser, and other organizational tools, it really doesn't do anything extra to help out with the less fun activities. While the 4.2 does include QuickOffice, it's the free version which only allows you to view Office documents, not create or edit them.
This is what the Player lives for. To start with, as an Android device the Player automatically hooks in to Google Music, Google Movies, Google Books, and the rest of Google's entertainment ecosystem for playing current content and finding new stuff. That's not even mentioning the downloadable apps like Pandora and a billion other options for streaming audio or video that you can find in the Android app store.
On top of all this, the GP4.2 also comes with some games pre-loaded. Besides the ubiquitous "Angry Birds," it also features versions of FIFA 2012 and Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. Although beware, NFS will require a 500MB download before it will run, and FIFA a whopping 1.5GB. But if you're in to those, they do a nice job showing off surprisingly well you can control a game with nothing but a tilt sensor and a touchscreen.
Unfortunately, it seems like the camera sits alongside the plastic casing as one of the things Samsung cut corners on. Besides being only 2 megapixels, its greatest weakness is focus. Even snaps taken in good light tend to blur details and fine edges. It's good enough for quick postage stamp type shots, but it doesn't hold a candle to a good smartphone. Don't bother thinking of this as a substitute for bringing the real camera to that family function or sporting event. It also suffers from the expected, and rather universal, weakness of device cameras in less than bright lighting.
The Galaxy Player 4.2 holds up pretty well on the battery life front, especially in its intended role of playing music. But even when you're doing other activities, such as browsing the web or reading a book, it delivers fairly reliable life. Of course usage here is even more subjective than with a smartphone, but I certainly don't think you'll have to worry about not getting a full day's use out of it.
With a much better screen than the Galaxy Player 3.6, and more compact and portable than the Galaxy Player 5.0, the Galaxy Player 4.2 represents a comfortable mid-point for those seeking the "Goldilocks zone" of a good iPod Touch-style device at a reasonable price.
Although it's true that you can step up to a more powerful 7-inch Galaxy Tab for just $50 more, the Galaxy Player is portable and convenient in ways that a tablet never will be, being easily pocketable or tucked into a purse or glove compartment. And while it seems a little cheap at times, it delivers a full Android experience for a lot less than what a smartphone would cost you, and that alone will make the sale to a lot of people.
A strong media player that doubles as a decent device for many other things, even if it's not the prettiest thing in the world.