I have been a Mac-guy for over a decade and have owned an iPod since the beginning.
I am currently using an iPod Touch and I take it with me everywhere I go. But
being the gadget-junkie that I am, I was getting a bit bored with my current
lot of tech-toys. So, I started looking into other portable music/video players
to play with. The Samsung
P2 looked like a worthy candidate; it had several features the Touch did
not, a nice form-factor, and it had received rave reviews. I read many reviews
praising the P2 as a less costly (some even said better) alternative to the
Touch. However, those reviews were definitely coming from the perspective of
Windows users. This review will be coming from a Mac/iPod user’s viewpoint.
Samsung’s presentation is nicely done. The plastic box is very sturdy and definitely protects the device. Included with the P2, is a nice set of earbuds (EP-370), data cable, application cd, screen protector, and stand.
Out of the box the P2 looks very nice. It is sleek & slim, constructed
of a hard plastic, and comes in black, white, or burgundy. At 100mm x 52mm x
9.9mm, it is smaller than the Touch and feels not much larger than the Nano.
It weighs in at just 3 ounces.
The P2 is approximately the same thickness of the Touch and nearly twice as thick as the Nano.
The first obstacle I had to overcome was figuring out how to get the device communicating with my Mac. I am sure there are other ways, but the first method used an application and the second involved a firmware hack. My biggest critism to Samsung is that they made it only XP and Vista compatible.
The application is called XNJB and allows Mac users to communicate with several brands of Windows only mp3 players. XNJB has a nice interface and accomplishes what it promises. It allows you to manage your music, videos, playlists, pictures, album art, text, etc.
The second method was a bit scarier. After dancing the P2 forums, I discovered that you can hack one file, changing the device from a MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) to a UMS (USB Mass Storage). This allows the Mac (or PC) to see the device as an external hard drive enabling you to drag & drop files into the appropriate folders.
The P2 is controlled primarily through its touch screen. The default interface
irritated me in the first 10 minutes. So, I changed it to a simpler, more (Touch/iPhone)
intuitive form. The touch screen/interface is not as sensitive or accurate as
the Touch and the plastic (vs glass) screen flexes a tiny bit where the Touch’s
glass screen is rock solid. Being plastic and the fact Samsung includes a screen
protector in the box, I am betting the screen scratches pretty easy.
Once I was able to put my music onto the P2, I was finally able to start putting the device through its paces. It can play the following audio formats: MP3, WMA, WMA-DRM, AAC. Overall, I would say the listening experience is as good as any iPod I have ever owned. I like the graphical equalizer that can be viewed while music is playing. The device is also able to display album art, files info, or Window Media Player types of lines and colors.
The P2 has a very nice 3" screen with a ratio of 480×272. And while the
P2 is not as bright or vivid as my iPod, it is able to portray 16:9 movies better
than the 3:2 Touch or iPhone (i.e. less black space or cropping). The videos
Samsung included on the device were clear and crisp, enjoyable to watch.
I would say the biggest hassle/headache for me with this device is the fact Samsung made it so finicky about video formatting (SVI (MPEG4/MP3, 480 x 272 @ 30fps) and WMV9 (WMV9/WMA9, 320 x 240 or 480 x 272 @ 30fps)). It took a while (and caused a few additional gray hairs) but I finally got a video into a format that the P2 would play. However, it looked terrible….. Based on the videos Samsung included on the device, I know it plays movies very well. If Samsung wanted Mac/iPod users to seriously consider this device, they should have enabled it to play h.264/AAC encoded videos natively. I am sure they would look incredible. I realize this complaint is partially my ability to convert videos well enough to make them compatible and at a quality worth watching.
Like the iPhone or iPod Touch, a majority of the navigation is done by tapping and swiping the touchscreen with your finger. The interface is not as responsive or as accurate as the iPhone or iPod Touch, but works well enough.
I really like the fact that Samsung engineered actual volume buttons on the right side of the P2. Controlling the volume via the touchscreen is not very easy or accurate. I much prefer the side controls.
The left side includes a hold switch and a button that turns the player on/off (press and hold) and controls the play/pause function (momentary press).
The only thing on the top of the P2 is a hard point for attaching a lanyard or wrist strap.
The bottom of the P2 has a microphone, proprietary USB connection port, and headphone jack. Since USB cables are a dime a dozen, it is a shame Samsung did not use a standard USB connector versus its own proprietary port. The mic does not allow you to record directly onto the device but through future firmware upgrades Samsung promises the device will be able to answer calls made to Bluetooth-enabled cell phones.
Below the display there is what appears to be a Touch-like home button. But sadly it is just a LED. It flashes blue when playing music with the screen off, blinks red when the player is turning on/off, glows red when the battery is charging, and turns green when the P2 is fully charged. According to Samsung the P2’s battery life is 35 hours of audio or 5 hours of video.
Now that I have discussed the basics, we can look at those added features the Touch does not have. And while the P2 does not have WiFi, it does have bluetooth 2.0. This was the feature I looked forward to the most in the P2. With A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) bluetooth you can connect the P2 to A2DP supported devices, to include any bluetooth enabled speaker system, car stereo, or headset…..no wires!!! I paired the P2 with the Jabra BT8010 bluetooth stereo headset and a bluetooth enabled Pioneer car stereo (thanks to Darren at CarToys for his assistance). The quality of the sound was as good as if it was hardwired.
The radio capability is a really nice feature as well. You can set up many preset stations. The reception is good/great on the stronger stations but fair at best on the lower powered ones. The red button on the lower right enables you to digitally record what you are hearing onto the memory, another nice ability not available on many other players.
The Prime Pack includes the ability to view text, play games, set multiple
alarms, view your calendar & address book, and have a world clock with you.
There is also a file browser that enables you to look through exactly what is
on the P2 just as they are in the various folders.
Overall all I like the Samsung P2. It is a nice size with solid construction,
stylish, and sounds great. However, its lack of compatibility with Mac and very
restrictive video format makes it a pain to convert videos for it. In my opinion,
the ability to stream digital music to other bluetooth enabled devices is definitely
the coolest feature of the device (enough to seriously consider upgrading my
truck stereo to one with integrated bluetooth). I don’t think I will be giving
up my Touch anytime soon, but I might keep the P2 around to drive around with.
Price: $200 (4gb) or $249 (8gb)