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Samsung YP-Q1 Diamond
Up until now Samsung's success in the TV, mobile phone, monitor and laptop markets hasn't really been matched by its portable audio division. True, we've seen some glamorous and innovative players, and Samsung is nothing if not a prolific manufacturer, but we've yet to see a Samsung player that could really capture and hold our attention - until now. As you might have noticed earlier this week, our own Gordon Kelly was rather taken by the YP-Q1 Diamond. He's not alone. This isn't a perfect PMP by any means, but it's strong competition for the excellent Sony Walkman NWZ-639F and iPod Nano.
It is, of course, a bigger unit than either, nearly a centimetre taller than the Sony, a good 5mm wider and approximately 2mm thicker too. Size-wise, it's actually quite similar to the old iPod Mini, though the all plastic construction keeps the weight down to a reasonable 61g. The unit doesn't feel as bullet/bomb/impending nuclear apocalypse proof as the Sony, but it still feels very robust and has survived a few days in a crowded pocket scratch-free. The design, meanwhile, is gorgeous and elegant, with the touch-sensitive controls keeping clutter to a minimum. The only things to break up the harmony of case and screen are a power slider on the right-hand side and the headphone socket and annoyingly proprietary USB connector on the bottom.
The key benefit of the larger size is the larger 2.4in screen, and - make no mistake - this one is a beauty. It's really bright. The colours are fantastic. The 320 x 240 resolution is almost perfectly matched to the display size. Viewing angles aren't ideal with dark colours losing contrast almost as soon as you tilt the player in any direction, but given that this is a personal media player I'm not sure that's a huge issue. WMV video playback is flawlessly smooth, and the Q1 also supports MPEG-4 files once they're converted to Samsung's (again) annoyingly proprietary SVI format. And with the Q1 being compatible with BBC iPlayer, you can - and I have - watch a whole episode of Top Gear on the thing with something approaching comfort. There aren't many other PMPs this small I can say that about.
Now, Samsung has taken pains to complement the screen and the physical design with an equally attractive interface. It's a little like a slightly more glamorous version of Sony's current Walkman UI, but it comes with a handful of very interesting extras. A picture browser, podcast support and FM radio, all very functional, are becoming standard features these days, but the Q1 also includes a text reader, Subway maps for major American, European and Asian cities and three games, including an excellent Columns-style block puzzle title.
On top of this, you can customize the UI using Samsung's EmoDio software, as well as convert video and audio files to supported formats and - somewhat bizarrely - transform text files into spoken word MP3. Browsing for music is a little dull for anyone used to Apple's CoverFlow, but with the ability to browse via ID tag or folder you certainly won't struggle to find tracks, and you can create custom playlists from within the Q1's interface - one of the few remaining niggles in the current Sony line-up. It's also worth noting the visualisations - probably the most attractive and hypnotic I've seen on a PMP in ages.