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Unsurprisingly, the controls and navigation aren't up to the same standard as Apple's superlative clickwheel system but they are, however, by far the simplest and most intuitive I've come across on any other device this size. Whereas most small MP3 players require a degree in HCI (human-computer interaction) to operate, this device's arrangement of buttons and menus seems to make perfect sense. Not once was I stuck thinking 'which button do I press now?' when attempting to navigate to a new track, play it or access settings.
All of which brings me to sound quality. And, regrettably, this is one area in which the little Samsung lets itself down. It's not dreadful by any means, just a little, well, uninspiring. Where a player such as Creative's Zen Nano Plus breathes zest and life into music, listening to the same tracks on the YP-U1Q is a relatively uninvolving and flat experience. The mariachi-style trumpet on Calexico's wonderfully atmospheric Tres Avisos lacks bite, while heavy rock such as on Metallica's venerable Metallica album just doesn't have the impact it should do. Vocals don't have the atmosphere and presence you'd find listening to the same on, say, Sony's NW-A1000 Walkman either. And though the nine band equaliser helps to sort some of these problems out, as does the bass boost feature, I still couldn't help feeling that I was missing out on some of the music. Fortunately the supplied headphones are pretty decent, though the player will certainly benefit from a modest upgrade.
Perhaps just as serious as that flat music reproduction is that battery life is only rated at 13 hours. In day-to-day use I didn't have a problem with this, and neither will you, as it’s easy enough to simply plug it into a USB socket on my desktop PC or laptop to keep it topped up. But in some circumstances – on holiday, for instance, when a PC might be more tricky to locate and you've not got your laptop with you – that short battery life could become an issue. It's also disappointing when compared to other players in this sector – Sony's Bean player offers up to 50 hours, Creative's Zen Nano gives 18 hours on one AAA battery – and feels like Samsung has missed an opportunity to offer yet another advantage over Apple's players.
Despite these failings, however, there's plenty about the Samsung YP-U1Q to admire. Its generous 2GB capacity and low price are hard to ignore. It's also small, light and generally well designed, boasts decent file support and a fold-away USB connector. It's nice that you can use it to double as a USB flash drive too and, more importantly, it's a superlatively easy machine to operate. In fact for anyone who has a library of paid-for downloaded DRM WMA music, or is looking for cheaper alternative to Apple's Nano range, this is one of the best options out there at the moment. And you can't ask for much better than that.
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