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I have to admit that first impressions of the Samsung YP-U4 got me a little over-excited. I looked at the unit, checked out the price, and thought I'd just found this year's best MP3 stocking filler.
Last year's, if you remember, was the SanDisk Sansa Clip. Even one year on at £22 to £50 for 1GB to 8GB varieties, it's still a great sounding, tiny player that thrashes the iPod Shuffle for features and pricing. Pulling out the YP-U4, however, I thought it finally had a decent rival. Under £30 for a player from a big name manufacturer seems a bargain, but when you see how slick and functional the Samsung YP-U4 is, 'bargain' seems like an understatement.
Let's start with the looks. Switched off, the first thing you'll notice is the style and the gorgeous, glossy finish. The U4 follows the same USB key design as Samsung's earlier YP-U3 or the iRiver T7, but with nicer rounded edges and a more solid overall build quality. It's available in three colours - blue, purple and red - with the Litmus codename referring to its graduated colour finish that sort of resembles litmus paper when you dipped it into acid during secondary school chemistry classes.
Like the iRiver T7, the style is minimalist. The controls are stripped back to a touch-sensitive D-pad to the right of the tiny, inch-long, 128 x 64 resolution OLED screen, along with a single touch-sensitive 'back' button, plus a hold slider and a multi-purpose rocket switch on the top edge. Also like the T7, the USB connection is built-in but concealed within the body of the player. Push the catch on the bottom edge and it slides out, ready for insertion into the nearest port on your PC.
As with all recent Samsung players you can copy files across directly using drag-and-drop or sync with Windows Media Player 11, making the bundled Samsung Media Studio application a little superfluous.