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Six months or so after releasing its YP-U4 ‘Litmus', Samsung is back for another crack at the Shuffle-sized Mp3 player market with a new player, rather unimaginatively named the YP-U5. Looking back, I've a soft spot for this one's predecessor. While spoilt by average sound quality and a mediocre battery life, it was a nicely designed and very usable player, putting the vast majority of its competitors to shame on several counts. The U4 was extremely compact, made effective use of a tiny screen and had surprisingly practical controls.
All of which makes it a little odd that Samsung has junked so many elements of the design with its replacement.
Out, for a start, goes the colour graduated finish, in favour of a range of solid colours - red, white, pink or black. The unit is marginally narrower and thinner, but a couple of millimetres longer, and the clever slide-out USB connection of the original has now been swapped for a more conventional USB connector covered by a pop-off cap. Strangely enough, while the U5 is the new and improved version of the U4, it actually feels like a more conservative product.
Still, the all-plastic construction feels good and solid, and it's arguable that the standard USB plug fitted here offers a more robust connection than the slimmed down, coverless plug sported by the old U4. I suspect that might be the reason for the change.
Switch the U5 on and it's much easier to see the similarities between it and last year's model. The screen, a 1in, four line, 128 x 64 pixel OLED affair, is identical to the old version's, and while the touch-sensitive D-pad of the U5 has been replaced by a tilting, white directional ring surrounding a physical pause/play button, the player operates in much the same way.
The ‘back' button is now mounted on the top of the unit (viewed horizontally) along with a context-sensitive function button, which does various things depending on what mode you have the U5 in. Volume is adjusted using the up and down directions on the white ring. The only other control is a dual function power toggle/lock button on the bottom of the unit, and it's this that brings me to one of my few complaints about usability. It's all too easy to accidentally engage the lock while you're trying to use the top mounted buttons, which is a small but irritating nuisance during everyday use.