As a device that can’t lean on its phone skills to justify its existence, the Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 needs to have good media skills. On codec support, it succeeds entirely. On top of the basics like MP3, AAC and WMA, 24bit FLAC and OGG files also work perfectly. Only our 192KHz 24-bit FLAC sample refused to play.
There appears to be a tiny amount of noise when the headphone out is outputting sound, but maximum volume is unusually high. The music player app also incorporates an equaliser and a number of effects.
The scope of these audio enhancements is impressive by phone standards. As usual, the presets are largely horrible, but the user modes give you a decent amount of control. There’s a 7-band EQ, with /- 10dB per band, and a quartet of effects – 3D, bass, Concert (i.e. reverb) and Clarity, a top-end aural exciter. The last in particular is effective with some headphones.
Navigation of the Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 music app is nothing remarkable, though. It makes decent use of album art, but is otherwise a fairly plain affair.
There is also an FM radio. Like almost all portables, it uses the headphone cable as an aerial.
If music-playing is your top reason for buying this device, the lack of physical playback controls are worth noting. Relying on the touchscreen, in-pocket operation is not easy – although there is a finger-friendly volume rocker on its right edge.
Impressive file type support continues with video. Almost every common format is supported, including MKV, Xvid and DivX. Again, the video app is nothing special, but it’s the format support that counts.
However, with a single-core 1GHz processor, it can’t handle the breadth of files that – we imagine – the quad-core Samsung Galaxy S3 will. It has a go at playing HD vids, but it struggles to play 720p MKVs, dropping frames to an extent that rules-out watching most HD films on the thing. This is the part of the Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 that makes us wish it had a dual-core processor, as there’s little lag in day-to-day use.
Although better-specced than the terrible main camera of the iPod touch, the 2-megapixel sensor of this Samsung Galaxy is not good. It has a fixed focus, meaning you have no control over the subject of your photos. Anything too close-up will not be in focus. There’s also no flash.
The camera app doesn’t offer anything as special as the real-time effects of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, either. You have a few scene modes as your disposal, as well as exposure compensation, a panorama mode and Smile Shot, which takes a photo when it registers a smile. Some smartphones can replace a compact camera, but with no fun effects to play with and pretty ropey image quality, the Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 cannot. There’s also a basic VGA front camera to enable video chat.
Priced at around £180, the Galaxy WiFi 4.2 is a little more expensive than the 8GB iPod touch. Do the extra screen inches merit this extra? Not really, when the iPod touch features almost double the number of pixels.
However, what’s arguably more a rival to the player is a budget Android phone. Stray from the big brands and you can get a lot for your money, with the £129.99 ZTE Skate or the dirty cheap (but admittedly smaller) £69.99 Huawei Blaze. Shop around and you’ll even find the Samsung Galaxy Ace at a similar price. These phones will have worse speakers and – generally – slightly slower processors, but offer a pretty similar experience, and often better cameras.
This is why an Android player is a tougher sell than an iPod touch. Where its phone equivalent – an iPhone 4/4S – costs between £429 and £699, Androids start at under fifty pounds. There’s a lot of fun to be had with the Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 4.2, but we’re struggling to see where its audience lies. Fans of mobile gaming and video-watching will likely already have a smartphone and, with a single-core processor, so-so screen and poor camera, it’s not really a cheap way to get everything the Samsung Galaxy S3 has for less money.
It does have far better video and audio support than almost every sub-£200 phone, but when these gaps can often be plugged by apps, we’d recommend looking for a phone. Rather than a phone impersonator.
There’s a lot to like about the Samsung Galaxy WiFi 4.2 Android media player. It has better inbuilt speakers than most phones, an attractive design, great audio and video support plus access to plenty of Google goodies. However, these days you can get an Android phone with similar specs for the same money and its video skills are held back a bit by the single-core 1GHz processor.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8