As with the U4, Samsung seems hell-bent on giving you some kind of cool audio/visual experience from a tiny screen. With the previous player we had an almost unrecognisable, miniature monochrome simulacrum of the album cover art during playback, plus a range of animations when you flick between functions on the main menu screen or scroll through option screens, each accompanied by a cheerful little noise.
The U5 has all this stuff, but goes one better with a tiny animated character, labelled ‘Popcon’, who turns up to greet you when you first switch on the player, then dances manically on the left of the ‘now playing’ screen to any tracks where you don’t have album art to, erm, enjoy.
I can’t say that this sort of Tamagotchi nonsense floats my boat, but there’s no question that Samsung has pulled out all the stops to make Popcon a feature, giving you a wide range of cheerful bitmap characters to choose from, and allowing you to name them if you wish. Still, if it’s a bizarre inclusion, it’s not one that has any negative impact on the user experience which is – as with the U4 – very good. Some of us might miss things like on the fly playlist creation, but you can enable gapless playback, and navigation by file browser or the usual ID Tag methods is simplicity itself.
Functionally the U5 has a little more to offer than the average player of this size, though again Samsung seems to be taking a slightly quirky approach. We still get an FM radio with auto presets, a decent little voice recorder and a podcast function, but Samsung has now thrown in a weird Fitness function. Choose an activity from the list (Walking, Running, Hiking, Yoga etc) to do while you’re listening to your player, and the U5 tells you how long you’ve been doing it for and how many calories it thinks you will have burned in the meantime. You can set your body weight and inform the U5 of your daily fitness goals and it will then track your progress day to day, with able help from your ever lovable Popcon.
Again, I can’t see this of being much importance to the average TR reader, but it’s the sort of cute touch that might make the player more appealing to a wider audience. In fact, when you consider that players like this are often sold for use during gym workouts or while jogging, it all makes a certain amount of sense. One thing that doesn’t is that the radio still won’t let you autotune the presets from within the radio function itself. You still have to go outside to the Settings menu and do it from there.