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Samsung U5

>> Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Offered in black, white, red, pink, or blue, the oblong and thin 0.81 ounce Samsung U5 measures 0.9 by 3.5 by 0.5 inches (HWD) and features a tiny, 1 inch grayscale OLED screen. The display attempts to show album art when available, but its size and lack of color work against it. (The animated characters you can assign to appear whenever the player powers up, however, make much better use of the screen.) A typical button array sits just right of the screen, with Up, Down, Back, Forward controls for navigation, playback, and volume surrounding an Enter button.

The top panel houses the mic, a Previous Menu button, and the Recordor Shift button which, when held down for more than a second, starts voice recording regardless of what menu you're in. The headphone jack and the Power or Lock buttons can be found on the right hand and lower panels, respectively, and a lanyard loop and Reset button are on Samsung U5's back panel. A minor gripe : the rounded plastic cover on the left hand side that protects the USB connector is unusually hard to remove but it could be argued that it is doing its job.

A removable, transparent plastic shirt clip and a pair of better than average low end earbuds come with Samsung U5. Samsung U5 doesn't display photos or show video, and its audio codec support isn't very robust. Only MP3, WMA, and OGG files will play on the device, but given the built-in USB connector, getting your music on Samsung U5 is a snap. Simply plug it into your PC's USB port (no cables needed) and use Windows Media Player or drag and drop files directly to the device. The US$60 2GB Sansa Clip costs $10 more than Samsung U5 but supports two more audio codecs (FLAC and Audible) and, some would say, does a little better in the sleek design department.

Samsung U5 is impressive from a sound standpoint, in that its earbuds actually have a bit of bass response and, thanks to the foam covers, stay in place pretty well. Sure, the Ultimate Ears MetroFi 170 (US$50) will sound a lot better, but there's not an urgent need to replace the included pair. Adjustable EQ, 3D, and Bass effects are also included for a little bit of sound customization, but other than tweaking the EQ to your tastes, it recommend leaving the effects off. The FM radio is easy enough to operate.

Pressing the Record or Shift button while holding down a navigation control lets you add up to 30 presets. Recording a snippet of radio is equally simple, and all recorded files as well as Voice Recorder files reside in their own folder in the Music menu. Now let's talk about the Fitness menu : it's silly. You start by setting a Daily Goal (say, burning 250 calories), providing your weight, and designating an activity (for example, Hiking).

Then you select "Performance," and Samsung U5 will start counting down how many calories you are burning and it'll let you know how many minutes are required to reach your goal. Even if, say, you set the thing down on your desk or take a nap, it will still count down the calories. Since it's not connected to any exercise equipment and can't measure your heart rate or how many steps you're taking, it's really just a stopwatch that "counts" burned calories. Perhaps it's useful as a motivational tool, but not as a scientific one.

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