Samsung YP-T7: Great Player, Lousy Name

If Samsung had developed the iPod, the company would have named it something like the AC-3520 and it would be a novelty in the marketplace instead of a dominating force. But while Samsung isn't very good at naming its gadgets, its YP-T7 is an excellent flash media player, even with a bizarrely innocuous name.

David Haskin, Contributor

April 4, 2005

7 Min Read

If Samsung had developed the iPod, the company would have named it something like the AC-3520 and it would be a novelty in the marketplace instead of a dominating force. But while Samsung isn't very good at naming its gadgets, its YP-T7 is an excellent flash media player, even with a bizarrely innocuous name.

This 1.2 ounce flash player is the size and shape of a fat book of matches and comes in a $149 512MB version, which I tested, and a 1GB version for $199. Besides the ability to play music, it also has an FM radio (and the ability to record FM broadcasts), an image viewer and a text viewer.

This device fits nicely in the palm of your hand, sounds like a dream and has more features than you'd think could come in a device this small and inexpensive. It also has its flaws. But if Samsung could think of a sexier name for this device, it could sell them by the truckload.

First Things First

Let's get the non-music parts of the device out of the way first. One feature few YP-T7's competitors match is its 1.2-inch diagonal, 65,000 color screen. Indoors, the display is perfectly clear but, like most players, don't expect to see much on it outside on a sunny day.

Navigation is via a five-way button on the front of the light blue device that leads you both to its menu system increases and decreases volume. You hold down the button to see the menu, then push the button from side to side to navigate through the various options.

The device handily has a lock button since the navigation button is so easily pushed by mistake. For instance, I dropped the YP-T7 into my pants pocket and went for a walk, but hadn't gone more than fifty feet before the songs started changing arbitrarily. Using the included belt clip for the device would have solved that problem, but not everyone wants to look like Batman walking around with gadgets on his belt.

The only other buttons on the device are a record button, a button for switching to and from looped music and a triple-duty button that turns the device on and off, pauses play and switches to the next tune.

The FM player worked well, pulling in the stations you'd expect in an urban area. It can accommodate 20 pre-sets, and you can record broadcasts. The other feature that Samsung is touting heavily on this device is its image viewer, but the small screen makes this feature of dubious value. The color screen is lovely to use for navigation, but if you show the images to somebody, you'll likely be asked something like, "is that your daughter or a flower?"

Images are best viewed if they're 96 pixels by 96 pixels, but except for those who create icons and other images for use on Web pages, that's not an image size most people bother with. I transferred a handful of VGA-sized images to the device and the device displayed them, but it was hard to see what they were. Worse, the screen went blank a second after completing the display of each of those pictures.

The device also has a text file viewer that worked fine, but it's hard to imagine how that could be useful.

Music Front And Center

The YP-T7's sound quality is quite clear from top to bottom, although my personal preference would have been for a bit more bass. It does have a bass enhancer. Unfortunately, I noticed only a minimal improvement when using it -- deep bass on a tiny device is inevitably going to be hard to achieve. Like larger music players, the YP-T7 also has all manner of sound enhancements, such as a variety of EQ settings for different types of music and SRS, which simulates surround sound.

Another bonus was that, for a little device, the YP-T7 cranks out a lot of volume. Also impressive was file transfer speeds between my PC and the device via USB 2.0. Transferring entire CDs took just a few seconds.

The YP-T7 supports all popular music formats such as WMA and MP3 and is one of the first devices to support Microsoft's PlaysForSure, the underlying technology of services such as Napster-To-Go. To transfer existing files from your hard disk to the device, you simply use Windows Explorer (the YP-T7 doesn't support Apple computers). However, if you use a service like Napster-To-Go, you'll have to transfer tracks using Windows Media Player 10. The device comes with Samsung Music Studio, a lightweight PC music player that doesn't streamline the transfer process.

You can transfer individual tunes to the device and place them in the device's main folder, which creates a muddied mess rather quickly. Or, you can transfer entire folders of music over, with each folder typically representing a single CD or other groupings of music you create yourself. Then, you can navigate through the menus to play the music in that particular folder.

One downside is that, while the YP-T7 uses tags for things like displaying the name of the song that's playing on-screen, it won't use the track number tag to play songs in the order they appear on the CD. Rather, in its normal mode (as opposed to its various random play modes), the device plays the songs in alphabetical order.

The only way I could find to play the songs in the right order is to create a playlist on the device, placing the songs in the right order, which required having the CD in hand to make sure the order was right. To put a track on a playlist, you navigate to it and press the navigation button. The playlist plays tracks in the order you put them on the list, so it is time consuming to get the songs in the order you want. Even more frustratingly, the YP-T7 doesn't support playlists created in Windows Media Player.

We All Make Sacrifices

As gadgets get smaller, trade-offs inevitably occur between function and size. The YP-T7 sports an admirable feature set, but there still are trade-offs. The most obvious is battery life. The battery is rated for 10 hours of continuous play at a medium volume level, which is mediocre for a flash player and, without doubt, at least in part due to the color display. If you view images or use the FM receiver, battery life will certainly go down.

A related gripe is that the battery recharging cable uses the same plug-in as the USB cable. That's understandable in a tiny small device without a lot of space for plug-ins, but it prevents adding and deleting music while the device is charging, which further detracts from its battery life.

Another inevitable trade-off between features and simplicity is the menu system. Taking the long view, the YP-T7 has a logical menu structure. But there are so many options and the screen is so small that it took half an hour and repeated readings of the long but mediocre printed documentation before it started making sense.

Last and very much least on the list of downsides are the ear buds that come with the YP-T7. Few will bother with these buds, which provide flat, uninteresting sound and were too large to rest comfortably in my ears. Instead, you'll need your own favorite ear buds or headphones, an increasingly common complaint with music players these days.

Overall, though, it's hard to figure why anybody but the most cash-strapped would buy a 512MB iPod Shuffle when, for fifty bucks more, you could have the YP-T7 and its impressively long list of features. Samsung has been trying to break into the music player field for a long time and has had some limited success. If it keeps making players this good, all it has to do to achieve greater success is come up with better names for its devices.

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