capsule review

Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 Review: Great All-Around Android Player

At a Glance
  • Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2

    PCWorld Rating

    With its generous display, expandable storage, and thin-and-light design, the Galaxy Player 4.2 is a solid option for anyone looking for an Android-powered media player.

Available in two new sizes, the Samsung Galaxy Player is a Wi-Fi-connected Android media player that complements Samsung's popular Galaxy phone lineup--with the advantage that it doesn't require you to be tied to a phone contract or monthly data fees. The smaller Galaxy Player 3.6 costs $150, while the larger Galaxy Player 4.2 sells for $200 (prices as of June 1, 2012). Both have 8GB of storage space. In this review, we'll focus on the Galaxy Player 4.2, which matches up against the $200 Apple iPod Touch better than its smaller cousin does. The 3.6 and 4.2 models follow the Galaxy Player 4.0 and 5.0, which Samsung released only about six months ago.

Design

The numbers in the various Galaxy Player names refer to their diagonal screen size. Thus, the Galaxy Player 4.2 has a 4.2-inch display. Its bezel, especially on the sides, is very thin. Though the iPod Touch has only a 3.5-inch screen, most new smartphones have screens slightly larger than 4 inches now; and Samsung's Galaxy Note boasts a 5.3-inch display.

Despite its large screen, the Galaxy Player feels very thin (at 0.35 inch, it's a tad thicker than the 0.28-inch thick iPod Touch) and light (it weighs just 0.25 pound, as does the Touch). The trade-off for its lightness is that it feels as if it were made of cheap plastic. The glossy black plastic is a fingerprint magnet, too, which further detracts from the device's aesthetics.

The 800-by-480-resolution display doesn't quite achieve retina-display density, but it looks crisp and bright. The 4.2-inch screen is slightly too large for me to comfortably navigate one-handed, using my thumb, but I have small hands. Adults with average-size hands should be able to reach across to the far corner just fine. Ultimately, the screen size strikes an almost ideal balance between being comfortable to hold and being comfortable to view content on.

Unlike its smaller cousin, the Galaxy Player 4.2 comes with dual front-facing speakers--one above the screen and one below it, in portrait orientation. Sound from the speakers is strong and clear, though a bit thin due to their small size. Below the screen, a physical Home button sits between the capacitive buttons for Back and Search.

Similar to the smaller player, the home button and volume rocker are on the right side, and the Micro-USB port and headphone jack are on the bottom. The large back panel is removable, so you can have access to the battery and the MicroSD card slot. You'll have to take out the battery to get to the card, so it's not a quick swap, but at least the fixed storage (at 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB) is expandable, unlike on the Sony Walkman Z Series.

The Galaxy Player 4.2 also has rear- and front-facing cameras. The quality of the 2-megapixel camera on the back is adequate for a quick tweet or Facebook post, but not much else. The front-facing camera has VGA resolution (as does the one on the iPod Touch)--good enough for video chats.

Performance and Specs

The Galaxy Player 4.2 runs Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread, and packs a 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM. In my hands-on use, the Player ran smoothly for casual gaming; FIFA 12 played smoothly most of the time, but the intro video dropped a few frames.

For connectivity, you get Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, and GPS. The GPS locked onto my location quickly, but in the absence of cellular data to update the maps, turn-by-turn navigation was impractical. Samsung includes an FM radio, too, incase you get tired of the tunes you've loaded. It will only work with the headphones plugged in, however, because it uses the cable as the antenna.

Samsung promises 8 hours of video playback or 60 hours of audio playback between charges of the Galaxy Player 4.2's 1500mAh battery. Oddly, Samsung rates the same-capacity battery on the smaller-screened 3.6-inch player for just 5 hours video or 30 hours of audio. In my use, the battery seemed to be draining faster than its spec would suggest; if you're a commuter, you'll want to charge it at work during the day so you can use it on the trip home.

Software and Extras

The Galaxy Player 4.2 comes with the full suite of Google apps, including access to the Play Store marketplace, Maps, Gmail, GTalk, and other official Google apps. Samsung augments the stock Android experience with its TouchWiz interface; if you have a Samsung phone, you should feel right at home with this overlay.

Other notable preloaded apps are Quickoffice, Samsung Smartview remote control software to turn the player into a remote for a connected Samsung TV, and Kies air to manage the player over a Wi-Fi connection from a browser.

To show off its gaming potential, the Galaxy Player 4.2 also comes with Need For Speed Hot Pursuit, Angry Birds, FIFA 12, and a link to trials of more EA games.

The stock headphones that come with the Player of reasonable design, and the same design as on the Player 3.2. The in-ear buds come with a choice of three sizes of rubber tips, and I was surprised to find that the middle size actually fit comfortably and stayed in my normally hard-to-fit ears.

Media

The Galaxy Player 4.2 doesn't have the range of equalizer options that the Walkman Z Series does. Still, the sound is strong and clear, though not as rich or full as the Sony. The 4.2's biggest advantage is its dual front-facing speakers, which outperformed the muffled little rear speakers on both the Galaxy Player 3.6 and the Sony Walkman.

The screen falls short of full 720p resolution, but 800 by 480 is sufficient for clear video. Playback is smooth, even in the action scenes of a 720p film. The Galaxy Player 4.2 can handle playback of ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, MP4, 3GP, and WMV videos. Audio playback includes AAC, FLAC, MP3, Ogg, WAV, and WMA.

The video and audio playback apps on the Galaxy Player 4.2 are easy to use and offer lots of options for organizing and sorting music and videos. You can add new files to the device by plugging in the USB cable and then dragging and dropping them directly to the player itself or to its MicroSD card if you have one installed. You can purchase music and video files from the Google Play store, or you can stream them from apps such as Pandora and Netflix.

Bottom Line

The Galaxy Player 4.2 is a good all-around performer with a nice big screen, strong audio and video performance, solid gaming options, and passable rear- and front-facing cameras. For the price of an iPod Touch, you can have a larger screen, front-facing speakers, and expandable memory. For buyers seeking an Android-powered alternative, the Galaxy Player 4.2 is the best choice.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    With its generous display, expandable storage, and thin-and-light design, the Galaxy Player 4.2 is a solid option for anyone looking for an Android-powered media player.

    Pros

    • Thin and light
    • Good-quality screen is big but not too big
    • Expandable storage

    Cons

    • Plasticky, cheap-feeling build
    • Mediocre cameras
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