- Full access to Google’s apps
- Expandable storage
- Small, low-resolution screen isn’t good for video
- Thin audio quality
Samsung’s Galaxy player 3.6 provides a lower-priced, Android-powered alternative to the iPod Touch, but its screen and audio quality come up short.
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 3.6, which struggles to compete with the pricier ($200) Apple iPod Touch. The 3.6 and 4.2 models follow in the footsteps of the Galaxy Player 4.0 and 5.0, which Samsung released only about six months ago.
The numbers in the various Galaxy Player names refer to their diagonal screen size. Thus, the Galaxy Player 3.6 has a 3.6-inch display–a scant 0.1 inch larger than the iPod Touch’s screen. At 0.38 inch thick, it’s bigger in that dimension than the new Galaxy S III smartphone (which has a thickness of 0.34 inch).
The Galaxy Player 3.6’s curved edges and slightly textured plastic back are comfortable to hold in one hand. Despite its all-plastic construction, the player feels solid. Even with my relatively small hands, I could comfortably reach everything on the screen, without having to stretch as I do when using larger (4.5 inches and up) devices. Unfortunately, that smallish screen has a resolution of just 480 by 320 pixels. As a result, icons and text look fuzzier than they do on higher-density screens. Text was especially bad in the browser, in mobile view; and viewing full websites, which was a frustrating exercise in zooming and panning.
A large removable panel on the back provides access to the battery and MicroSD card slot. Though you can expand the 8GB of built-in storage, you must remove the battery to do so. Also on the back are a 2-megapixel camera and a tiny (but impressively powerful) built-in speaker.
A chrome rim runs around the front edge, giving the player some resemblance to earlier Galaxy S phones. Above the screen, on the front bezel, is a front-facing speaker and a VGA camera. Under the screen are three capacitive buttons–Menu, Home, and Back.
On the right side you’ll find the power button and volume rocker; the micro-USB port, headphone jack, and built-in mic are on the bottom.
Performance and Specs
The Galaxy Player 3.6 is essentially an Android phone without the phone. It runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread on a 1GHz single-core processor. In use, the player felt responsive; I could scroll smoothly within apps and zoom in and out of maps without a hitch. Video and audio playback were equally smooth.
The device connects via Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, and it also supports Bluetooth 3.0 and GPS. The GPS locked onto my location quickly; but in the absence of cellular data to update the maps on the move, it wasn’t practical for turn-by-turn navigation. The Galaxy Player 3.6 also comes with a built-in FM radio, but the radio works only with the headphones plugged in, as it uses the cable as the antenna.
Samsung promises 5 hours of video or 30 hours of audio playback from the Galaxy Player’s 1500mAh battery. That battery is a bit higher-capacity than the one on the older Galaxy Player 4.0 (1200mAh). When I used it, however, I got the impression that the battery was draining more quickly than the spec might lead you to anticipate. This is the kind of device that you should charge at work if you want to be able to use it on the commute home.
Software and Extras
The Galaxy Player 3.6 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 Android OS with its own TouchWiz interface and custom apps.
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.
The stock headphones that come with this player were a pleasant surprise. The in-ear buds come with three sizes of rubber tips, and the middle size actually fit comfortably and stayed put in my normally hard-to-fit ears.
The Galaxy Player 3.6’s media playback, though, left something to be desired. Whether through the included headphones or through desktop speakers, audio sounded thin and lacked the depth and richness of the same tunes played from a Motorola Atrix Android phone or from iTunes via a PC.
Video playback suffers from the screen’s low resolution and small size. No matter how high-definition your videos are, they’ll look fuzzy on the 480-by-320-pixel screen. By comparison, the Retina display on an Apple iPhone 4S packs 640 by 960 pixels. And Samsung’s earlier Galaxy Player 4.0 had 800-by-480-pixel resolution.
The video and audio playback apps on the Galaxy Player are easy to use, and they 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.
The Galaxy Player 3.6’s affordable price tag makes it a tempting choice if you’re looking for an Android-based alternative to the iPod Touch, but the poor screen and subpar audio quality would cause me to think twice before opening my wallet.