Samsung YP-U3: Cheap, Slick, and Cool

Just when I thought that SanDisk had designed the perfect tiny flash media player with its excellent and affordable Express, along comes Samsung with a truly impressive competitor. There can be only one reigning Editors’ Choice for the cheap portable media player category here at Ngadgeti, and the well crafted YP-U3 earns the award.

Measuring a minute 3.2 by 1.0 by 0.4 inches, the new 0.8-ounce YP-U3 (we’ll call it the U3) has a built-in USB connector, which eliminates the need for a cable. The U3 comes with 2GB of storage; it has Samsung's familiar graphics and touch-sensitive flat-surface buttons. And, compared with the Express, the U3 has a slicker look and a radiant screen.

A bright 1.8-inch OLED display occupies the left half of the front face. There’s nothing special about the organization; navigation is easy and straight forward. The main screen has five icons: Music, FM Radio, Voice Record, Settings, and Now Playing.

Holding down the power button for a couple of seconds on leashes a flashy start-up graphic in Samsung’s typical blue-on-black theme. If you have the player set to Resume (an item in the Settings menu), whatever song you were last playing will start up from the moment you left off. If not, it will still cue up the track but will revert to the beginning and won't automatically start playing. Now Playing is the default start-up screen, but by using the back button, you can easily access all menus. There’s no FM recording to be found, which is surprise, considering the U3’s inclusion of voice recording. (The Express offers both FM and voice recording.)

One slight annoyance is that it takes five steps to get to the main menu from the Now Playing screen (navigating backwards through song, artist. etc.), but navigation is quick nonetheless. It would have been better, however, if Samsung had thought to use the multifunction User Button on the top as a main menu button to bypass backwards navigation. This button is assignable only to Repeat A-B, DNSe (Samsung’s plethora of avoidable EQ settings), Play Speed, and Play Mode (Normal, Repeat, and Shuffle).

File compatibility is limited to MP3 (all bit rates), WAV, and WMA (including protected and lossless). The U3 has no photo or video function, which is perhaps a blessing. That s because most players that have tiny screens yet include these functions usually have to charge more for what ends up being a lousy feature. Unfortunately, the player also comes with so-so earphones. As usual, I seriously suggest upgrading to something better. And the U3’s battery life isn’t much to brag about. My test player yielded 12 hours and 3 minutes. (The Express didn't do much better, at just 14 hours.)

Knocking the Sansa Express off its pedestal is a difficult feat. When the 1GB Express came out earlier this year, I was thrilled to see such a simple, good-looking, easy-to-navigate device for only $60. (The 2GB model goes for $80.) Technology is not all about price, however, and although the U-3 memory isn't expandable like that of the Express, the U3 strikes me as a slightly better value. It's skinnier, a little slicker, and costs only $10 more than the Express with the same capacity.

Samsung YP-U3: $90.00

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