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Superb MP3 player but has major design flaws
on 11 November 2010
This is a lovely little player in terms of design, portability, functionality and - where it counts most - in the quality of its audio and video playback. There is however a large choice of MP3/MP4 players out there, many just as good in their playback of these basic operations, and many of them are cheaper than the Samsung. To set itself apart and provide additional value, the Samsung YP-R1 however has a very modern design with touchscreen functions and apps that are similar to those of an iPhone. Unfortunately, the usefulness of these apps is very limited, if not actually worthless in some cases, and there are severe limitations due to the low battery life.
MP3 audio playback, using Samsung's Digital Natural Sound Engine (DNSe 3.0) is impressive, with a manual equaliser and lots of presets - but the natural sound is more than good enough. The in-ear headphones that come with the player are not noise-blocking, but are of good quality providing good reproduction, if just a touch little lacking in fullness of bass. With 8GB, you can store a lot of music on such a small lightweight device, including FLAC format files. Video quality is superb, but there's really not sufficient space here to carry around any kind of library of programmes. FM Radio playback is also fine, and it comes with the ability to store and display presets. There is the ability to voice record (with a microphone - not included) and record from the radio.
In every case, getting to the right section is quick and easy, with attractive menus and GUI displays on its 2.6-inch screen. You can even fast-forward to the middle of a long track or podcast instantly with a swipe across the time-bar. It's beautiful, and if that's all you want the player for, the Samsung R1 has a reserved recommendation. The only drawback however is the battery life. Samsung claim 25 hours of battery life, but in practice, playing only MP3, I found it was closer to 10 hours. Video evidently is a considerably bigger drain, but even the radio sucks up power surprisingly quickly. It takes 2 hours to fully charge, via USB to a PC - a cable is provided for this - but there is no direct power cable for charging.
Considering the competition, it's the proprietary features are what are going to make or break this one, and they don't fare all that well. The EmoDio software caused some minor problems installing onto a PC, it was slow in operation and non-intuitive - which is a further problem since there is no manual provided for using it. You'll find yourself dragging and dropping using Windows Explorer, and it's much easier. The Flash player is out-of-date (version 8, August 2005) and it can't be updated, which means you can't add any new games to the four included. Most of the other functions you will more than likely already have on your phone - clock, memo, calendar - and they would be more convenient and easy to use there. The packaging indicates that the player is supposed to be compatible with the BBC iPlayer, but there is no documentation supporting this or any obvious means of downloading programmes. Some of the widgets are just pointless and clutter the screen, but this is customisable.
Overall, with its compactness, lightness and operability, its outstanding audio and video playback and a good range of formats playable, the Samsung R1 is easily worth a four-and-a-half star rating. It's a superb MP3 player and very competitive with similar players at this price-range. Unfortunately, it's very power intensive and battery life isn't particularly good, even for basic audio or radio playback, and few of the additional functions that should make this stand out from the crowded market are of little use at all.
UPDATE - After two months, a similar problem reported by several other people here, my R1 froze at 99% updating database and would not respond to a reset. Since it won't "boot-up", it is therefore unrecognisable when attached to a PC, so it cannot be reformatted. This is a bad design flaw and on that basis, the player cannot be recommended.