The Samsung Galaxy 5.0 Test Drive

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Filling a Vacancy
In the phone arena, Android devices are in constant battle with the ubiquitous and ever-evolving iPhone for mobile supremacy. Meanwhile, the iPod Touch has essentially gone unchallenged. When it was released, some questioned why it even existed in the first place. What was the point of having a stripped down iPhone with no phone functionality? Was there really a market for such a device? After 4 years and over 60 million units sold, people aren't asking those questions anymore.

As a user of both Apple and Android devices, I've often wondered why nobody made a competing product running Android. All this time they've allowed Apple to have the market essentially to themselves. As it turns out, Philips and Samsung both had Android based players finished in 2010, but for various reasons neither company fully brought them to market until recently. Philips has me on a waiting list for their GoGear Connect device, so for now my focus is on the Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0.

Important Specs
The Galaxy Player 5.0 shares a closer relationship with the original Galaxy S line of phones than it does with the new Galaxy S II models. That means the hardware itself is no longer considered "high end", though it would have been considered very good back in 2010 when it was first made. Still, it's no slouch, packing a 1GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor, Bluetooth, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, GPS, 3.2 megapixel camera with LED flash, and Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread. That's about equivalent to a mid-level phone these days. Unlike Apple, Samsung only offers a single memory configuration: 8GB of storage, along with a slot for micro–SD cards. That's a key feature—with micro-SD cards currently going for about $1 per GB at time of writing, this $239.99 8GB player can easily become a 40GB player without much extra investment.

The main draw of this device—the part that earns it the "5.0" in the title—is the massive 5 inch screen. On paper, it seems underwhelming: it has a resolution of 800x480, and is a standard TFT display rather than something fancy like a Super AMOLED as used in some other Samsung devices. Despite that, I thought it looked quite nice during real world use. Text was crisp, colors where vibrant, and overall brightness was more than adequate. You may be able to notice the difference when comparing it directly to a higher spec display, but the Galaxy Player user experience never feels poor. I think most people would choose the larger size over a higher resolution for real world use.

Samsung_Galaxy5_photo_eq

The extra display real estate comes in very handy when dealing with densely populated screens full of albums or tracks. I also had a much better time fine tuning EQ settings. The experience is somewhere in between that of a tablet and a phone, while still reasonably transportable and very light weight.

The other key spec is the 2500mAh battery. Even with the large display presumably taking more juice than a normal screen, I still got excellent results. I used the device regularly for several days at a time before worrying about charging. This is a huge improvement over the phones I've tried, which often struggle to give you one day of solid use before demanding a charge.

What's in the Box?
Accessories were sparse in the package, but quality is more important than quantity. To that end, Samsung includes a pair of in–ear monitors with the device rather than the typical throwaway earbuds. Dressed all in white to match the rear casing of the Galaxy Player, the earphones come with 3 sizes of reasonably high quality silicone tips. Judging by the tiny vent on the rear I'm fairly certain they use a dynamic driver. Slightly tangle-prone cable aside, I was very pleased with them overall. I normally associate cheap dynamic-driver based IEMs with massive boomy bass and excessive treble roll-off, but these actually had a relatively neutral sound. There was somewhat of an extra kick in the lows but it was not overdone, and the rest of the spectrum was surprisingly well represented.

I would compare these favorably to some of the low priced IEMs I've heard from brands like SoundMagic. That being said, users will likely want to spring for something better when possible. But I'd definitely recommend keeping these as a backup. Hopefully this is a trend that Samsung continues with future devices since it seems wasteful to include the usual terrible earbuds.

Stock Experience
The Gingerbread Android install on the Galaxy Player 5.0 is pretty close to the barebones Android experience. It does have Samsung's TouchWiz UI to make it a tad prettier, but the changes are minor. That means right out of the box you can browse InnerFidelity and do all the usual smartphone activities (with the obvious exception of calling people), and you have full access to the Android Market. Some Android devices such as the Kindle Fire have their own version of the market, which can be missing key apps.

The most important feature for our purposes is the fact that the included Samsung TouchWiz audio player supports FLAC files. It's hard to believe, but Android had no native support for the lossless format until version 3.1 which was released fairly recently. So most phones out there have been unable to handle FLAC files without resorting to 3rd party apps. The TouchWiz music app also has a fairly competent set of controls for EQing, making the whole experience much more advanced than the basic Android music app.

While the audio experience right out of the box is superior to that of many Android devices, there are ways to improve it ...

Company Info
Samsung
85 Challenger Road
Ridgefield Park,NJ. 07660
1800-SAMSUNG
Article Contents
Share | |
Comments
4nradio's picture
I'd Like to see more...

of these music source hardware reviews from your perspective, Tyll. I think they'll help expand our audiophile interests to the occasional mainstream product that's worth our attention.

I recently discovered, quite by accident, that my T-Mobile (LG) G-Slate is a worthy FLAC player when coupled with Poweramp. I was researching something on the Web totally unrelated to audio topics when I came across a press release from Wolfson mentioning that one of their DACs was built into the G-Slate. Sure enough! I loaded up Poweramp and some FLACs and discovered audio quality surpassing my Yahama chip equipped Galaxy S II mobile phone.

Running the G-Slate's headphone output into an O2 amplifier is a nice combination, and the size of the G-Slate makes for useful and attractive Poweramp screens.

13mh13's picture
iAudio (Cowon), Teclast/MP4Nation/Colorfly

Tyll/anyone:

First, a quick Q: how hot/warm does the Samsung get after, say, 1/2 hr of FLAC or AAC operation? How does this 'operating temp.' compare with your other similar iPod/iPhone devices.
----------------------------
Anyway ...
... if you disregard cell-phone capability and Android ... there are, IMO, better-SOUNDING brands in the same smart-phone-size package, and $ range. These brands include: iAudio (Cowon), Teclast/MP4Nation/Colorfly

The QLS players only do WAV, and are bulky, but sound v. good. For a bit more $ (and bulk), the HiFiMan series are high-rated, too.

For me ...my wish list includes: 24/192, AWESOME headphone amp with equally-awesome (and tweakable) x-feed. And v. good batt life, too.

Some of models/brands I've noted can be hard to get (often out of stock, or only orderable thru China) ... and are often unreliable (e.g., MP4Nation/Teclast and Colorfly; iAudio is not v. reliable, either). That said, and other than iAudio or HiFiMan, the Chinese brands, MP4Nation/Teclast and Colorfly, have SQ no iPod/Samsung or similar mainstream brand offers....regardless of $$.

(see reviews and opinions of the above at, where else, head-fi.org)

John Grandberg's picture
Not hot

I didn't notice any "heating" issues with continuous FLAC playback. I'm guessing the large size is good for heat dispersion.

I've had the QLS QA-350 for a long time and enjoy it. Quirky, poor battery performance, and not versatile at all. But great sound!

Ultimately my wish list is the same as yours. I'm hoping Fang at HiFiMan can pull it off one of these days. But for mainstream users or even casual audiophiles, something like this Galaxy Player is a good general purpose device.

13mh13's picture
Fiio X3; heat issue; reliability factor?

Too bad Fiio dropped their high-rez X3 DAP they were developing:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/528916/the-fiio-x3-thread-update-project-halted

My Colorfly CK4 can do high-rez but not reliably:
http://www.head-fi.org/products/colorfly-ck4

About warm operation ...My experience ... The QLS and some old iAudio units run cool (except during chging; the QLS has bulky external charger (v. warm!) so DAP never heats -- nice!). Never owned iPod (orig or Touch) or any late-model smart phone -- so can't comment on them. WRT my exp. w/modern DAPs ...the MP4Nation/Teclast and Colorfly units BOTH can get quite warm. Not sure if this is due to their DC-DC converter or the large-screen pwr ckt. All else held equal, heat+electronics=BAD.

Apple has GREAT cust. service but ... how reliable are iPhones and Android smartphones, anyway?

mward's picture
Behind the times?

I'll readily admit to being an Apple partisan when it comes to devices and software (but not download stores—I stick to buying and ripping CDs).

That aside, were I in the market for an Android device, I'd be very concerned by the fact that this piece of hardware, as one of the only two Android music players on the market, is not one but two major versions behind Android's current state of the art OS (4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich). The iPod touch may not be quite up to the current specs of the iPhone 4S, but at least it runs the current version of the operating system, and probably will continue to do so for another year or two.

As far as why the iPod touch has gone unchallenged, the traditional iPod hasn't seen a whole lot of challenge lately either. And with the market for dedicated music players continuing to shrink, I'm not surprised to see all the Android manufacturers sticking to the more lucrative phone market rather than fighting for a piece of a shrinking pie.

If there are some Android fans out there who want an iPod touch equivalent—that is, a smart phone without the phone, I'm glad there's an option. Kudos to Samsung for supporting FLAC (but that puts them roughly on par with Apple, who have long supported their own lossless format), and kudos for including some better headphones (but most readers of this site will bring their own). But I think most of the broader market will buy a traditional iPod, iPod touch, or will take their pick of smart phones.

One other thing—despite my fondness for Apple, I hope for continued, solid competition for them from Android and Windows Phone (and I hate to see Palm bow out of the race). So I do like the idea that I could place my big bet on Apple but still be able to play with cool devices representing other platforms that are less expensive than phones—I just wish this device had the latest and greatest OS.

John Grandberg's picture
Competition

The big thing for me is competition. If Android devices stay out of this market all together, what motivation does Apple have to continue innovation? The latest iPod Touch is already several steps behind compared to the iPhone counterpart.

But yes, I agree that Android makers are slacking when it comes to running the latest versions. I can see how this particular device ended up with Gingerbread though - developed in 2010, it would have originally had Froyo, meaning Samsung did do a bit of updating. But moving all the way up to Ice Cream Sandwich would certainly be appreciated.

AncientWisdom's picture
Misleading info about Android versions

It's too bad that you post misleading information like that.
Gingerbread (2.3) is not 2 versions behind the latest Android release (Ice Cream Sandwich - 4.Innocent since Honeycomb (3.Innocent was a version made only for tablets. Therefor for anything that does not have the form of a tablet, Gingerbread is the last revision.
Secondly, while Google have released the code for Ice Cream Sandwich to manufacture, no ports have been released yet. So as far as the public (or anyone reading this article) is concerned, Android 2.3.5 is indeed the latest available version for non vanilla Android.
Samsung have a good reputation of upgrading their devices, the SGS II should be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich this month, and hopefully so would the Galaxy 5. If that doesn't happen, then by all means feel free to bitch and moan, but until then I see no reason to complain.

John Grandberg's picture
It's confusing...

because many of the new phones in stores are in fact running ICS. So for the past few months the general public sees that and expects it from then on.

I actually thought the size of the Galaxy Player was enough to where it could support Honeycomb if they wanted to do that instead.

donunus's picture
I would like to see portable

I would like to see portable players with spdif output again. Thats what we really need! Smile

John Grandberg's picture
Yes please!
That's one thing that I still miss about the iRiver players from back in the day.
13mh13's picture
SPIDF -- old school ;)

SPIDF was and always will be a SQ-compromising factor. Better: USB (Adaptive or ASYNC ?) . Too bad superior I2S never caught on to mainstream mkt.

Some Refs (not sure how accurate or honest they are):
http://thewelltemperedcomputer.com/Intro/SQ/USB_SPDIF.htm
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/USB-v-SPDIF

donunus's picture
USB may be more complicated

USB may be more complicated to implement as digital outs on small devices but sure... If they can do it right then why not. A coax/toslink out would be good enough for me. Being able to connect my portable to a good home DAC will definitely improve the experience.

13mh13's picture
Sony Android Walkman NW-Z1000

If you've got the $, want Android, and are in Japan ...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahq1IbPqA_E

So the "Sony Walkman" is back. How retro ... hope it's more than marketing.

ultrabike's picture
Sansa

I've read good things about the Sansa players (audio only type player). The following two reviews (+ stellar recommendations in Amazon) got me to buy the Clip Zip:

http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/sansa-clip-measured.html
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-12519_7-9968448-49.html

I was using an old Creative Zen player which sounds great, but seems to roll off at the low end. I own the Audeo IEM (like the grey filters detail), and since it is not a bass heavy IEM, the Sansa ruler flat response down to 10 Hz and low distortion seemed to help out bring quality bass to my ears.

The player is obviously extremely portable, supports FLAC, and does a good job at being a player. Remarkable price as well.

branon's picture
Lumigon T2

Just announced today- check it out
http://www.lumigon.com/t2.html