By default, the menu interface is set to ‘Cosmos’, which forces the user to immediately operate the device using finger gestures. This menu system portrays a starry cosmos with icons that allow the user to access the various functions of the device. To navigate the menu, the user needs to swipe up or down to find the option they want – the ‘Cosmos’ whips by in a 3D-like transition, that presents the feeling of ‘flying’ through the menu options. In my opinion, setting this as the default menu system wasn’t a good idea on Samsung’s part. Without any prior knowledge of the touchscreen operation, it’s very difficult for a new user to discover how to move through the menu. When I first used the device, I had severe difficulty getting my finger swipes to register as I intended, instead of accidentally selecting the menu icons. In addition, I was not impressed with the usability of the menu system, so quickly switched it to the much more utilitarian 4×3 matrix of menu icons.
The interface is a very attractive and operates without any performance issues. Transitions between screens are fluid and quick. There is no delay in scrolling or movement between menus. Switching songs is also near-instantaneous. Browsing through photos can slow down a bit if images are skipped through quickly before the buffer can prefetch the next photo.
Photos and Videos
Photos are displayed initially as a grid of thumbnails, which activating will enlarge to full screen. Flipping through the images can be accomplished by horizontal finger swipes or the left and right buttons of the interface. Pressing and holding anywhere on the image will bring up the rest of the menu options, including starting a slideshow or zooming in. Music will continue to play in the background.
Videos play in landscape orientation so you’ll want to turn the device. Like the image viewer, pressing and holding will bring up more options, including a navigation bar that is used to navigate within a clip. Horizontal swipes can also be used for navigation.
A little stand is provided so you can view videos without holding the device. It unfolds and you just prop the player on the stand. It holds quite sturdily.
The most used feature of the player will be music for most and Samsung provides a couple different ways to navigate your music collection. Music can be transferred to the device through drag-and-drop right in Windows Explorer or automatically through a program such as Windows Media Player or Samsung Media Studio. In either case, a library index will be generated, which sorts the music by Artists, Albums or Genre. In addition, Playlists can be created on the device. Finally, there is a Music Browser that displays all the music in a folder view. If you’d prefer to manage how your music is stored on the device, the Music Browser will be very useful for navigating.
Each screen can display up to 8 items, be it artists, album names or songs. In album view, each album is accompanied by a small thumbnail of the album art, if it’s available.
The Now Playing music interface is divided into three parts. At the top, the name of the song is displayed and below that is an area that displays your choice of album art, album information, or visualizations. Finally, the navigation buttons are at the bottom, which includes previous, play/pause, and next buttons. The progress bar can be used to access specific parts of the song that is currently playing. Horizontal swipes across the album art area also navigates according to a user setting, which can be anything from skip 5 seconds to an entire file. A vertical swipe along the right-hand side of the album art area adjusts the volume.
There’s not a whole lot outside of icons and fonts separating the user interfaces of most MP3 players today (although the iPod Touch’s implementation of Cover Flow is extremely slick), so Samsung can’t be faulted for what they’ve done, but also can’t be praised for pushing any boundaries. The touchscreen interface does make interacting with the device a bit more natural, but the obvious competitor, the iPod Touch is still a bit out of its user-interface reach.