Although only 0.5″ larger than the 5G iPod’s display, the widescreen form factor makes it much more natural to watch videos on. The 480×272 pixel resolution makes for a very clear image – it’s the same resolution as the 4.3″ display of the Sony PSP. Colors are vivid and pictures look great on the screen. By default, the display is set to half brightness, which is not all that bright. Even when set to max, it may present some viewability problems outdoors in the sun.
While the form factor may lend itself to videos quite well, the display’s response time is quite poor. There are traces of streaking and ghosting even in menu and screen transitions. The problem is visible in certain cases when a video shows people talking. The motion of their mouths can causing blurring, which is truly sad. It’s tolerable, but hardly something expected for a device that’s advertised as a “compact movie-theatre” by Samsung. Viewing angles are also relatively poor, which means if two people are watching a video, you may have to sacrifice a bit of quality.
Don’t get me wrong, short of some videos, the refresh rate and viewing angles are a non-issue. It’s just that the 3″ display begs to have videos played on it, and when you do, you may be a bit disappointed.
As is common with many full-sized MP3 players today, music, video and photos aren’t the only functions built in. The Samsung P2 has a few other features, of which I’ll touch on the FM radio, Samsung’s Prime Pack, and something called ‘Datacasts’.
The most useful of the secondary features is probably the FM tuner. When you’re bored of the music on your player (or god forbid you run out of things to listen to in 8GB of memory) you can hop over onto the FM channels. The player uses the headphone wire as an antenna and sensitivity was quite good. In my area, the full 30 presets were auto-filled at around the 103MHz frequency. A few of the presets were full of static, but 20-25 were of very good to excellent quality. Unfortunately, as of the 1.16 firmware, there is no FM record function. A newer 2.08 firmware is available, but more on that in the next section.
Samsung’s Prime Pack includes features such as a text viewer, a calendar, world clock and alarm. In the text viewer, pressing and holding anywhere on the text will switch to full screen view, where swiping left and right is just like turning a page in a ‘book’. There’s even a page-turn animation to accompany it. Text is rendered very well and there’s no problem with reading even lengthier works. The only supported format is *.txt. The included calendar is quite basic – there’s no support for events or appointments. It’s literally just a graphical calendar for seeing what date the next Wednesday falls on and so forth. The alarm can be set to play a preset sound or you can add songs to the list of available tunes to awake to. The world clock is pretty self explanatory.
Finally, there are ‘Datacasts’, which are essentially RSS feeds, synchronized through Samsung Media Studio. I’m not convinced of the useful of the feature. You have to manually synchronize it using a cable. If it worked through Bluetooth, it may be more useful to have it automatically synchronize every morning at a specific time.
Blue Wave Firmware Updates
Samsung has promised extensive firmware support for the P2, by providing both fixes as well as feature additions through at least 3 sets of firmware updates, named ‘Blue Wave’. The updates are supposed to bring improvements in the touch screen interface as well as unlock features that were announced, but were not included at launch, such as the ability to answer calls on the device, by pairing with a Bluetooth enabled cell phone.
The first in the set of Blue Wave updates was launched in late December of last year with firmware version 2.08, but I have not had a chance to test it. However, I will update you all when I do have a chance to test it thoroughly.
Unfortunately, this review was actually written using my second Samsung P2. The first player was extremely problematic and was exchanged with a new unit at Future Shop. The first sign of trouble was when the device turned on to a corrupted display image. I couldn’t see anything properly, the screen was filled with random patterns of color. I cycled the power and when it restarted, everything seemed okay. However, a couple days later, the player’s user interface froze completely. The music was still playing, but it was non-responsive to any kind of input. I tried shutting the player down, but even the hardware buttons did nothing. Only using reset button on the back of the device solved the problem. These issues were noted with the latest firmware at the time, 1.20.
Thus far, the new device hasn’t acted strange in any way. Hopefully the trouble I had with the first device was an isolated occurrence.