Mobile : Q2 MP3 Player

THE GOOD: The Samsung Q2 is incredibly inexpensive and offers solid sound quality, a nice screen, and a decent array of features, such as an FM tuner, voice recording, and games.

THE BAD: The Samsung Q2 has a cheap, plastic design that's generic looking. There's no dedicated volume, and the touch-pad interface is not ideal for all users. The battery life for audio is appalling.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung Q2 offers excellent bang for your buck thanks to its rock-bottom pricing, plentiful features, lovely screen, and solid sound quality.

The MP3 player market has done nothing but benefit from the decline in flash memory prices. One of many examples can be found in the Samsung Q2, a plain-looking device that comes in 8GB and 16GB versions for just $99.99 and $129.99, respectively. The Q2 is priced well below its competitors–particularly the 16GB version–and it delivers an excellent value, thanks to good sound quality and a nice array of handy features. However, we're not taken with the player's design.

On first glance, the Samsung Q2 appears pretty sleek, but up close, the plastic design leaves a little to be desired. The light-up touch-pad controls on the face and chrome-like border wrapping around the edges do add hints of style, but overall, the unit has a rather generic look that doesn't seem particularly innovative at this stage in the game. Of course, it's a budget player, so we can't expect the Q2 to have the slick, weighty feel of the P3. It's certainly a reasonably compact player, measuring 3.9 inches by 1.9 inches by 0.4 inch, and the display is relatively large at 2.4-inches diagonal.

The screen–a QVGA number with 320×240-pixel resolution–offers excellent clarity and color saturation. Also, the icon-driven interface is exceptionally easy to navigate, although we found ourselves drawn to touch the screen in an attempt to control the unit, which is not an option. Also, the touch pad may not appeal to some and makes blind navigation impossible–especially since there isn't even a dedicated volume rocker. The only tactile buttons are on the right side (a power/hold key and record button).

Although its construction strikes us as fairly cheap, the Samsung Q2 does pack in an impressive amount of features for the price. You can connect the player to either a Mac (UMS) or Windows (MTP) operating system, and choose between jukebox or drag-and-drop transfer modes. To that end, the device also offers a folder navigation option onboard, in case you prefer that style of browsing for content. Music (MP3, Flac, OGG, WMA) is also organized into the artist, album, and playlist step-down structure. In addition to that media, the Q2 also supports MPEG4 and WMV video as well as JPEG photos. If you get sick of your own content, you can flip on the FM tuner, which includes rudimentary RBDS capability, autoscanning, preset modes, and a recording function. There's even a built-in mic for making voice recordings, and the player accepts text files and datacasts. You may also create one on-the-fly playlist on the device itself.

Hands-on testing proved that the Samsung Q2 is a solid performer across the board, although audio is not as stellar as that offered by the P3. However, you get a plethora of sound enhancement options as well as a five-band user EQ, so most listeners should be able to fine tune things to their liking. In general, music sounded clear and warm, with reasonable, but not thumping, bass response. Although we could hear plenty of high-end detail, it was not as sparkling as that offered by the Q2's touch-screen cousin. Also, the battery life for audio is dismal: CNET Labs clocked it at just 6.9 hours. Video, on the other hand, fared OK, clocking in at 4 hours. But we still have no issues recommending this player as a solid budget option.

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