The Samsung YP-S3 is a small, slick, touch-sensitive portable audio/video media player priced at $100. SPCR’s first Short Take article.

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March 31, 2009

Portable MP3 players have been around for a little over a decade, and they are so ubiquitous today that it’s difficult to find anyone, young or old, who doesn’t own at least one. Preceded decades ago by the likes of the Sony Walkman cassette players, the digital media player has become a hugely important niche in consumer electronics. The highly successful iPod, first released in 2001, was probably the most important milestone for Apple in the past decade, signifying its entrance into consumer electronics and triggering a major increase in brand value and profitability. The iPod line dominates this market, but the number of choices is staggering; almost every consumer electronics brand and many computer brands offer media players in various price and feature configurations.

Giant corporation Samsung is one of the many Korean companies in the market, with several lines of media players models on offer. The S3 is not the smallest, but probably the smallest one that features video playback capability with a 1.8″ 176 x 220 LCD screen. It’s not dissimilar in size and shape to an Apple iPod Nano, which is also similar in features, but with a 2″ higher resolution 320 x 240 display. The market price of the Nano is some $30~60 higher, which helps give the YP-S3 a competitive edge.

The black YP-S3 with both display and touch sensitive controls lit up while playing a music MP3. It could be a bit too small for comfort with a large hand and fingers.


If the control area is not touched for more than about 10 seconds, the control display blanks out. Leave it another 10 seconds, and the LCD blanks out, leaving an almost monolithic black glossy facade. The screen area stays visible as a grey rectangle. It’s also available in White, Red,Green, and Blue.

The included earbuds are typical, not comfortable for long-term use, but they sound decent and are OK for short sessions. Also included in the small retail package are a data/power USB cable, a mini-CD disc of software and PDF manual, and minimal paper documentation.

The S3 is similar to an earlier Samsung model, the YP-K3. It has a touch sensitive 7-button navigation menu, with a display that changes in response to the menu commands. The top menu choices are Music, Videos, Pictures, FM radio, Datacasts, Prime Pack, File browser, and Settings. Like other MP3 players, you drill down into the menu to find specific titles or files. Datacasts accesses podcasts and audiobooks and the Prime Pack section has games, a clock, alarms, and explanations of player functions. Settings allows you to change the menu style, set the audio EQ, and adjust the display sleep timer and screen saver, and other options. The menu system does not match the intuitive standard-setting wheel menu of the iPods, but it is easy enough to use after a short period of acclimatization. There is sometimes an annoying delay in response after a button press, perhaps a half-second or so, which can slow navigation. The menu controls can be easily locked down to avoid unneccessary interruptions, useful given the nature of any touch sensitive control pad.

The music files on the player can be accessed by artist, album, song, genre, playlists, recorded files (from FM radio), or music browser (all files listed alpha-numerically). There are shuffle and linear play modes as well. Supported media files are MP3, WMA (including Lossless) and OGG — not vast, but good enough considering the many audio file conversion utilities that abound. Naturally, iPod-specific audio files are not supported. The sound quality through the supplied earbuds is decent with enough clarity and bass to be listenable, but it improves tremendously through better headsets we had on hand, like Shure SE-210 earphones, Bose QuietComfort 3 or Grado SR60i headphones. With the better headphones, the sound quality is very good, on par with any iPod, and EQ can be tweaked to suit your personal taste.

The still photo viewer worked as well as could be expected on a 1.8″ LCD screen, as did the video function. The video files have to be uploaded via the Samsung Emodio software after conversion to SVI format. It’s difficult to imagine many users watching anything except short clips on this tiny screen, no manner how nice it looks, but judging by the absorption of some gadget-tethered commuters on big city subways and buses, there are always exceptions.

The Emodio software manages media files on the supporting computer and synchronizes it with the YP-S3. It also makes firmware updates to the player, a process achieved by downloading the update file from Samsung, then uploading it to the root directory of the player, which is updated when unplugged from the PC and powered up.

The FM radio is easy to operate, with multiple tuning options, including presets. Recording FM is also simple, and the recording quality can be set by the level of compression. Overall FM sound quality is very good, dependent much more on the stations and source material than the player, though reception quality can vary when you’re moving about, as with any radio.

Playback time with a full charge battery is specified as 50 hrs on music and 8 hours on vide, but these numbers seem exaggerated. No formal tests were conducted, but it’s doubtful that more than half the music playback time was achieved during several weeks of trial usage.

In conclusion, the Samsung YP-S3 is a slick and functional media player that offers good performance and lots of useful features for a hundred bucks. It’s not the epitome of user friendliness, nor the most versatile (limited file type support, no live audio recorder function), but for the casual use this product is likely to see, it’s an attractive, price-competitive balance.

Much thanks to Samsung Canada for the YP-S3 sample.

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Samsung YP-S3JCB/XAC Specifications (from the product web page)

General Type Physical Features Time Packaging
Product Type Flash Memory MP3 Player
Storage Type Flash Memory
Memory Capacity 8 GB
Display Screen Size 1.8″
Display Type TFT LCD
Display Resolution QCIF (176 x 220)
Embedded Speaker No
Embedded Mic. No
SD MMC Expansion Slot No
Available Color White, Black, Red, Green, Blue
FM Radio Yes
Picture Viewer Yes
Text Viewer Yes
Line-In Recording No
Voice Recording No
Video Viewer Yes
Game Mode Yes
Bluetooth No
Podcasting Yes
Battery Playback Time (Audio) 50 Hours
Battery Playback Time (Video) 8 Hours
Music Storage Capacity(
128kbps MP3)
Up to 2,000 songs
Dimensions W x H x D 1.73″ x 3.74 x 0.39″
Weight 1.76 oz.

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Functional Features Format Recording Additional Features
File Format Supported MP3, WMA, MPEG4(SVI), Ogg (UMS only), JPEG, TXT
FM Recording Yes
Voice Recording No
Adjustable Play Speed Yes
Alarm Yes
Album Art Yes
Wallpaper Yes
Clock Yes

System Connectivity File Management Sound Effect Custom
OS Compatibility XP, Vista (+2000, ME: UMS)
USB Connection(MTP/UMS) UMS, J(MTP)
USB Host No
Mobile Playlist(Favorite) Yes
Library( Artist, Album,Genre,Title DB sorting) Yes
File Navigation Yes
User EQ Yes
Multi-language Yes

Compared to a 2-yr old 80gb classic iPod, the Samsung YP-S3 is barely half the size and less than half the weight.