Gaming, Web, Email and Multimedia
Like Android smartphones, the Galaxy Players come with the full suite of Google Android apps including the web browser, email, gmail, YouTube, Google Play Music, Google Play Store (formerly Andoid Market), Maps and Google Books. Samsung includes their custom music and video players and the pair can handle video up to 720p resolution in MPEG4 and DIVX formats. They run Android OS 2.3 with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface and come with Quickoffice for viewing MS Office documents. You can upgrade the Office suite if you wish to edit and create Office documents. The Players can handle Gmail, Pop3 and IMAP email and you can download Adobe Flash Player for Flash video playback. Given the slow (by today's standards) CPU, Flash Player controls are balky, though video streaming itself works fine with a decent WiFi connection.
Despite the very rapid upgrade of Android device CPUs over the past two years, most games are still optimized to work well on single core 1GHz CPUs like that of the Galaxy Players. The Galaxy Player 4.2 comes with with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, which played perfectly well, as did FIFA 2012 and Angry Birds. Unless you're a serious 3D gamer looking to play the latest TegraZone titles, these media players should tide you over for your basic gaming fix. If you do want to play cutting edge 3D games, you'll have to look to Android smartphones for better CPUs or consider the iPod Touch.
Video playback was smooth on both devices up to 720p (1080p video gives an incompatibility error), and sound through headphones is pleasing with good bass, clear trebles and a good sense of separation. Samsung's sound through the headphone jack has always impressed me and it's richer than the iPhone and iPod Touch.
The Galaxy Player 4.2 looks like a miniature Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, with two tiny stereo speakers flanking the display. The separation and front-facing position make for improved sound, though quality is still thin and volume is similar to that of a smartphone. The Galaxy Player's single speaker fires from the rear but it actually sounds almost as good as the 4.2. Honestly I wouldn't use the built in speakers for serious music listening on either device, they sound too tinny.
WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS
The Players have single band WiFi 802.11b/g/n that worked reliably in our tests with good range. They have Bluetooth 3.0 and support common profiles like A2DP stereo and HID. Both can function as pocket GPS devices and they come with the usual Google Maps and Navigation. You can install third party navigation applications as well, but remember you'll need to download map data to the device or a microSD card to use them in the car unless you have a portable WiFi hotspot or use your smartphone's Hotspot feature to provide a wireless connection for the Player (if you already own a smartphone, chances are you're not in the market for a media player!).
The market for portable media players is shrinking in the US, but for those of you with kids or feature phones, they still make sense. The Samsung Galaxy Players give you all the joy of an Android smartphone minus the cellular radio and monthly data charges. Though these lack the gaming horsepower of the latest iPod Touch, they do offer Adobe Flash Player and Android's openness and customization. Personally, I'd splurge for the Galaxy Player 5.0 or Galaxy Player 4.2 if you're buying this for yourself or a teen. I'd stay away from the Galaxy Player 3.6 due to its poor display quality.
Price: $149 for Galaxy Player 3.6, $199 for Galaxy Player 4.2
Above and below: Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6