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Samsung Music Players, with Style

Have you noticed Samsung lately? It has expanded from its core technologies including memory and displays into a major presence in the computer and consumer electronics businesses, including mobile phones, televisions, media players, cameras and camcorders, computers and peripherals, and even home appliances.

So it's not too surprising to see the very different design approach that Samsung is bringing to its line of portable media players -- with strong colors and elegant interfaces. (Oddly, Samsung does not apply the same style to naming these products -- they all have single-letter names with an associated model number (U3, K3, T10, P2) that just are not catchy.)

For example, the Samsung YP-U3 is a stick music player with 2 GB for under $89. It's available in some uncommon pastel-ish colors, white, black, blue, green, and pink.

The U3 is small and light at 3.44 x 0.96 x 0.5 inches, 0.8 ounces, and includes a voice recorder and FM tuner. The bottom end has a built-in slide-out USB connector, so you don't need a separate or special cable to connect to a computer or recharge.

The U3 is designed with no exposed buttons for the playback controls -- you just press on the smooth surface of the front of the player where the controls are marked. The end cap flashes to acknowledge button presses, and to show the player is still active even after it dims the display.

As you use the controls, the 4-line blue OLED has enough room to navigate the menus and display song names and playback status. The main menu has a nice animation as you switch modes -- the icons for Music, FM Radio, Voice Record, Settings, and Now Playing are made with blue dots, which morph from one shape to the next.

The Samsung YP-K3 has a similar design sense, as a slim and elegant player with 2 GB for $119, and 4 GB for under $169. The player is framed in silver around the edges, with the rich colors on front and back: black, red, and green.

The K3 has a 1.8" color OLED display, and measures 3.78 x 1.73 x 0.27 inches, 0.76 ounces. It plays music and photos (including slideshows), has an FM radio, but no mic for voice recording.

The K3 has only one exposed button -- power/hold on the side. The playback and navigation controls appear when the smooth touch pad on the bottom face lights up. The interface has a similar animated feel to the U3, with more detail and subtle animation. The frequency display for the FM radio is particularly elegant, with a subtle drop shadow under the numbers.

And these are just the beginning -- Samsung is now releasing the T10, like the K3 but upgraded to add video playback (and available in purple!), and the P2, upgraded to a 3 inch widescreen display, which is also a touch-screen interface with finger gestures.

- See the Portable Media Players Gallery for details and comparisons.

    Find the Samsung YP-U3 and Samsung YP-K3 on Amazon.com

More on Samsung below ...

To show the scope of Samsung's business, as reported in its 2006 annual report (for the 2005 year):

- In semiconductors, Samsung is the world’s largest producer of DRAMs, SRAMs, and flash memory.

- In telecommunications, Samsung is the world’s largest manufacturer of CDMA handsets and the third largest mobile phone manufacturer.

- In displays, Samsung is world’s largest producer of largescreen LCD panels, with 20% market share.

- In digital media, has the largest global market share in monitors and televisions.

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