The minimalist Samsung YP-S2 (Pebble) audio player is a fun, inexpensive alternative to the Apple iPod shuffle.
But be prepared to spend some time with its manual: the absence of a screen makes navigating the Samsung YP-S2's many features tricky.
In shape, the Samsung YP-S2 resembles a polished stone, which explains its Pebble nickname. It is available in five jewel-like colours: black, white, red, green and purple.
The Samsung YP-S2's ultracompact design (it measures just 17x41x17mm and weighs 17g), allows you to fit it in your pocket or hang it like a pendant from the included earphones. We can't see the latter style appealing to older (particularly male) audiences, but it is clever.
Our thumb fit comfortably in the concave back of the Samsung YP-S2, where the S2's tactile controls are located. You get standard Play/Pause, Volume, Back, and Forward buttons, plus a smart key for the Pebble's advanced features (such as playlist creation). These advanced features aren't available on competing players like the iPod shuffle, but using them without the benefit of a screen is a challenge.
To meet it, you'll need to spend some time with the Samsung YP-S2's manual. You can use the Pebble's smart key to choose a sound effect (Normal, Studio, or Concert Hall), set a play mode (Standard, Random, or Repeat), create an on-the-go playlist, or delete songs from the player.
Invoking each feature involves press a different combination of keys; an LED inside the Samsung YP-S2 flashes a particular colour for each one. For example, to create a playlist, you press and hold the smart key until the LED flashes blue during music playback. Then you hold down the up volume key to add the song. The combination of keys and colours is a hassle to memorise, but the playlist feature is handy and unique for a screenless player.
The Samsung YP-S2 functions like a thumb drive: you plug it into your PC via the bundled USB cord, and then drag-and-drop files using either the included Media Studio software or Windows Explorer. The Media Studio app is offers very little in the way of playback and media organisation features.
In our lab tests, the Samsung YP-S2's signal-to-noise ratio averaged 63 dB (the higher the score, the cleaner the sound). Although this score is significantly lower than the ones registered by most MP3 players we've tested, we found the Samsung YP-S2 quite listenable during hands-on testing. And when we replaced the included earphones with a higher-quality third-party pair, sound improved substantially.
Despite lacking a screen, the Samsung YP-S2 Pebble manages to gather an impressive array of advanced features into a minimalist design. And if you'd rather wear your MP3 player as a necklace than as a clip, the S2 gives you a chic way to do it.