WHILE most smartphones perform adequately as digital music players, specialist mobile media players such as Apple's iPod Touch, the Z Series of Sony Walkmans or Samsung Galaxy Players are easier to use and produce better sound - especially when paired with the latest Bluetooth speakers.
- SAMSUNG GALAXY PLAYER 4.2 (four stars)
Samsung's latest Wi-Fi-connected Android media player looks almost identical to its Galaxy smartphones. The lowest-priced version of the Galaxy Player 4.2 comes with enough built-in storage (8GB) for about 1750 MP3 songs and - unlike most of its rivals - this is expandable using a microSD memory card slot.
Recently launched in the US and the UK, it costs $200 - about the same as a similarly configured iPod Touch.
Despite a relatively big screen (the diagonal is 4,2 inches, hence the name), the Galaxy Player is thin and light. The screen is bright and clear; good enough for watching video, but not HD quality. It also features front and rear-facing cameras.
Because it runs the Gingerbread version of Google's Android operating system, users can download any app from the Google Play marketplace. It also comes loaded with a suite of Google apps plus Samsung's Smart View software, which turns the Galaxy Player into a Samsung TV remote control.
You can also play content stored on the Player wirelessly on any devices that are digital living network alliance (DLNA) compliant.
The easiest way to load music on to an iPod Touch is to sync it with iTunes on a PC. In the case of the Galaxy Player, which supports a huge range of music and video file formats, the easiest way is either to plug it into a PC using a USB cable and drag-and-drop music files directly on to the Player, or to load the micro-USB card. Users can also listen to FM radio using the earbuds as the antenna.
Although the Player lacks the range of options for adjusting audio quality to match the type of music that you would enjoy on the Sony Walkman Z Series, the sound is strong and clear. Unlike most rivals, the Galaxy Player also has dual front-facing speakers.
Overall, the Galaxy Player 4.2 is a good performer that will appeal particularly to Android fans.
- SAMSUNG DA-E750 BLUETOOTH WIRELESS SPEAKER (five stars)
While the Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 does have small external speakers, it is - like most mobile media players - designed for an individual to use. If you want to share your musical experience, you really need a big, amplified external speaker. Samsung's DA-E750 is just such a beast.
This amplified speaker system, which launched in the US and Europe this week, uses retro-style vacuum tubes - visible through a window in its polished wood casing - to deliver 100 watts of beautiful, rich sound from any Bluetooth-enabled device.
In addition to Bluetooth wireless, the Samsung DA-E750 supports Samsung's AllShare wireless content-sharing service and Apple's Airplay for iOS devices. There is also a dedicated docking connector for the iPhone or iPad that pops out of the back and a micro-USB version for other devices.
Unfortunately, these high-end specs, classy design and quality sound come with a hefty price tag of $700.
- JAWBONE BIG JAMBOX (three stars)
I am a longtime fan of Jawbone's JamBox - a Bluetooth speaker system packed into a small dimpled rectangular case that fits into a large pocket, even if it is a bit heavy.
Jawbone's Big JamBox won't fit in a pocket as it is a bigger, more powerful version that turns any phone, tablet or mobile device into a portable hi-fi sound system. Already available in the US and launching in Europe this month, it delivers clear, full audio even at high volumes for up to 15 hours using its rechargeable built-in battery. It costs $300, weighs 1,23kg and is a great way to share music.
ASK THE TECH EXPERT
THE PROBLEM: What is the best way to get films from the web on to a TV?
THE ANSWER: If you subscribe to an online streaming film service such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, you can use a special set-top box such as a Roku player, Apple TV or games console, like an Xbox 360, that supports the service. If you have a network-connected TV, download movies to a PC and stream them over a home network to the TV. Otherwise, you can still send downloaded movies from a PC or laptop screen to a TV using "video extender" devices such as the Veebeam HD or the Asus WiCast.
© 2012 The Financial Times Limited