Getting to know the Yepp
Samsung actually has two YP-90 models available. The YP-90S, which we're looking at today, features 64MB of internal storage. The YP-90S has a big brother, the YP-90H, which doubles the internal storage to 128MB. Apart from the difference in internal storage, the two models are identical. Both run on 32-bit RISC processors clocked at 74MHz, and both support WMA and MP3 (including variable bit rate) playback. Unfortunately, neither model supports Ogg Vorbis compression technology.
In addition to their WMA and MP3 playback capabilities, the YP-90s are also capable of voice recording using a tiny internal microphone. The quality of the recorded audio is adequate for short voice notes and reminders, but the audio is saved as a raw file, without compression. This is actually common for MP3 players capable of voice recording, since few of them feature chips that are capable of WMA or MP3 encoding.
As an added bonus, Samsung also includes an FM tuner on the YP-90s so listeners can indulge in a little Howard Stern or the latest overplayed list of top 40 hits. Since the device's voice recorder runs through an internal microphone, you can't use the voice recording capabilities to record directly from the radio.
The YP-90S is encased in plastic, and although the manual warns against dropping or "pressing" on it, the device feels solid. I wasn't overly rough with the YP-90S during testing, but it did stand up to a bit of mountain biking abuse and the occasional fall from my desk without complaint. Still, I wouldn't mind a more bombproof aluminum case that was designed to withstand more extreme abuse. While I've got my wish list out, I also wouldn't mind seeing the YP-90S in a sealed, waterproof case that could easily withstand direct exposure to Vancouver's persistently rainy weather. If my 10+ year-old Sony Sports Walkman handles the rain, a brand new MP3 player should, too.
In the above picture, the YP-90S looks quite a bit bigger than it actually is. Here's another look at the device to give you some perspective.
The YP-90S should easily fit in the palm of any adult hand. Heck, small children may even be able to cram it into their mouths. At only 36 grams without batteries, the YP-90S is barely noticeable in a pocket. The YP-90S is so small and so light that Samsung even suggests that you can wear it around your neck as a pendant. I'm not sure what the fashion police would have to say about that, but the pendant clip does let you easily attach the YP-90S to a keychain if you're not into wearing it like jewelry.
Because the YP-90S is so small and light, and my hands rather large and clumsy, I had initial reservations about how easy the YP-90S would be to control and use. Thankfully, the YP-90S's main control point, a rocker switch positioned perfectly under where my thumb rests, made using the YP-90S a breeze. The buttons that control recording, playback modes, and volume are small and a little hard to use for my awkward, thick fingers, but the rocker switch controls important playback and menu navigation options.
At first, I didn't expect much in the way of control options with a device this small and simple, but I couldn't have been more wrong. The YP-90S's tree-based menu system is up to three tiers deep, and controls everything from standard playback modes and file management to what kind of information is displayed on the screen, the screen's contrast level, and even how long the backlight is displayed when a button is pressed.
The picture above doesn't really do the backlight justice, but trust me; it's quite effective if you need to read the screen in even total darkness. The backlight comes on automatically, whenever a button is pressed, but Samsung lets you conserve battery power by choosing how long the backlight stays illuminated. The backlight can even be turned off completely to conserve battery life.
In daylight, the YP-90S's screen is easy to read without the backlight, though the three-row display may warrant squinting for those with poor eyesight. For my relatively young eyes, the screen is easy enough to read; being able to see a scrolling track title, elapsed track time, and remaining battery life all at once is great considering that the screen is less than an inch in diameter.