[Exclusive Review] 999 Samsung YP-W3
Do you know the YP-W3?
It's the rarest and most exclusive Samsung DAP ever released, unveiled at CES 2005 in January. It has a nice neo-retro design, like an old pocket watch. And indeed, it can display time with hands! A cool device for rich people.
The different versions
Pictures in that section are not from me. They belong to their respective owners.
The W3 came in a standard edition in June 2005 but also previously in a luxurious Limited Edition studded with diamonds in March 2005. It's "funny" to notice that the standard edition already cost much money and is almost as rare as the diamond edition. That is why this is a very exclusive player, whatever the version.
I had the chance of my collector's lifetime some days ago when I found the diamond version for sale at a very low price.
Then I began to search everywhere on the internet for info about that player to be able to offer you this well-researched review.
The standard edition was sold together with in-ear earphones EP-450, a white leather carrying case, a USB cable, a neck strap, the user manual and the installation CD.
Based on my findings, it only sold in 2 countries, obviously in a few quantities: China and South Korea. Available in 256MB, 512MB (339,000 won = ~$335 or ~€275 at the time) and 1GB (399,000 won = ~$395 or ~€325 at the time) capacities.
This version is also referenced by Samsung Singapore and Netherlands websites but I found no evidence that the W3 actually sold there.
The Limited Edition features 8 natural diamonds - 0.007 carat each - (Certificate of Authenticity included), a scratch-resistant sapphire glass and a more luxurious packaging with more accessories: presentation wooden box, portable case, Louis Quatorze Paris white leather carrying case, belt chain case, EP-1 earphones, wall-charger, 2 different sizes USB cables, cotton tissue, neck strap, belt chain etc etc
Several media also said it is white gold (18 carats) plated but the official Korean website only specified Platinum. So more likely it is only platinum plated.
The EP-1 earphones were Samsung's best at the time, reviewed here in english. Their price was 100,000 Won in Korea, about €80 or $99 at the time.
This version only sold in 3 countries in a very few limited quantities: China (88 units, 8888 yuan = ~$1075 or ~€880 at the time), Hong-Kong (30 units, HK$6,800 = ~$875 or ~€715 at the time), Korea (200 units, 899,000 won = ~$890 or ~€730 at the time) and France (30 units, €999 =~$1220)
It seems that a US release was once planned (referenced by the Samsung US website, english user manual by Samsung Electronics America, spare parts available on samsungparts.com located in the USA) but as far as I know, the W3 actually never sold there.
Thus, if all my sources are correct, barely 350 units of the diamond version were sold worldwide.
The 200 units sold out in less than 3 days in Korea! A store representative commented, "The majority of the purchasers were business men who have purchasing power and who are in their 30's and 40's. Most of them purchased the YP-W3 as a collector's item."
Standard edition vs Diamond edition: http://mp3.zol.com.cn/2005/0324/158689.shtml
All existing variants:
The specs are not particularly impressive:
My diamond YP-W3
Sorry for the poor picture quality. Have a look at the photo reviews above for better pics.
I have known this player for years now and I long hoped to spot it for sale. Of course the probability was very low and I finally thought that would never happen. Indeed, Chinese and Korean people usually live in their own internet world, they don't use the same shopping and auction websites as we do, for exemple no ebay. And it is very difficult for us to buy something on their local websites because of the language barrier and the different ways of payment.
That is why I could only count on French people. But according to a single source dated March 2005, only 30 units have reportedly been reserved for the French market and sold in a few stores at a price of €999.
As regards the second-hand market, I know that the diamond W3 went for sale once on ebay.fr in January 2008 for €200 http://feedback.ebay.fr/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?V...tab=AllFeedback but unfortunately I missed the auction at the time.
It might be that this is only the 2nd time since 2008 that there is such an opportunity to get this player. I am very lucky since the auction title on ebay.fr was "Mp3 Samsung". Typing "YP-W3" or "W3" in the ebay search engine would not have helped at all. I'm also lucky because the "buy it now" price was only €70 (=~$90), which is more than 10 times cheaper than the original price. However the player is not in perfect condition and some original accessories are missing. Indeed, I don't have the wooden box, the EP-1 earphones, the Certificate of Authenticity for diamonds, the neck strap, the belt chain case, the cotton tissue, the user manual and the installation CD. That being said, €70 for the YP-W3, the Louis Quatorze Paris leather carrying case, the portable case, the 2 USB cables as well as the wall charger is still a very very good deal!
My YP-W3 was made in Korea in March 2005 and obviously it did not stay in a showcase like a collector's item during all this time. Actually the previous owner used it as a simple mp3 player, that is why you can see some signs of wear on the pictures. Moreover, the battery is slowly dying. That being said, it is still in a very good condition. The sapphire glass made the job: not a single scratch on the screen. No doubt that even 7 years later, the W3 is still a beautiful device. The 8 small diamonds make it a desirable jewel for women. The first time you hold it in your hand is very surprising: its 68g are not so light, you feel it is heavy, some people like it, others don't. Overall, the build quality is good. Only the hold slider and the black plastic of the 3.5mm output look a bit "cheap".
When you first press the play button, it only displays the analog clock. Actually, you only have the choice between analog and digital type for the clock that displays as screen saver during music playback. This restriction is not really annoying since it is with the analog clock that the W3 looks the most classy. That way it really looks like an old pocket watch with its four-grayscale screen and the blue backlight. Some of the rare reviews at the time blamed it for not featuring a color screen. But a color screen would not have been coherent with the retro concept.
When you press the play button once again, it really starts the MP3 player.
The User Interface has been especially made for this player (while many Samsung DAPs shared a common UI at the time) and indeed the R&D did not really have the choice for that since it is one of the very few players to have a round screen. Well, actually it is a simple square LCD screen with unused edges. However, the (unknown) display resolution is not enough to hide the visible aliasing on the circle or on the clock hands.
The main menu looks rather good with its graphical icons. Unfortunately the screen is not large enough to display text without scrolling.
For the navigation and playback controls there are tactile buttons (play/pause, rec, menu, hold) as well as touch keys (up, down, prev, next) with nice blue backlight. Of course it exists more ergonomic DAPs (the touchpad is not perfect as usual) but I already reviewed worse too. Overall, the navigation is intuitive.
There is no navigation by tags here, only a files and folders browser. Surprisingly the W3 doesn't seem to support playlists.
The now playing screen is quite overloaded but doesn't display so much good information though. This is partly due to the round screen and some useless things like the peak meter. First, the file name is scrolling then come the id3tags. It doesn't really like my id3tags v2.3 since it displays Asian characters instead... The scrolling is very slow (no speed setting) which quickly gets very annoying. The file format is displayed (mp3, wma, ogg) but unfortunately this is not the case for the bitrate. The volume control on right side of the screen is nice.
What about the SQ? If you read carefully so far, you would understand that the very high price doesn't justify a particular and exceptional audio processing. The limited edition doesn't sound better than the standard edition 3 times cheaper which doesn't sound better than the other still cheaper 2005 Samsung flash-players. It just sounds OK, nothing really exciting. Modern players do a better job. No DNSe sound effects here, the W3 still belongs to the SRS-WOW generation. It seems that the firmware is slightly different between the limited edition and the standard edition released later since my W3 doesn't feature a 5-band user EQ contrary to the standard version. But the most annoying thing here is the audible hiss and background noise with sensitive IEM. Unfortunately I don't have the original EP-1 earphones so I can't tell you how they sound.
Contrary to the now playing screen, the FM UI is completely uncluttered. There is only the current frequency and the battery indicator, as well as the preselections if used. The tuner picks up well, nothing to complain about here. Moreover the radio can be recorded, a feature that is unfortunately missing on some recent Samsung DAPs. However, you can't navigate on the device while listening to the FM radio.
Good point, the W3 is full UMS/MSC and the transfer rates are surprisingly good for a 2005 flash-player. Indeed, 258MB of music files have been transferred in 38 seconds, that is to say 6,8MB/s in average. Unfortunately the device has a proprietary USB connector.
The YP-W3, the Sansa Clip Zip and the new Samsung YP-W1.
The YP-W3 is undoubtedly a unique device in the MP3 players history and more specifically in the history of the Korean brand Samsung which probably wanted to prove that it can compete with real luxury brands like B&O and their Beosound series. If the standard version doesn't seem to have sold well, probably because of the too high price, the Limited Edition studded with diamonds sold out incredibly fast despite its exorbitant price. Samsung won the challenge. The W3 is a desirable jewel for any collector. And indeed it should really be considered as an original and exclusive collector's item. Because if you simply consider it as a mp3 player, you may be disappointed by its average performance and specs, which are not worth the price. But who cares? The luxury world is not necessarily rational.
I'm French^^ *GenerationMP3 Samsung Moderator*
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