Samsung's front-panel layout is clean and intuitive, consisting of a 1.5-inch 65,000-color LCD; buttons for forward, reverse, and play/pause; and a large four-way menu/select/up/down key that makes it easy to navigate the YH-820MC's menu system and to adjust volume levels. An easy-to-reach record button on the side does double duty as an A/B-repeat control. The top of the player provides a microphone, line-in and headphone jacks, and a hold switch. A USB/power connector is at the opposite end. All controls are ergonomically positioned to fall beneath your fingers, and during our hands-on evaluation, we rarely fumbled to find a button.
Samsung's icon and graphic-intensive menu system is elegant and contains only four top-level entries: Now Playing, Library (for choosing audio files and playlists), Photo, and Settings. The Now Playing screen is busy in a nostalgic, four-bit, Commodore 64 way with scrolling track info, as well as colorful and oversize fonts. If you've ever used another personal music player, you'll have no trouble learning to operate this one, regardless of whether you crack open the manual, though it's odd that the battery-remaining indicator shows up on only the Now Playing screen. In addition to software, earbuds, a belt clip, and an audio cable, the YH-820MC includes a dual-purpose charger/USB cable that lets you simultaneously connect the player to an AC outlet and your PC. Don't lose track of this cable; it's proprietary and critical for recharging and transferring tracks to the YH-820MC.The Samsung YEPP YH-820MC lacks some of the functionality that makes iPods so easy to use--such as Apple's touch-sensitive Click Wheel controller--but it compensates with a long list of other useful features. If you've been disappointed by the low-fi voice-recording quality offered by many players, you'll be pleased with the YH-820MC's ability to capture dictation at 32Kbps or 44Kbps sampling rates. It can also record the output of a CD player, a radio, a PC, or another analog audio source through its line-in jack. Recordings are always stored in MP3 format, and you can choose bit rates from 96Kbps through 160Kbps.
Other notable features include a five-preset equalizer, SRS TruBass low-frequency enhancement, and SRS Wow spatialization, which broadens the soundstage of your audio, giving the impression that it's being produced by a physically larger source. You can also create an on-the-fly playlist and view JPEG images individually or in slide shows while you're listening to music. These are certainly features that the iRiver H10 (now available in 1GB, 5GB, 6GB, and 20GB capacities) can match. In fact, the iRiver does everything the YH-820MC does and also comes with an FM tuner and a removable battery, while line-in MP3 encoding with the H10 is possible with an optional dock.