While I don’t write many reviews because I have a tendency to be subjective about it, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a first nor does it mean I don’t know what I’m talking about. After two years, I finally got my hands on a new mp3 player to replace my ageing (and slightly wonky) Creative Zen Micro. Now it’s not like I have a lot of money pouring out from my ears, so I did have a thorough research on the matter which is important following the review. After all that’s said and done, I purchased myself a Sandisk Sansa e280. After one week this is what I came up with.
The first thing you’re going to notice about the Sansa e200 series is the similarity it has to the iPod Nano. This is true because it was designed to compete directly against Apple’s Nano, but that’s where the similarity stops. The Sansa is slightly bigger and heavier than the iPod Nano, not like that matters because it’s still going to be ridiculously small and light to begin with.
Yet despite that, it struck me as something you can throw at someone’s face, kill them, then pick it up and keep listening to your music. It doesn’t feel cheap. It feels solid with its metal underside. Even though it did say it’s scratch resistant. Somehow, I managed to get a couple of micro scratches on the front. Barely noticeable against the light, but since it’s my baby, it looks like the Grand Canyon to me. Also, the front of the Sansa is like a fingerprint magnet. Being anal as I am, I have to constantly wipe it to keep it clean. You might be better off buying a casing for it, which I did.
The Sansa has a bigger screen compared to the Nano, sporting a decent resolution colour screen. Mind you though, you’re not going to get mind blowing effects from the screen, but when you take into account the fact that it’s still an 8 gigabyte capacity mp3 player, that’s a pretty good deal coming from something so small.
The interface is beautiful. It’s simple and direct to the point. Navigating it however can be tricky. because compared the the Nano, the Sansa e200 has a mechanical scroll wheel. If you have big hands like me, the wheel can be a little hard to reach. Also the wheel is only slightly raised from the buttons and clicking them needs a little getting used to. But given the ease of the interface, you don’t really have to click on many buttons in the first place.
Trying out the player’s video and picture display capabilities, It was as I expect from it. The catch is that you can’t just drag and drop your pictures and video files into the player and expect it to play. You have to first convert it via the provided software before you can play it on the e280. Converting pictures is a snap, it’s converting videos that might turn out to be a pain. Because the conversion is processor dependant, it might take anywhere from half an hour to an hour to convert a 700 megabyte video.
What surprised me is that after conversion, the video file (which has been converted into .mov format) is actually bigger and has been split into multiple files. Why is a smaller re-sized video bigger than the original? I have no idea why. But if that puts you off, consider that it supports AVI, MOV, MPEG-4, WMV, ASF, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, VOB. That’s a lot of video support, but that isn’t why you might consider the Sansa as something to buy in the first place.
Music, that’s what we’re here for. I own the 8 gigabyte Sansa e280 which means that’s a whopping 2000 over mp3’s given that it’s at an average 4mb per mp3. Unfortunately while the Sansa supports WMA and OGG formats, it doesn’t support AAC which means you might have to convert it to MP3 if you have it. But don’t worry, a lot of software out there can do that for you without fuss.
If you need more songs, don’t worry about that. It’s got a MicroSD slot for you to use and given the current technology, you can add another 2 gigabytes worth of storage space with a MicroSD card. 10 gigabytes worth of songs. Not bad for a player that’s cheaper than an iPod Nano.
Sound quality is pretty much top notch even if Sandisk isn’t known for their musical capabilities. Mind you, I own a pair of Shure earphones so that pretty much picks up any discrepancies in the music. So far, it’s perfect as far as it goes, that is until the music ends and there is this soft mechanical whirring as you change track. Not noticeable when you’re on the road, but like I said, I’ve got good earphones so you might not even notice it.
Now the Sansa’s party piece and the one thing that gave me a reason to choose it. You require no proprietary software to upload your songs into this player. It is a true drag and drop player where you can upload your songs on the go. Which means you can be at any PC or Mac and just put your songs into this baby just like that. Considering iPods have their iTunes and Creative has its MediaSource. Having this much freedom is a blessing.
The only catch is that you can’t create custom playlist.. By default you can add songs in the player to the “Go” list which acts as a playlist with a push of a button. To create more than one playlist, you need softwares for that. Now since the Sansa was designed to compete against the iPod, it syncs nicely with Microsoft’s Media Player where you can create playlists from there. Not being a fan of the Microsoft Media Player, I opted for using Winamp to upload and sort my music. It’s that easy and the point is, it’s also that flexible. You have a choice and that makes a lot of difference for people like me.
While it doesn’t come with a proprietary software, what it does come with is a proprietary dock and data cable. For some reason, it doesn’t come with it’s own AC charger which means you have to plug it into your PC everytime you recharge. Not that you’re going to recharge often with it’s 20 hour battery life anyway. The reason for the proprietary dock is that Sansa plans third party companies build accessories for it which it more than I can say for Creative’s way of handling things. While there are quite a few companies that have designed accessories around the Sansa, it still can’t rival that off iPod’s marketing share. Then again, the iPod has been around for years, so I don’t blame the lack of accessories just yet. All I did was buy a charger that can fit into the USB cable for when I’m travelling, but it would have been nice if they included it in the box as well.
It also has a voice recorder which you can activate with a push of a button at the side. Perfect for those voice memo’s or lectures you want to save. Though it saves the recording in WAV format rather than my preferred MP3, but that’s no big deal. It has an inbuilt FM radio which you can record from as well, though I hear the sound quality isn’t as good when you record straight from the radio. I have no need to test because I don’t use that function for that so I didn’t.
Last but not least, you can modify it if you’re willing to risk voiding the warranty. Though I said the interface it beautiful, that doesn’t mean that there are prettier user interfaces out there. To date and it has only been a week. I have managed to change the user interface theme for the player into something a little sweeter. You can do more than that if you know how to. There are just heaps of tutorials out there on mods for the Sansa. It’s a personal preference though, but I do like to tinker with things, which makes this player worth buying.
I could talk all day about the Sansa but I fear I might just bore you to death about it, so that’s it right here. All that for a very cheap price. I bought mine off eBay for about $375 AUD and you can find the smaller capacity versions for a lot less than that. It’s a good decent player to buy and something worth keeping an eye out especially if you don’t want to be the caught in the fad driven iPod world. It’s value for money for what it has and while it does exactly everything you need to out of the box, it can do so much more.
It’s a true iPod killer. That’s my vote on it.