Would you like an iPod? Or, an iPod? These days, it feels like alternative choices for comparable MP3 players are slim. However, that’s changing as the father company of memory cards, SanDisk, has reved up its Sansa e200 series of music players to become some real competition for those holy iPod Nanos this holiday season. Released earlier this month is their Sansa e280 which they claimed to be the world’s first 8GB flash memory MP3 player when they announced it in August right before Apple announced their Nano in September. The e280 can actually hold up to 10GB because of its microSD expansion slot, thus making it the largest capacity flash-based MP3 player currently on the market.
Although the Sansa e280 has an MSRP of $249.99, SanDisk is letting retailers give discounts making it $20-$30 less than the 8GB iPod Nano. For less than the Nano, you get much more in features with the e280. It has a larger screen of 1.8-inches diagonal, bright and crisp for photo viewing and video playback, FM radio and recorder, voice recorder, customizable EQ, microSD expansion slot for up to 2GB additional memory, and a user replaceable and rechargeable Lithium Ion battery.
The body is similar to the Nano in design, but twice the thickness, which is not a bad thing. The thickness might be due to the user replaceable battery on the back. It has a strong metal alloy backing which feels more rugged and less prone to scratch than the Nanos. I also like how it has more weight and surface area to hold on to, as I'm clumsy with tiny objects.
It took about 12 seconds to boot after powering it up. The user interface has big graphic icons, rotate them around with the glowing blue wheel/dial for easy navigation. The FM Radio function worked well and seemed to get a clear signal even while I jogged around with it. And the ability to record radio was even better. It was easy to preset stations, but a little difficult to scan through the stations as there was no seek function. Music quality was great, except that the bass could be improved. After adjusting the EQ, it was better and vocals were quite clear. Voice recording was also very clear. Video and photos were crisp, and the adjustable brightness of the screen makes for easy viewing anytime of the day.
It is, of course, not Mac-compatible, and users must obtain music from sources other than iTunes, such as RealNetwork's Rapsody music service, among others.
The Sansa Media Converter software was pretty simple to use. All media has to be converted to be transfered onto the player. It took about 15 seconds to convert a 28.9MB AVI video clip and 1 second to convert a 1.71MB JPEG file. I'm not sure whether to judge that as slow or fast nowadays, but it didnt feel sluggish to me. However, I do wish there were less cables involved. The headset, the lanyard, and the USB were starting to all turn into spaghetti. I keep hearing the faint echo of "Bluetooth."
Overall, I think its definitely a good alternative to the iPod. For a stronger build and more features than the iPod Nano, you can get the Sansa e280 at a decently lower price. The only problem I see is that it needs a better integrated system for obtaining and sharing music. And yes, it needs Bluetooth, as do all devices these days.
The following is my unboxing of it in my living room. Fun.
Comes with a nice velvety sleeve as a protective case, a lanyard, ear-bud style headphones, USB 2.0 transfer cable, and the usual install CD and guides.
The rugged metal alloy backing and battery.
The dial up-close. The white raised plastic wheel makes it a little difficult to press some of the buttons.
Compared to a standard business card.
Pretty butterfly photo.