I’m not a heavy user of portable music players. I like to listen to music the old-fashioned way: at home, in front of the speakers of my stereo system, not only hearing the music but feeling its vibrations through the floor and the air. Short of hearing it live, this seems like the most natural way of listening to music. However, when traveling or when out and about for long periods, it is certainly nice to be able to bring along some music to make the time go more pleasantly. Until recently, this occasional need was satisfied by an old Creative Zen V Plus 2GB MP3 player. It accompanied my wife and me on various trips for years, but lately has been erratically refusing to play when called upon to do so. It was time to send it to the farm where they keep the old carriage horses and those turkeys spared by presidents through the ages.
My criteria for a replacement MP3 player were simple: it needed to be low-cost and reliable. I’m not an Apple aficionado, and an iPod would be a case of extreme over-buying for my needs. I wanted something under $50. The “SanDisk Sansa Clip+” player which I settled upon is listed at $49.99 but can currently be found on Amazonfor $34.95, and perhaps even less elsewhere.
The model I purchased has a 4GB capacity. It surprised me that this was only twice as much capacity as the old Creative Zen, considering how such things have changed in the computing world, but when I received it and saw that it was also less than half the size of that old player, this made more sense. It is 2 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide, and about as small as such a player could be and still have a readable screen and manageable controls. Anyhow, 4GB is plenty for my own purposes. For those who care to do so, SanDisk microSD or microSDHC cards can be utilized to expand the capacity by many gigabytes. It is also designed to accept a “slotRadio” card, the nature of which interests me not a bit.
The device came with a CD to install optional software called “Rhapsody,” which I guess would hook you into a music subscription service and manage what was on your player. I despise having to install junky, clunky software when I buy a new device; I hate clogging up my computer with slow, alternative ways of doing things that I can already do quite well. So, I was glad that there was no actual need to install this software. I simply plugged the SanDisk Sansa Clip into my Windows 7 laptop via the USB cord, and it was recognized, and I could instantly copy and paste my own choice of music files into it via the Windows interface. (The device requires a few hours of initial charging time before use on its own.)
The biggest step up from the old Creative Zen for me was that the SanDisk Sansa Clip accepts not only MP3s, but also FLAC files. Most of my digital music is stored in the lossless FLAC format, and it’s a big difference to be able to copy and paste it directly without having to convert it to MP3. Of-course, FLAC takes up more space, allowing only something like 15 – 20 typical albums in 4GB, but that’s fine with me. I remain fundamentally in awe of technology that permits one to carry so much music around in a device that weighs almost nothing and takes up almost no space. (The SanDisk Sansa Clip is also said to play WMV, secure WMA and Audiobook files, none of which I’ve tried.)
The battery life so far has been fine; I have not tested it to its theoretical 15-hour limit, but it has run for several hours on recent trips without showing any sign of running down.
Another advancement over what I owned previously is the graphic equalizer function. If you’re not happy with the default audio output, you can select from numerous presets or set your own custom equalizer levels. I did not find this or any other functions hard to figure out or to navigate with the controls.
It also features an FM radio and a voice-recorder, both of which I’ve tested briefly and which seem to work well. The “clip” referenced in the name of the product allows you to attach it to your clothing or belt. The player is small enough to be very unobstrusive while you perambulate.
So the bottom line from me is that the SanDisk Sansa Clip has so far done exactly what it’s supposed to do, and at a very good price. If you need a bigger screen, or a touchscreen, or larger inherent capacity, then of-course you’d want to look elsewhere.
Because it wouldn’t necessarily satisfy everyone’s needs, and because I as yet have no first-hand evidence as to its longevity, I will give it a measured 8/10. But you can take it that this particular customer has no complaints.
Rating: Eight out of ten lead pipes.