Easy to use and tremendous value for the dollar. (March 19th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: SanDisk
Price: $100 (4GB)
- Excellent (if not original) design and physical controls.
- Continues to use a solid software interface.
- Very low price for the feature set and quality.
- Software-independent; works with Linux, Macs, and Windows.
- FM radio, microSD slot, and voice recording.
- Good DRM support for those who need it.
- Unnecessarily pulls AAC and H.264 support; pixelated video.
- Simplistic radio and voice recording.
- Slightly scratch-prone front face.
- Cost of microSDHC high enough to reduce the immediate value of the card slot.
design and interface
There's little escaping the likely (if unintentional) parentage of the Sansa Fuze: it bears more than a passing resemblance to Apple's third-generation iPod nano. In fact, if it weren't for the "Sansa" lettering or the home button next to the wheel, it might be indistinguishable from a distance. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however. Arguably, the short but squat design feels much better in the hand than most players, especially the overly tall Sansa View that serves as the real basis for much of the design.
SanDisk's version of this formula does seem to improve over its cousin at Apple. The 1.9-inch screen is only slightly smaller, but supplies the Fuze with a slightly more comfortable profile. More importantly, the rubberized backing is definitely a more practical (if slightly less glamorous) choice than the chrome for the iPod. The texture isn't just better for grip versus Apple's slippery metal; it also resists scuffs and scratches much more elegantly. I also appreciated the bright white labels, which are more useful than the light-up (but otherwise invisible) symbols on the View.
The only complaints that could be properly leveled against the design of the Fuze are its glossy front face, which can still attract dust and scratches, as well as the slightly loose-feeling scroll wheel and tricky hold switch. The aluminum front and solid-state click wheel of the iPod are more durable and better for very large lists, respectively.
The interface is largely ported over from the Sansa View, which again is a largely positive example of borrowing the right bits of technology. Navigating the menu system is often similar to nearly every media player with a hierarchical layout, only faster. The interface lag that pops up on iPods and some other players is virtually absent, and makes drilling down to a specific song or video quicker, if not as visually pleasant as on newer Apple devices.
The UI doesn't make for perfect transition for every user, however, and occasionally makes for a bumpy ride of its own. Listeners used to accessing everything from the top level will be annoyed by SanDisk's emphasis on oversized icons over small menu items. Since you can't see any more than three items at a time, you often waste time scrolling back or forwards trying to find the item you were looking for. The system used by the iPod and Zune, which present a simple text list of options, often seems more effective.
Veterans may also be annoyed by SanDisk's willingness to change the context of buttons -- the "play" and "menu" buttons often get switched to up/down, for example -- but in many cases, the control scheme isn't significantly better or worse than on other players, just different. It also has the upshot of allowing certain settings to be changed in mid-song, such as the EQ or shuffle mode.