Thursday, 9 December 2010

Oh Sansa, You So Crazy.

Since it is Christmas season and many people are looking at purchasing a Portable Music/Media Player; let's talk a bit about Sansa. Now Sandisk Sansa is a brand that I have a little, ahem, history with. Don't get me wrong, on paper, Sansa makes acceptable middle range products. But that's the problem. My journey with Sansa all started when I was 14 with my parents buying me a Sansa Sandisk e280 (8GB; expandable microSD).
Still think it's a great player.

I loved it from the first moment I got it; sure, the default player software (firmware) and converting software had some database issues and movies weren't really worth the bother (especially on a 320x240 resolution screen) but it was my first media player. About a year or so after purchasing it and buying a 2GB microSD card, I discovered RockBox; a custom firmware for mp3 players. This was truly a great feature; Sandisk accepted developers making this software for their device. It was snappy, simple, solved the database issue and made movie watching/converting relatively easy. I used this player constantly for about 2 years. I was not gentle with it and generally listen to 4+ hours of music a day. As seen in the picture above. It finally bit the dust when I accidentally took it in a lake summer of '09. The screen stopped working but it would still plug in via USB. Since then, it has risen from the dead many times (seriously, about 4 now) and currently it works for audio, but plugging it in is genuinely useless; I can't easily reformat it. I could probably tinker with it and get it to work again, but it's not really worth the trouble.

The next player to replace my e280 in a coma was the Sandisk Sansa Fuze (8GB version) although I wanted the Sandisk Sansa View (Which wasn't really available at the time). I read up on it and was thoroughly impressed with its predecessor, the e280, so I figured why not. After using it for quite a while I could say I was impressed and really liked it; although as I reached the age of 16, my music collection began growing very quickly and storage became an issue. I can honestly say though that the Fuze is a great follow up to the e200 series. It's lighting fast (except when loading very large databases of songs) and very fun to use. Not to mention that rockbox was slowly being developed for it (currently, there is a very good port for the Fuze). The external build quality is excellent; it's sleek and silky to hold.
What a pleasure to use.
Although I had this great player, I nagged my parents to get the 16GB Sandisk Sansa View for Christmas. To my dismay, it came after my love for the Fuze had already taken hold. Needless to say, I shifted over to the View...What happened next I couldn't have even guessed. Any small issues that were addressed in reviews were actually huge handicaps on most of the devices in production. For starters, the default firmware did not even play video properly! The GUI is so slow they might as well just have a command prompt and if you have a library of ~2000 songs and accidentally press the songs tab; you're going to have a frozen player for about 1-2 minutes! The lag issue coupled with constant database issues made it quite a frustrating ordeal!
I will say it looks nice, has a good weight and feels equal in build quality to the Fuze!

AWFUL! Aside from this, I still used the player and grew to tolerate it. Needless to say I was kind of relieved when the audio jack on the player broke. Sure, it was only ~4-5 months of having the player and I couldn't do anything because it refurbished, but whatever I still had my Fuze.

After switching back to my Fuze, I got tired of buying larger microSD cards to hold my songs. Not to mention the database issues with the microSD cards. It simply astounds me that Sandisk can keep the same bugs in their firmware for ~6 years! Not to mention the fact that I believe the Sansa View firmware was simply a re-skin and rotation of the Fuze firmware! I digress, the point is, that eventually, the Fuze also broke, the same way as the View; luckily, I was able to get a partial refund since my father purchased the one year warranty! After storage became too much of an issue, I worked, saved some money, sold out, and bought an iPod Classic; I hate to say it, but I love it. I really commend Apple for their excellent media players... not much else.

At the end of the day, what can I say about Sandisk? Well, they had one of the greatest competitors for the Ipod Nano back in ~2005? And I feel confident saying that the e200 series is a great player for kids and adults who are either getting into music or casually listen. The Fuze is also a good product and I really like the improvements to the firmware and the aesthetics of the player. The database issue was kind of annoying but tolerable; overall, a good buy. The View was just a giant fuck up. In my opinion, it is their worst player to date (aside from those god awful Sansa Shakes). The NVDIA chip inside could barely manage the large and fluid screen size and the processor was so underpowered. Sure it looked and felt nice, but it functioned like football player with no depth perception. To close this, here's a family photo!
Home for the holidays :)
November 2012 UPDATE: Most of my family has switch to Apple products and we enjoy them thoroughly. I still have my Sansa's but cannot think of any use for them other than glorified USB drives. I would still recommend the e200 players to people thinking of getting a durable, expandable player for their tweens/teens. Seriously, these things still amaze me.

The database issue I reference numerous times in this review is one where I would add a song and the ID3 tags would not be recognized or the song would not be loaded into the players database of songs. I would have to reload it numerous times.


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