Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
Decent Compact, Large Capacity, Inexpensive Music Player
on October 26, 2014
This is a good music player if you want something small, light and relatively inexpensive with a large storage capacity. It has a few flaws that can be overcome with open source firmware. If you are going to use the open source Rockbox firmware with this player you can add another star to my review. I took one star away because of the poor firmware included.
High internal capacity (8 GB)
External SDHC slot (up to 32GB)
Very good sound quality in lab and listening tests
Included Headphones sound good
Standard miniature stereo jack
Standard mini USB connector for charging / data transfer
Supports MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) and MSC (Mass Storage Class)
Button placement is good
Button lock function in firmware
Musical pitch error of +0.25% (can fix with Rockbox firmware)
Battery time may be shorter than advertised (may be worse with Rockbox firmware)
May not see some or all files on external SDHC (can fix with Rockbox firmware)
Only basic features in firmware (can fix with Rockbox firmware)
SDHC file support is flaky (can fix with Rockbox firmware)
Can't record FM radio (can do this with Rockbox firmware)
Headphone jack is not well constructed
Construction quality is mediocre
Included Headphones do not stay securely in ears
Included USB to mini USB cable is ridiculously short (6 inches)
A/C adapter / charger is not included
Case is not included
If you are not going to buy the 8GB version of this player nor use an SDHC card, you may want to look at other players. The large internal storage versus the size and price are what makes this player unique Most other players are less expensive with less storage, or more expensive with better construction and features.
The standard firmware is poor considering the price of the player. If you don't want to use the open source Rockbox firmware, look at more expensive players to get better construction and firmware, or save your money with less expensive players. In my opinion, the Roxbox firmware makes this player worthwhile and without Rockbox the player is just an overpriced, mediocre player.
The small display means that you will not be able to display much information about the song being played and menus will require a lot of scrolling. The standard firmware uses a large enough font to be readable and wastes a lot of space with flashy icons in some places. Rockbox can display more information using tiny fonts, but I found those to be unreadable for someone like me with less than perfect eyesight. Using Rockbox with the Classic theme works well and I can read most of the information except the simulated keyboard without a problem.
The buttons are large enough and positioned well. With a silicone case (not included), the "home" button is hard to find and the cases do not have markings to indicate the location or function of the buttons.
The size and weight of this player make it very convenient to keep in a pocket or clip to clothing. That was one of my reasons for choosing the player along with the high capacity (40GB with external SDHC card).
The sound quality is excellent and even the included headphones sound good. The only flaw here is the ridiculously high error in musical pitch (+0.25%) using the standard firmware. Most other players have musical pitch accurate to about (0.05%) or better. The Rockbox firmware fixes the problem and reduces the error to (+0.05%) at the expense of somewhat shortening the on-battery time. Sandisk obviously made a tradeoff between pitch accuracy and power requirements that I think was misguided. If you're considering the older Sansa Clip beware of the pitch problem since it is off by (+0.70%). Whether any particular person can hear a less than 1% difference in pitch is rather subjective.
The external SDHC card slot is in a convenient position on the right side of the player. When inserted, an SDHC card is almost entirely inside the player. The edge of the card sticks out less than 1 mm. I doubt that the card can be damaged because of the slight edge sticking out. You will probably need to use your fingernail, paperclip or small screwdriver to eject the card. It is necessary to be careful when ejecting the SDHC card because the spring is much stronger than needed and will launch the SDHC card at high speed. Keep your finger or palm in front of the card slot when ejecting the card to avoid possible damage. It is best to leave the card in the player as much as possible rather than swapping cards frequently. I haven't seen any comments about the durability of the SDHC slot but the spring tension makes card swapping hazardous.
The FM Radio is decent but does not receive weaker stations well. That isn't surprising considering the size and lack of an antenna. The standard firmware does not allow allow recording of FM stations but the Rockbox firmware can. There are probably better portable FM receivers though they may not be as small and lightweight.
The built in monaural microphone is good. It is designed for voice recording, not recording performances or entertainment. This feature is most useful for dictation or recording nearby conversations. I haven't tried it for recording lectures.
The manual for the standard firmware is horrible, and gives very little information except the basic functions of the buttons and menus. In particular it does not say what the requirements are for the directory layout, file names, tagging and playlist formats. Nor was there any more information available on the Sandisk web site.
The most frustrating thing about this player's firmware was transferring files. Both MTP and MSC worked as expected when the device was connected to the computer. However, files transferred to the external storage were often not found by the player's firmware and did not appear in either the database or the file browser. Yes, I did safely eject the devices each time! Placing files in the root directory of the external storage worked better. Also, files transferred using MTP were not visible when using MSC mode. The Rockbox firmware had no problem finding files on the external storage. If you're planning to use the external SDHC storage you will probably want to install the Roxbox firmware. Another minor problem is that for MSC mode the player must be connected to the computer after the power is already on. If I plugged in the player using MSC mode with the power off, Windows would often report that the internal or external storage was not formatted (because the firmware had not finished booting). As long as I did not choose to reformat the disk, it caused no problem. A non-technical user is likely to choose yes and erase the files already stored in the player. The Sandisk user manual for the player and the Sandisk support site provide very little help or information about these issues.
The standard firmware supports play lists that are downloaded to the file storage (cannot be created or edited by firmware). Online posts have mentioned that the playlists must use relative (not fixed) path names, especially for files on the external storage card. I did not test playlists. The open source Rockbox firmware has better support for playlists.
The package includes Windows software from Sandisk and the player is compatible with Windows Media Player, Media Monkey and other programs. Configuring software to work with the player may be challenging due to the lack of any documentation about the directory, file and tagging requirements of the player firmware. It may be necessary to use MSC mode with Linux and Apple operating systems.
The price is OK considering the sound quality and decent electronic design of the player and the ability to run open source Rockbox firmware. You should decide if you want accessories such as a silicone case, wall charger, car power adapter and miniature phone patch cable. Those extras will cost another $5 to $15 depending on what you want. The device is light enough and sturdy enough that I don't think a silicone case is required. Any standard USB wall charger can be used with the included cable, though the cable is very short and leaves the player dangling in mid air.