I recently decided to start hating freedom less, and ordered a 4GB Sandisk Sansa Clipp+ portable audio player. This player costs around 50€ depending on where you order. The main interesting features are:
- Small size (pictures later)
- Fairly cheap
- Expandable memory (MicroSD slot, with SDHC support)
- Ogg support
Of those, i actually concentrated on the ogg support. Very few players have .ogg support nowadays, it’s all mp3 drm mumbo-jumbo. There is a list of known Ogg players on the xiph site, which can be found here. I basically wanted a smaller device, which plays a multitude of formats. My previous player is the iPod Video (5th Generation). While the screen and user-interface is nice, I didn’t really use the screen for anything. I mostly listen to podcasts, and some music. In this sense, the Clip+ is ideal. The microSD slot means you can just pop in an up to 16GB card, and presto, you have tons of space with no moving parts.
So on to the actual review.
What’s in the box?
The box is, as the device, small. Contents are: the player, headphones (the cheap earplug style), 20cm mini-usb cable and assorted paper manuals. To start using the Sansa, connect it to a USB port on any computer, and let it charge until full (didn’t take long, i had maybe a 70% charge out of the box). Charge meter shows how much charge is in the device while charging, so you can follow the charging more closely. The power button on top of the device takes a short press to turn the device on. First you’re greeted with a Sandisk logo, and then it tells you the database is updating. What it probably does is indexes the contents.
First sign of trouble!
First problem struck right here. It got stuck in the indexing phase, and it was unable to continue. To turn the device off if it’s crashed: press the power button for 10-15 seconds. This, however, did not help. Every time the device booted it stuck in the same spot.
So, off to google and did a little browsing. Turns out you can use a Windows machine to re-format the drive. When the Clip+ starts, it checks the storage, and creates necessary files/folders if they are missing. So apparently (and in my case) you can just format the entire thing without doing any damage to it.
After the re-format, the device started fine, and i haven’t had similar problems since.
To use the device, connect to your computer, and copy over some music. I tried a bunch of ogg files, copied them to the Music folder on the Sansa, and ejected the player. Started up… updating database…. And soon i was given the main menu. The main items are: Music, SlotRadio, FM-radio, Voice and Settings. All of those are self-explanatory, except the SlotRadio, which is apparently some kind of pre-loaded MicroSD card, containing..something. I haven’t seen these in Finland, so i’ll just skip that part.
Music, obviously contains your music. There is playlist support, but you can also use functions such as shuffle, on-the-go lists (ad-hoc playlists), or just browse all the songs in one large list. There’s also a simple EQ with a few presets and a custom setting, with 5 bands.
Navigation happens with the four “arrow” keys, and you can return to the main menu by pressing the “home” button. The home button also functions as keylock when pressed for a few seconds. Do it again to deactivate.
As the name indicates, the rear end of the Clip+ is a giant clip, which makes it easy to clip on anywhere. The 28 gram weight means you can put it anywhere and hardly notice it.
So far i’ve been pleased, except for the out-of-the-box error i had. The firmware is easily updated, and can be done either manually, or using a windows utility which detects the player and automatically downloads the correct version for you. The device seems very open, and there was talk of a rockbox firmware available for the device. The expandability means you can probably use this device for a very long time, if your needs don’t change. You could potentially get the 2GB version for like 30-40€ and then use a pre-existing memory card to expand it further, keeping the price very low.
It’s not user friendly like an iPod, nor will the battery last for longer than about 8 hours, but i still like it. I like devices that can be expanded and are not artificially constricted by laws or stupid corporate creeps. I like to choose my format, and not need any kind of special software to copy it onto the device. This is just like any memory stick that plays your music.
Overall, i’d maybe give it 8/10, with a Stallman badge for good measure.