Gadling gear review – Sandisk Sansa Clip+ MP3 player

It isn’t often that we’ll devote a Gadling gear review to something as “simple” as an MP3 player. But every now and then I come across a player that is just too much of a hidden gem to ignore. The Sandisk Sansa Clip+ is such a gem. This pocket player caught my attention for several reasons; a low price, memory expandability, easy operation, FM radio/voice record and a good display.

The Sansa Clip+ comes in three “flavors” 2GB, 4GB and 8GB. The cheapest version starts at just $39.99, followed by $49.99 (for the 4GB) and $69.99 for the 8GB. These prices put it at about 40% cheaper than the iPod Shuffle.

Operating the Sansa Clip+ is as simple as can be – you control it with a D-pad, center button and a home button. There is a separate power button and volume controls, so you don’t need to remember complicated key combinations to accomplish simple tasks. Getting music on the player is equally simple – you can “drag and drop”, or connect it to a PC running Windows Media Player. In Media Player, you can either drag individual tracks, or generate playlists.

Once on the player, you can browse by album, artist, genre, playlist or song. Obviously, this is how things work on 99% of the MP3 players on the market – so don’t count this as a “unique selling point”.

The Sansa Clip+ has a standard MiniUSB port (for syncing and charging). The advantage of this, is that it such a common plug, that you’ll be able to find chargers and spare cables very easily. The player does not come with a charger, and relies on your computer for its power. As the name implies, the Clip+ features a clip on the rear. It opens wide enough to attach it to your jacket, bag or other item.

Battery life is a manufacturer rated 15 hours – I tested it on several trips, and have no reason to doubt that rating. The headphone jack is on the side of the player – this obviously works fine for angled headphone jacks, but straight versions will mean your plug sticks out the side about an inch.

Audio from the Sansa Clip+ is surprisingly good – no noticeable background hiss, and a very decent equalizer. Audiophiles will never be content with digital music, but the circuitry in the Clip+ is obviously quite well designed. Best of all, the Sansa+ supports music in MP3, WMV, secure WMV, WAV, FLAC, OGG Vorbis and digital audiobook. That’s right – this $40 player has support for lossless and OGG music files!

If the built in memory is not enough for your collection, you can add your own MicroSD card. With cards as cheap as $20 for 8GB, you’ll be able to add more music without investing too much.

Browsing through the menu is simple. You scroll through Music, slotRadio, FM Radio, Voice and Settings. The slotRadio feature is one worth pointing out, as you’ll either love it, or hate it. Sandisk realized that not everyone owns a vast collection of digital music, and many people can’t be bothered to “rip” their CD collection.

The slotRadio MicroSD cards add pre-selected collections of music to several Sandisk players. These cards cost $39.99 each, and come with a whopping 1000 songs. Cards are available in ten different versions, all catering to a specific music taste. One downside to the cards is that you can not select to play an individual track – you need to pick one of seven pre-programmed playlists and listen to the music in that order. Still, 1000 songs for under $40 is a very decent deal – if you don’t want to deal with the hassles of acquiring your own music.

The Sansa Clip+ comes with a pair of generic headphones – not bad, but not the kind of buds you’d want to wear all day. I tested the Clip+ along with the Macally TurboTune pocket speaker. This 1/2 watt battery powered speaker is the perfect accessory for the player, and helps produce some very good sounding audio.

Final thoughts

In my gadget loving years, I’ve probably seen over 300 MP3 players pass through my hands. For some reason, the Clip+ just seems to stand out. Nothing about the player annoys me (something many other players do). The interface is good, the screen is great (nice OLED). The price is just right, and I can expand it. For traveling, it is the perfect little player – good battery life, small size, it doesn’t stand out in a crowd (or subway) like some fruity players do, and it does voice recording as well as FM radio.

All in all a solid little player which is worth some attention from anyone in the market for an MP3 player. Obviously, it won’t do video, and it won’t hold your 16,000 song collection. But if you just want your favorite travel tunes for on the road, it can’t be beat.

Product page: Sandisk Sansa Clip+