In a landscape full of iPod clones and poorly implemented media players, the 4GB Sansa e260 is a welcome change. With an attractive look, excellent functionality, drag and drop file transfers and Windows Media Player synchronisation it is a good option for those looking for a straight-forward, easy to use device at a competitive price.
- Attractive design, Easy to use, Wide array of functions and file supports, WMA DRM support, Drag and Drop music files,
- Stiff navigation wheel, No Divx or Xvid support
The Sansa e260 is a feature packed media player that looks great, is feature rich and performs well.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
The Sansa E260 can play music, video and radio and also allows photo viewing and voice/radio recording. The icon-based menu system is not only attractive but also very simple to use. Like the iPod, the Sansa uses a control wheel for navigation as well as buttons to return to a previous menu. Unfortunately, the control wheel offers too much resistance during turning, making it stiff and less effortless than it should be. The 1.8 inch screen is bright and the graphical interface is intuitive with large and easily recognisable icons for each function. Navigation is simple and easy to understand and getting back a previous menu is a breeze. The settings menu is rather extensive for a media player of this size with one list of grouped settings that control every facet of the device.
The music player supports MP3, WAV or WMA (even with DRM) playback with full ID3 tag sorting and, with simple drag and drop functionality, it blows away the iTunes-reliant iPod. It can also be synchronised with Windows Media Player to allow full album art and music collection organization. Sandisk also provides Rhapsody Music, a music collection and synchronisation software package, which can be used as an alternative to media player.
Sound quality is on-par with the market standard and while it isn't anything exceptional it certainly does the job nicely. The provided headphones are better than you would expect for bundled ear buds but discerning users may still want to upgrade for the best possible audio quality.
Video playback is handled exceptionally well but needs to be converted to a lower resolution QuickTime movie file in order to be played. The provided video conversion software can convert a wide range of video files including AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPG, MPE, VOB, DAT, ASF, MOV and WMV. Unfortunately, there is no DivX or Xvid support and high definition WMV and MOV files cannot be converted using the software. The interesting thing about the video playback is that when a video is in 16:9 format, the unit can be turned on its side to preserve the original aspect ratio. The quality is fairly good considering the size, making this a viable way to watch converted television programs or movies on your way to work.
The conversion software also needs to be used when uploading images. JPG, TIFF, BMP, PNG and GIF formats are supported. The software resizes the images and uploads them to the device in BMP format. Images can be viewed individually or as part of a slideshow which you can watch with your choice of music. We quite liked this option although realistically, it wasn't something we saw ourselves using all that often.
Both the voice recorder and FM radio worked extremely well. The radio picked up all the major stations with ease, and has unlimited pre-set storage options. The audio quality for radio is quite good and we noticed no distortion across a variety of stations. We were quite impressed with how easy the radio was to use and even more impressed at the on-the-fly recording option to copy music from the radio to the device. However, while recordings were quite good, they tended to be a little quiet with a noticeable difference between the volume level of the live radio and its recorded counterpart. Recording voice offered excellent voice pickup from close proximately and satisfactory pickup for up to 1 metre with quite good ambient noise reduction.
The design of the Sansa is quite attractive with a glossy black face and sturdy back casing. At only 44mm x 89mm x 13mm and with a weight of around 100g, it gives the iPod nano a run for its money. The battery life is quoted at 30 hours of music playback and less when playing video but using the proprietary USB 2.0 jack you can trickle charge the device when connected to a PC. Finally, while the internal memory is only 4GB it can be expanded via the microSD card expansion slot which supports SanDisk TrustedFlash and gruvi content cards which can be shared with mobile phones.
We were quite taken with the Sansa e260 due to the fact that it has so many great features and it does them all well. We were especially impressed with the DRM support for WMA files. The fact that we could simply drag and drop music files to the device was a welcome change from the usual restrictions we face with other popular brands. We highly recommend the Sansa e260 and look forward to future models from SanDisk.
The Sansa e200 series is available in 2GB, 4GB and 6GB incarnations with an 8GB version due for release in September 2006.
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