Review: Sansa View 16GB

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I like Sansa media players.  I always have.  They’re not quite as sexy as Apple iPods, and they’re not that much cheaper, really.  The reason I like the Sansa players is because they don’t require any special software on my computer — heck, the review model I received contained only the player itself and the USB cable: no software CD at all!  As a GNU/Linux user, I really enjoy being able to connect a Sansa player to my computer and have it immediately recognized as any other USB media.  I can simply drag-and-drop media files into the proper directory, and they’re ready to play.  And I can easily use a Sansa device in lieu of a USB memory stick, if necessary.  But enough about my personal preferences: let’s take a look at the Sansa View 16GB.

The Sansa View can play MP3, WMA, WAV, and DRM-free AAC audio files, as well as MP4, WMV and H.264 video.  It has an FM tuner, and the ability to record FM broadcasts.  You can also use it as a digital voice recorder, which is good for students and blackmailers.  The screen sports a 320×240 resolution: the same resolution as both the iPod Nano and the Zune, but at 2.4″ it’s bigger than both.  It also has a micro-SD slot to expand its storage capacity.

Pros

The View is a shade smaller than an iPod Touch, though not as slim, which makes it comfy enough to hold.  The scrollwheel is responsive, and easy to use.  Battery life is acceptable but not remarkable.  The user interface is simple: the main menu has only four items: music, videos, photos, and more.  Navigating through the UI is easy.  As an added bonus, it’s possible to delete files from the Sansa View without using a computer, which can be handy if you load up a song or video only to find out that you absolutely hate it and never want to hear it again (but see below for a big caveat).

The earphone jack is on the bottom of the unit, which didn’t make a lot of sense to me at first.  But then I stuck it in my shirt pocket and understood: when it’s in my pocket, I won’t be looking at the screen, so put the headphone jack closest to the control wheel, which you are likely to use (or try to) while it’s in your shirt pocket.  The included earbuds felt slightly larger than those bundled with iPods, but I found them to be perfectly comfortable.

Cons

The thing that really irks me about the Sansa View is that it uses a non-standard USB cable.  I long for the day when any device that connects to my computer by USB uses one of the standard USB cable connectors.  I’m tired of special, expensive proprietary cables cluttering up my workspace!

The Sansa View isn’t yet supported by RockBox firmware.  This may only be a bummer to folks who have a large collect of music in Ogg Vorbis format, though.

I tried to delete a single song and thought I ended up deleting all the songs from that artist.  Here’s how: after turning the unit on, before playing any music, I navigated to the music menu.  I selected “Unknown Artist” (because I didn’t set id3 tags on these songs), then “Unknown Album”, and then finally drilled down to a specific song.  I pressed the down button, which brings up the menu.  From the menu, I selected “Delete Song”.  I took note that it said “Song” in singular.  I pressed the middle button and was presented with a confirmation dialog that asked if i was sure I really wanted to delete the song (again, singular).  I selected Yes, and then I was returned to a screen that said, simply, “Empty”.  Navigating backwards, I found that the Sansa thought that the contents of  “Unknown Album” has been deleted.  Oddly, though, the next morning when I turned on the unit, I found that “Unknown Album” had been restored, and that only the song I had deleted was, in fact, deleted.  Very weird.  Moral of the story: you probably don’t want to delete files from the Sansa using the Sansa itself.

The Bottom Line

If you have an aversion to iTunes lock in, or don’t want to pay the Apple price premium, the Sansa View 16GB is a great digital audio and video player.

Thank you to Geeks.com for the review unit…

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