The SanDisk Sansa View 16 GB

Geeks.com, sent over the SanDisk Sansa View 16 GB for a review, along an 8 GB microSDHC card for it. In the box, we also received its USB cable (proprietary connector is used) and some standard earphones.

It took about 2 hours to fully charge the player the first time. The UI loads within 10 seconds and greets you with a scrolling interface. The icons are: Music, Photos, Videos, and More (Radio, voice recording, device settings). When a song is playing, a new icon appears called “Now Playing” (it doesn’t show up otherwise). The UI is controlled by an iPod-like wheel that is actually rotatable rather than touch-sensitive. There’s also a “Home” button, a power on/off/HOLD slider on the side of the device, next to the microphone. The 3.5mm headphone jack is placed on the bottom of the player, next to the proprietary USB connector. The 2.4″ LCD screen is very readable and supports many colors, however the font used in it is pretty ugly.

The device sports 16 GB of internal flash, but it also has a microSD card slot. We tested the slot with an 8 GB card that Geeks supplied for the test.

The music menu has all the normal options one would expect, e.g. playlists, artists, songs, podcasts, audiobooks, genres, and a few more, like “recently added”, “my top rated”, and [voice/FM] “recordings”. When you click on a song, it will start playing, with the band name, album title, song title on the top, followed by the album art, and the progress bar. Clicking the bottom part of the wheel, it will bring a new menu up, that includes options like “Add to Library”, Rate music, repeat, shuffle, EQ, Go List and even “Delete song”. The device supports MP3 and WMA, but the latest firmware adds AAC support too (.m4a). Audio quality was very good.

The Photo menu has some nice slideshow options, while the video menu allows you to resume a video you had started watching earlier. It supports WMV and h.264 videos up to the QVGA resolution. The FM radio option allows you to set presets and even record radio stations, while the voice recording is also pretty straight forward too.

It all sounds good in first glance, and someone could go as far as to say that this might be the next best mp3 player after the iPod, if it wasn’t for the inconsistent UI. There are multiple ways to go “back” to a previous menu, that make the whole usability pretty confusing. On that, we should add that the device failed to read all of our AAC’s album art, and about 40% of our mp3 album art (all jpeg files embedded in the tags, ID3Tag v2.3). The Nokia cellphones also only read about 50% of my mp3’s album art, but if at least there was consistency in the failing of the two devices, I would have talked about a bug on my tagging, but both devices fail on different songs, so it seems that they are just buggy (iTunes and Mp3Tag can read all of them for example).

Also, the player is advertised as having gapless playback, but while the feature seems to have been worked on, it was certainly not as gapless as the iPod is. There was still a small sound heard when hoping between tracks.

The biggest problem however was the database corruption that I experienced twice within the last 3 weeks. The device would fail to recognize that it had GBs of songs in it, even when the “system info” utility correctly reported how much of the flash space was used. In order to fix the problem, you need to either delete or add a song via a PC, so you can force a re-generation of the DB (that takes up a few minutes when the device is full). Problem is, if you are high up in the mountains camping, and you don’t have a laptop with you, here goes your music for the time being.

The USB usability is a bit weird too (the UI for it doesn’t make it clear which mode is set on). More over, when I try to “eject” the device from Explorer, the device reproducibly crashes my Explorer (other devices don’t do that).

On the up side, the player can deliver over 25 hours of continuous playback, which is a feat. Overall, this is a good player if you just want to listen to some music and radio without having high expectations of a consistent interface and usability. It’s definitely better than most cheap mp3 players out there, but nowhere near the mighty iPod (or even the Zune).

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