SanDisk Sansa Clip (1GB, sleek black)
CNET Editors' Rating: 3.5 / 5
The good: The SanDisk Sansa Clip offers impressive sound quality; an ultracompact, gym-friendly design with a removable belt clip; and useful features such as an FM radio and Rhapsody DNA integration. The player also includes support for a wide variety of audio file types, including OGG and FLAC. All of this comes at an incredible value, since the player is very inexpensive and easy to use.
The bad: FM radio reception isn't great and connection of the Clip with Rhapsody was problematic.
The bottom line: The SanDisk Sansa Clip is an incredible value that's set to edge out the competition with a user-friendly interface, gym-worthy design, and great sound quality.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
Editors' note: The rating of this product has increased to reflect significant enhancements offered by a firmware update. Find out more information here.
Thanks to its position as a memory chip manufacturer, SanDisk is a master at cost competing in the portable audio space, and although companies such as Creative Labs are now tagging at about the same level, SanDisk's initial aggressiveness earned it the No. 2 spot in sales (behind Apple, natch)--and a reputation for producing cheap MP3 players. The company's latest device, an ultracompact model dubbed the Sansa Clip, is no exception: The 1GB model comes in at a mere $40, while the 2GB is on offer for a no less reasonable $70. But don't let the price fool you: The Clip offers a respectable 92dB signal-to-noise ratio. This player is out to prove that "cheap" doesn't have to mean subpar sound quality.
Simple and small
At 2.2 inches by 1.4 inches by 0.5 inch (without the belt clip attached), the Sansa Clip isn't quite "smaller than a matchbox," but it is about the same size as one. It's one of the most compact players we've come across in recent times, though it is slightly larger than its closest competitor, the Creative Zen Stone Plus. However, the Clip's rectangular, 1-inch screen makes for better navigation than the Stone's itty bitty circular display. Also, the Clip lets you navigate music by artist, album, and so on, whereas the Stone offers very little track organization. Like the Stone, the Clip comes in a variety of colors: sleek black, candy apple red, hot pink, and ice blue. The black version is available in both capacities, while the colors come in 2GB only. As the name suggests, the Clip also comes with a removable belt clip in a color to match the player. This feature and its ultracompact size make it ideal for the gym.
The controls on the Sansa Clip are also similar to those of its competitor: Below the screen is a circular, four-way control pad surrounding a center select button. While you're within the menus, up/down cycles through options on the current screen, while right/left steps deeper into the highlighted option (or backs out). Once on the playback screen, pressing up plays or pauses the track, down pulls up a contextual menu, and right/left shuttles through tracks. Beneath the four-line, dual-color OLED screen, is one other key: a home button that cycles between the main menu and the playback screen. There's also a dedicated volume rocker on the right spine of the device, something that we are happy--and surprised--to see on such a small player. A standard 3.5mm headphone jack sits above the rocker, while the left side of the Clip houses a power/hold switch and a standard mini USB port. All these ports and controls may seem like a lot for such a small device, but everything is well laid out and the main control pad is large enough for comfortable navigation, so it's really quite ergonomic and easy to use overall.
Not small on features
Don't let the size of the Sansa Clip betray you: The player offers several desirable features. Of course, with the very tiny and simple screen, photo and video playback are notably absent--but that's really to be expected in a device at this price point. What you do get is support for MP3, WMA (unprotected/protected), OGG, FLAC, and Audible files. The player has even integrated Rhapsody DNA, meaning you can transfer Rhapsody Channels (dynamically updating radio stations/playlists). Sadly, our review unit had an error that prevented it from becoming licensed within the Rhapsody interface, so we haven't yet had a chance to fully test the integration. (Bear with us until we get a replacement player and update this review.)
The Sansa Clip also comes with a built-in mic for making voice recordings (WAV output only) and an FM tuner, from which you can record, as well. The radio offers up to 40 presets; the autoscan function is somewhat buried in the "view all presets" menu, but it's a handy feature and worth using. As with any decent MP3 player, you get shuffle and repeat playback modes and an equalizer--we like that there's an adjustable five-band setting. More plusses: You can add songs to an on-the-go playlist, rate and delete songs on the device, and mark subscription tracks for purchase at next sync. Finally, there's the autoresume function, which picks up where you left off in a track, even if you paused before shutdown. This is particularly handy for those who listen to long, spoken-word tracks, such as podcasts and audiobooks.
Sounds like a performer
Although most SanDisk devices sound passable, we've never been blown away by the sound quality of Sansa players. The Clip is actually a bit of an exception: This player sounds great. It's not quite as stellar as the Sony NWZ-A810, but it can certainly compete with the Zen Stone Plus. In our tests (using the Shure SE530s), music sounded rich and clear, with a present bass brought out more by tinkering with the custom EQ. Fiona Apple's soft pop track "The First Taste" was encompassing, with buttery mids, sparkly highs, and subtle bass. Mellow electronic music (e.g. Hot Chip's "The Warning") was similarly pleasing, but even the Deftones' "Bored"--a heavy and riffy rock track--offered impressive clarity. All in all, we could find very little to complain about in the audio quality department--unless, of course, you decide to use the included headphones, which are not so hot.
In other performance areas, the Clip was passable. Voice recordings were a little muffled sounding, and FM reception was about average. A couple of our regular stations wouldn't come through completely. The battery life of 14.1 hours is nothing to write home about, but it's plenty decent for a player of this size.
Average User Rating: 3.5 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 34
4 Star: 11
3 Star: 6
2 Star: 6
1 Star: 11
Not Good for Audio Book Downloads
Rating: 2.5 / 5
on November 28, 2007
16 out of 19 users found this review helpful
Pros: Cheap, small, great sound
Cons: Problems with large audio book tracks
Summary: I've had this for a month and love it for books that I rip from CDs. I use it several hours a days while working out, driving, walking, etc. However, I often download books from public library sites and it doesn't work so well with them. On long book tracks (45-75 minutes), it won't start up where you turn it off. It displays the correct location (minutes:seconds) but always plays from the beginning of the track. It then won't fast forward for more than 10 minutes of a track before skiping to the next track. Seems like a software bug but Sansa support says "it doesn't bookmark files". Huh? it sure seems like it's trying to. If this function worked I'd give it a 10 but have to say 5 for now for audio book listeners.
Sansa upgraded the software and I've been using it for audio downloads for three months without a problem. They also fixed the problems with fastfowarding and remembering its location when turned off. A perfect player for audiobooks at a great price.
Rating: 5 / 5
on November 20, 2007
9 out of 9 users found this review helpful
Pros: Does everything it is supposed to perfectly
Cons: None so far.
Summary: I've had the Clip for over a week now and I've used all of the features. I have a 30 GB iPod and an older Sansa already but I bought the Clip specifically to use it with Rhapsody To Go. I have been extremely happy with the Clip. At first it wouldn't work with Rhapsody To Go but I read online that you need to format the player first. Once I did that it worked seamlessly. I love being able to delete songs on the fly. The Clip is small but has a nice heft to it. The controls and the belt clip are sturdy and well made. The screen is very bright and clear. Sound (using Sony Fontopia earbuds) is great - just as good as any player I've heard.
I love my iPod but this inexpensive player does what none Apple's players do and it does these things very well. FM tuner, voice recording, on the fly playlist manipulation and subscription music at a very reasonable price make this player a great product. If I didn't prefer iTunes over all the other music library managers, I would go Sansa all the way.
Personally I would prefer a removable battery. But mp3 players with removable batteries are hard to find these days. While it is true that you can't use the player when it is connected to your computer, the previous reviewer is incorrect about the wall/car charger. I plugged the clip in to my iPod USB wall charger and it works fine.
I'm trying to think of a downside to this player but honestly I can't. So far it does its job perfectly.
Rating: 0.5 / 5
on January 8, 2008
11 out of 17 users found this review helpful
Pros: Attractive, compact
Cons: Fails in less than a month; good luck getting it replaced
Summary: I ordered this for my son on November 4, 2007 (received a week later). It lasted about three weeks, then the screen abruptly went out. NO damage, NO misuse/mishandling. Contacted SanDisk's "technical support" [sic] on 12/8, was told to email them a copy of my amazon.com receipt, and then they'd be happy to send out a replacement without me having to return the defective. On 12/11, the "support" staff wrote me via their website-based "support message" system asking me to verify what packaging it originally came in, implying it was a refurb or gray-market product (despite the AUTHENTIC amazon.com receipt already provided). I explained I ordered it FROM amazon.com, not a third-party seller, it came in genuine retail packaging, and was NOT gray market. On 12/19, I was informed via the above-mentioned message system my trouble ticket was closed and a new RMA ticket was opened. I was also asked for the Serial Number of the product, and my phone number (both provided on 12/8, in order to even open the trouble ticket). I called in again to ask why they couldn't get the facts straight, was told that the first staff on 12/8 was wrong about me not having to return the defective, and was promptly provided the RMA and UPS label email, after the staff I spoke with saw I was right (required info already on file). On 12/26, SanDisk received my returned product. On 1/2, I inquired about replacement shipping status. I was told via the message system that it would be "5-7 days" (quote unquote) for the replacement to ship from date of receipt (12/26). Today, 1/8, I called in to find out about shipment status, and was told that it would be "7-10 days" instead, despite the message from her colleague. My kid bought this with his own hard-earned money (I simply ordered it for him), and is now out the product for nearly a month. I broke down out of sympathy for him, and bought him a Sony Walkman mp3 player at the local Staples to replace the Sansa Clip (at twice the price). I also called SanDisk HQ to ask about help in getting the replacement shipped ASAP. No response from SanDisk HQ in Milpitas, CA, yet. DO NOT BUY THIS product or any SanDisk products until they improve both their quality control AND their "customer service/technical support" practices.
Rating: 1.5 / 5
on November 15, 2007
5 out of 8 users found this review helpful
Pros: Good sound, nice value, easy to navigate
Cons: Battery life is short
Summary: I think this unit is pretty nice overall, the major problem I've found is that it will not function when its connected to a PC or an AC charger. The battery takes a while to charge and not being able to use it when it's connected to a PC is annoying since it contains an FM tuner.
Performs great, cheap price, simple to operate
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on October 22, 2007
3 out of 3 users found this review helpful
Pros: Price, No addl software needed (uses MediaPlayer), and performance/sound
Cons: 4 gig would be nice
Summary: I have a 30 gig Zune for the car, but wanted something small for the gym. I can play mp3's on my phone, but don't like to carry that when I'm lifting weights or doing cardio. Saw this unit at Best Buy (black) and bought the 2 gig for $60 bucks. No addl software is needed... the device drivers are automatically installed and then Windows Media player recognizes it and can be used to sync or create play lists. The quality is great and it's very easy to operate. The headphones included are not the best, but it's that way with any MP3 player. I have a ton of better earbuds lying around so that wasn't a problem. The interface is easy to operate and the sound is great, but one of the things I love is being able to clip it onto my shirt or shorts without buying another $20 case. It's only .9 ounces so it doesn't feel like there is anything weighing me down. My wife doesn't like complicated technology and loved mine so much we picked one up yesterday for her (the red one). It took about 10 minutes to plug the usb sync cable to the laptop and select the music to sync and it was ready to use. Also as a small bonus it came with a partial charge. I'd recommend this whole heartedly. The only thing I think could be better is if it could have more memory, but for what I'm using it for it's already got plenty of room to spare.