Saturday, 30 August 2008
Buy Now
    SanDisk Sansa e130 (512MB)~$46.07
    SanDisk Sansa e250 (2GB)~$121.99
    SanDisk Sansa e260 (4GB)~$155.99
    SanDisk Sansa e270 (6GB)~$189.99

(Review) - SanDisk’s e series of music players might not be iPod Nano killers, but they are the closest to dominating the industry. SanDisk made a bold move earlier this year in January when it showcased its line of flash MP3 players at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. If Sony, Creative and a number of other copycats couldn’t sustain their market share, how could SanDisk possibly win a losing battle? Now, 11 months after the introduction of a brand new product line, SanDisk is well positioned and a relatively serious threat to the Nano.

SanDisk’s Sansa e270 is a gorgeous device with an all black exterior and a metallic back. Not only is it attractive from a pure aesthetics standpoint, but it’s also durable, albeit delicate at the same time. For instance, if you place it in your pocket or drop it on the carpet, it should be fine; but don’t push your luck. Dropping it on hardwood floors or concrete will very well injure the unit with scratches and possibly permanent damages. Unlike a lot of iPod killers, SanDisk has learned a few tricks from Apple, it seems.

The e270 isn’t loaded with extraneous buttons all around the device, but rather it features a minimalist design. All you will find on the exterior are the navigation buttons and a scroll wheel on the front (with a bright display); the headphones jack and the hold switch at the top; a microSD expansion card slot to the right; a record button on the left; and the dock connector on the bottom. Even though the navigation buttons were a pleasure to use, the scroll wheel wasn’t impressive at all. Because of the flimsy scroll wheel, we were left disappointed at the end of the day. How could SanDisk give so much attention to every aspect of the e270, but tag a disappointing scroll wheel? It doesn’t make sense. On the contrary, the navigation buttons are so wonderfully integrated that even if you don’t disable their functionality with the hold switch, they won’t cause havoc in a pocket.

The 1.8" TFT display is amazingly crisp with backlighting and an intuitive user interface. Combine the relatively decent sized display with crystal clear image quality, and you have a winner. We never felt the screen needed to be any larger than 1.8" to properly support image viewing or fully take advantage of certain features. Moreover, the interface just flows from one feature to another. It’s a smooth ride that should impress even the seasoned iPod fans.

As is the case with a lot of music players, the e270 supports an FM tuner, FM recording and voice recording capabilities through the built-in recorder. Unfortunately, voice recording is the only option of the three that works in Europe. It’s also loaded with photo and video playback options, and obviously a plethora of standard audio formats. With that said, some of the features left us dissatisfied. In order to view photos or videos, for example, you must compress them in a format that e270 can process. That’s an unnecessary step that requires the user to spend a considerable time needlessly interacting with the device. Who has the time for conversions and compressions these days? Similarly, you can only record audio in .WAV format. We clearly don’t understand SanDisk’s reasoning behind this. But whatever it may be, it isn’t practical. And here’s the real drawback, the microSD expansion slot can only be used for music, not videos, photos or other data. Again, a very odd decision from SanDisk.

According to SanDisk, the battery life should last approximately 20 hours with pure audio playback. In our performance tests, it lasted for about 19 hours with photo and video playback testing, which is very good, especially compared to the Nano’s 12 hours specified time. Clearly, SanDisk has nailed this issue. The audio quality of the device was pretty good, certainly competitive to the Nano. There are other players that sound somewhat better than the e270, but it comes close. Charging the battery is straightforward, too. Since the player uses a Lithium-Ion battery, you can recharge it by directly plugging it in a USB port. Furthermore, the battery is removable and replaceable with another one for only $20 from SanDisk. If you know you won’t have access to a PC with a USB port for a few days, we would certainly recommend carrying a replacement. Continuing with that point, there’s no AC adapter with the package; therefore, you are strictly limited to charging the unit with a PC.

All of the drawbacks that we have mentioned are more or less careless mistakes that SanDisk could’ve easily avoided. It observed how the multimedia products evolved gradually, and it could’ve learned from that. Some of these drawbacks are what we would expect from an immature product in a premature and uncertain industry. Honestly, though, some of these so-called drawbacks might not even matter to you, and the benefits noticeably outweigh the possible drawbacks. For the average price of $169.99, the SanDisk Sansa e270 is the almost Nano killer, and the next best alternative if you choose to skip on Apple products for whatever reason.

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