SanDisk Sansa Connect
At a Glance
Announced at CES earlier this year, SanDisk's Wi-Fi-equipped MP3 player has arrived, and I've been playing around with it for a while now. The first thing that struck me about this 4GB player is that its Wi-Fi capabilities are actually useful. The Sansa Connect gives you many more sharing options than Microsoft's Zune does, all of them built around a partnership with Yahoo. Find an open access point, and you can stream Internet radio from Launchcast stations or browse Flickr photo streams. Sign up for Yahoo's portable music subscription service, Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go ($12 per month for an annual subscription, or $15 if you go month-to-month), and you'll be able to download individual tracks or albums of your choice over Wi-Fi. I'd still like to have the option of syncing wirelessly with my PC, but the streaming radio is a very nice touch.
Streaming Internet radio sounds quite good over the Sansa Connect. When I used my home Wi-Fi connection, stations took a little time to buffer, but the quality of the streams was very nice, on a par with 128-kbps MP3 files. I didn't experience any dropouts--even when I had several other network transfers going simultaneously. And if you hear a song you like, you can easily queue it up for download by using the Zing menu button just above the device's control wheel on the right. I have run into trouble trying to get the download function to work with my Yahoo ID; I'll have to report back on that later.
The Sansa Connect's 2.2-inch color screen isn't quite as good as the display on my 5.5GB iPod or on Creative's Zen VisionM, but it's not bad. The screen's refresh rate is just barely visible, which does count as a minor annoyance. Photos, whether streamed to the device or downloaded, showed particularly vibrant colors.
The Connect's interface is a pleasure to look at, with colorful icons, and crisp fonts throughout. Unfortunately, the Connect's scrolling dial takes some getting used to. Though it mimics the iPod's clickwheel in physical operation, the decision to place the main control at the bottom of such a modest-size device seems less than optimal. In addition, the wheel has a bit of lag to it, which makes overshooting your target in a list of songs all too easy.
Is the wireless worth it? At $249 for a 4GB player, the Sansa Connect isn't cheap. But with a MicroSD slot included for expansion, and the ability to pull down songs from any location that has an open access point, the device's lack of storage isn't a big deal. As the first truly useful wireless MP3 player, the Connect is sure to become a popular gadget.
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