capsule review

SanDisk Sansa c150

At a Glance
  • SanDisk Sansa c150 2GB MP3 Player - Black (Internal Flash Drive, FM Tuner, 15 Hours)

SanDisk Sansa c150
Photograph: Chris Manners

Its physical size is complemented by its convenient buttons, which I found conducive to one-handed operation in general playback scenarios (you'll need to watch the screen to make your way through the menus). You can control the volume via a rocker switch located on one side of the unit; the other side sports a hold button and built-in microphone. The c150's navigation ring offers access to standard forward, back, and play/pause functions; when you press down you get a context-sensitive menu that offers options linked directly to whatever mode of operation you're in (music, FM radio, voice recording, photos). The 128-by-64-pixel color display that handles 64,000 colors and shows two lines of text, plus a progress bar, playback mode (in other words, repeat and shuffle), and battery status. I mostly found the menus easy to navigate, and I loved the on-the-fly playlists--but I wish it were easier to navigate a nested folder structure of music.

The c150 ships with Rhapsody for organizing and transferring music to the player; however, since the device is recognized by Windows Explorer, you can also just drag and drop music (and data) directly to the player. The unit supports Microsoft's new Media Transfer Protocol--hence its MTP mode. Microsoft designed the drivers to connect and synchronize digital media between portable devices and a PC. In MTP mode, you can drag MP3 and WMA files directly to the Media folder on the player; in Mass Storage Class (MSC) mode, you can copy files directly to the root directory.

The unit doesn't play video, but it does handle most other files you'll want to take for a whirl, including MP3, WMA, and Audible audio book files. However, you'll need the included Sansa Media Converter software to load and resize images for the player's small screen because the c150 does not natively support any image formats, such as JPEG and TIFF. Whether you'll want to bother with photos is a separate question; I was unimpressed by the image quality on the small, odd-shaped screen. Sansa Media Converter (which is powered by ArcSoft and requires Microsoft's Windows Media Player 10 and DirectX 9), makes reference to converting video files, but then it chokes--not surprising considering that the player can't support video playback.

Audio quality was adequate with the included earbud headphones, which were quite comfy for me; they had weighted tips that kept them in place. In PC World's new audio-quality tests, the c150 performed well, earning a Very Good overall. For example, the player recreated a broad range of frequencies accurately and reached a loud volume level before introducing 1 percent of distortion--a commonly used threshold. Overall, however, the c150 introduced more distortion to its signal than any other flash player we tested.

Though I loved this unit's ultraportability and flexibility, I have a couple of gripes (bigger ones than the sloppy Media Converter interface). My biggest is that this player requires a proprietary USB cable instead of a standard mini-USB connector. The wide proprietary port takes up the entire width of the player, which is not only inconvenient--you must have this one cable with you at all times to update the player--but the gaping opening also leaves the unit vulnerable to crumbs or debris left in your coat pocket or bag. Also, the manual is thin on details and makes reference to two modes, MTP and MSC, but it never defines the difference between these two modes (or, for that matter, what MSC means).

Melissa J. Perenson

This story, "SanDisk Sansa c150" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Button use and menus are a bit clunky on the inexpensive c150. Photos require software conversion. Uses one AAA battery.

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