Hands-On: SanDisk Sansa Clip+

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SanDisk's tiny, popular Sansa Clip flash-based MP3 player gets upgraded with a microSD slot and a slightly different name. The Sansa Clip+ retains the same high quality audio and great value as the original, but the added storage slot gives the player even greater potential. It is ideal for users who store music on their cell phone's microSD card, but want something smaller for working out. It also will appeal to music-lovers who don't want to splurge hundreds of dollars on a fancy digital audio player, but still want an adequate number of extra features.

In terms of design, there aren't too many changes between the Clip and the Clip+. The directional pad is squared-shaped rather than round as is the Home button. Instead of a slider switch to power/lock the device, there's simply a dedicated button. This change, while small, is significant: After a long period of use, the slider on my first-gen player started sticking as it trapped a lot of dirt and grime. To set the Clip+ in lock mode, you simply hold down the Home button and the same to unlock it.

The actual clip has a slightly different design, as well. It is springier and has a sturdier construction than the first generation player's clip . The first-gen's clip was rounded with a circular cutout. Now, the clip is solid and square with the SanDisk logo on the back. In my informal tests of clipping both players to my shorts and running around the block, I found that the Clip+ felt much more secure than the first-gen.

The microSD slot, which supports up to 16GB of external memory, lies below the headphone jack on the right spine. Thankfully, there's no annoying cover over it like I've seen on other players. You simply pop in a microSD card and the player automatically refreshes your library to blend together the collections stored on the player and the card seamlessly. SanDisk also has a line of slotRadio cards--cards preloaded with a variety of music from the Billboard charts--that are compatible with the player. When you insert slotRadio cards into the player, they go to a designated slotRadio application on the Clip+.

The preloaded cards aren't really for me, but I can see how they would appeal to other audiences. People who don't want to deal with downloading music software or navigating online stores will appreciate the ease of simply popping in a card and listening to music instantly.

Audio has an impressive amount of clarity and richness without any static or hiss. Look for the PC World Test Center's audio test results and the full rated review soon. The player now supports a wider range of files including Ogg Vorbis and Audible for audio books.

The Sansa Clip+ is available and sandisk.com and bestbuy.com starting today and at other retailers on Sept. 13. The 2GB player costs $40, the 4GB is $50, and the 8GB is $70.

This story, "Hands-On: SanDisk Sansa Clip+" was originally published by PCWorld.

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