Sansa Clip+ Review: Big Sound, Tiny Body

Sandisk’s Sansa Clip has been the preferred cheap mp3 player for audiophiles for awhile now, and the Clip+ improves on the original in price, design, capacity and features. Basically, this is the best trash mp3 player around.

When I say “trash,” I don’t mean it’s bad; quite the opposite, actually. But at $US40/$50/$70 for 2/4/8GB capacities, the Clip+ is very nearly disposable—you can knock it around or drop it and not feel bad—making it an excellent player for workouts or as a spare in case your main PMP runs out of juice on a long trip.

What’s New

The Clip+, unlike the Clip, packs a microSD slot for cheap expandable memory (up to 16GB at the moment). The microSD slot also supports SanDisk’s own (admittedly stupid) SlotRadio cards. The clip on the back is no longer removable, and the headphone jack has been moved to the right side of the player, away from the miniUSB port. Oh, and the control pad is now square instead of circular. That’s pretty much it for new features.

Why It’s Great

What makes the Clip+ better than competitors like the iPod Shuffle and Creative Zen Stone is surprisingly excellent sound quality. This little guy has some power behind it, sounding as good as my Zune with a pair of decent earbuds. SanDisk clearly knows what they’ve got, since the Clip+, unlike other tiny budget mp3 players, supports audiophile codecs like FLAC and OGG.

It’s got an FM radio, podcast support, and a voice recorder as well. It also auto-detects OS and will choose either MTP (Windows) or MSC (everything) when plugged in, meaning it supports every OS perfectly. The two-colour OLED screen is bright and readable, and the player itself is miniscule and feels very tough—I’ve actually dropped it twice and there’s nary a scratch on it.

Flaws

In terms of controls, it’s not ideal—I’d really like to see a dedicated Back button instead of having to hit Menu and then select “Back to Music List”, but after two minutes of toying around with the player, you’ll have it figured out. The battery life isn’t thrilling, rated at 15 hours, and I would have preferred a dedicated hold switch to the Home button playing double duty. Also, scrolling through long lists of artists or songs is a little pokey—it’s no problem if you’ve only got a few GBs of music, but if you have a filled 8GB player with a microSD card, it’ll be annoying.

Conclusion

It’s the best low-end mp3 player on the market, without question. And did I mention it costs $US50 for 4GB? That’s $US20 less than the iPod shuffle and the Clip+ has the shuffle handily beat on features and sound quality. I recommend the 4GB version—it’s worth the $US10 upgrade from 2GB, and 8GB is really more music than the little guy is built to handle. The UI’s a little dated, but it’s totally serviceable, and the player’s strengths more than make up for its drawbacks. I’ve got absolutely no hesitation about recommending the Sansa Clip+ as a workout or spare mp3 player. [SanDisk]

Tiny and rugged body

Excellent sound quality and surprisingly extensive codec support

Competitively priced

UI hasn’t evolved since previous model


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