Thursday, April 19, 2007

NY Times Reviews Sansa Music Player: Slightly Undercooked

A Music Player That Needs Seasoning
By DAVID POGUE, New York Times, Apr 19

Ever since the iPod became a culture-changing phenomenon, Apple’s rivals have been desperate to discover the recipe for an iPod beater.
SanDisk has just released its latest answer: the Sansa Connect ($250). The ingredients are:
1 black, shiny, softly rounded plastic case, the size of a closed cellphone;
1 click wheel, like the iPod’s but made of black rubber;
7 jacks and buttons on the edges: volume keys, earbud jack, proprietary U.S.B./charging connector, On/Off, Hold, memory-card slot;
1 antenna;
Mix gently; cook until well done.
The stubby little antenna is the secret sauce. It makes the Connect the most exciting advance in music players, at least in concept, since the iPod Nano.
Now, this Sansa is not the first wireless music player; Microsoft’s Zune, for one, preceded it.
But the Zune’s Wi-Fi is wasted. It can’t sync with a computer wirelessly or download music wirelessly. All it can do is beam a song to another Zune owner, if there is such a thing. The song self-destructs after three days or three plays.
When you’re in a Wi-Fi hot spot with the Sansa, though, you can tune into any of Yahoo’s 200 Internet radio stations. And if you’ve signed up for Yahoo’s music-rental plan ($144 a year, or $15 a month), you can download all the music you like, straight to the player. No computer necessary.
That’s a delicious twist. Surely, this is the future of music players: instant access to any song, any album, whenever and wherever you’re in the mood.
Sansa’s collaboration with Yahoo has another payoff: at any time, you can click through your own online photo collection on the bright 2.2-inch screen — whatever you’ve posted on the free Flickr photo-sharing Web site, which Yahoo owns — as your music plays. It’s magically simple, and it beats the old accordion-fold wallet photos. (You can’t, unfortunately, look at your friends’ photos.)
Now, these subscription plans have a catch: If you ever stop paying the monthly fee, all of your downloaded music vanishes.
Of course, you can also stuff the Sansa with MP3 files you’ve ripped from your own CD collection, or with songs you’ve bought for $1 each from music stores like Yahoo or Rhapsody.com. Both are synched from Yahoo Music Jukebox, a Windows-only program that’s a lot like the iTunes software. (Alas, the Sansa can’t play unprotected AAC files, like the ones the iTunes Store expects to begin selling next month.)
The MiniSD card slot is an ingenious twist. It extends the player’s built-in 4 gigabytes of memory almost endlessly. You can’t save downloaded music onto the card — all downloads are locked on the player — but the Sansa can play music and photos you’ve loaded onto the card from your PC....read more: here

4/19/2007 07:24:00 AM

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