When SanDisk first unveiled the Sansa View in January 2007, it was to be the company's first foray into the portable video player market. The device would boast a 4-inch, widescreen display, and it looked as though it might give Archos' players a run for their money. Then it fell off the radar. Now the View has reemerged, with a smaller display and a slimmer design, better compatibility with a wide range of audio and video formats, and 4GB more storage than the identically priced nano or Zune. Is that enough?
Sansa View Design and Features
This attractive all-black player sports a simple design that's easy on the eyes. At 4.3 x 2 x 0.4 inches and 2.9 ounces, the Sansa View is a bit larger and heavier than Microsoft's flash-based Zune (3.6 x 1.6 x 0.3 inches and 1.7 ounces), but still slides effortlessly into a shirt or pants pocket.
A rubber scroll wheel highlighted by a cool blue illumination is conducive to fast, accurate navigation, and to the upper-right of the wheel is a handy Home button that returns you to the main menu after you've wandered deep into the folder system. The View doesn't have dedicated volume buttons; the player's iPodlike scroll wheel, which lets us smoothly navigate menus, controls the sound level when a song is playing.
Priced at $149 for the 8GB model, the View offers a lot of room to store your media files. The right side of the player houses a microSD/SDHC slot for side loading up to 8GB of additional content. If you want even more storage, you can pick up the 16GB or 32GB models for $199 and $349, respectively,
Nice Sound, Disappointing Video
The 2.4-inch (320 x 240 pixel resolution) display did an adequate job of displaying our JPEGs, but the TFT screen was dull; it's not nearly as bright or as sharp as the second-generation Zune, which features one of the best displays around. On the video front the Sansa View supports MPEG-4, WMV, and H.264 files, as well as content purchased from Amazon Unbox, Movielink, and Guba. We downloaded Comedy Central Presents: Dane Cook from Amazon Unbox and enjoyed rich audio, but were disappointed by the visuals; we felt as though we were looking at the footage through a fine mesh overlay. We did like that the Sansa View automatically plays video in widescreen format without requiring us to tilt the device or tinker with controls.
Music Acquisition and Battery Life
We effortlessly synced ripped MP3s from The Noisettes' What's the Time Mr. Wolf? album to the Sansa View using Windows Media Player 11 (Mac users can drag and drop content). The View pumped out loud, clean audio using the included earbuds. Bass was under-represented, but that's to be expected of bundled earpieces. The Sansa View is also compatible with unprotected AAC, Audible, WAV, and both protected and unprotected WMA files. Using the Rhapsody to Go subscription service we were able to swiftly transfer and play Stoned Grace's Cast the First Stone album without any hiccups.
We liked the option to use songs in our music libraries as part of photo slideshows. If the mood to tune into the radio hits you, you'll be glad to know that the integrated FM tuner with 20 presets offered decent reception laced with only mild static as we walked around midtown Manhattan. Podcasters and notetakers will appreciate the built-in voice recording. You can expect solid battery life from the Sansa View: We saw just more than 25 hours of audio playback, and an excellent 5 hours of video playback.
Sansa View Verdict
We wish the screen were sharper, but the Sansa View offers more flash storage per buck than the competition. If you're looking for a solid audio player that's easy to use, stylish, and integrates smoothly with several content providers, the View should be on your short list.
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