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There was a time when Sandisk's range of Sansa MP3 players wasn't just a compelling alternative to Apple's iPod nano, but was arguably the better choice. It's been a long time since 2006 and the days of the e260, and competition is stiffer than ever. After the somewhat lacklustre Fuze, we were hoping the Sansa Fuze+ would offer itself as a significant improvement, and more importantly a compelling rival to the new, oh-so-expensive but oh-so-desirable iPod nano.
Sadly, we're not convinced the Fuze+ deserves its suffix; it might be better called the Fuze minus. What's most disappointing is that on paper the reasons that this player is touted as an upgrade to the Fuze are self-evident - they just don't work in practice as well as one might think they should.
At 51mm x 87mm x 10mm the Fuze+ isn't much different in size to its predecessor, and it fits nicely in the palm of a hand. The screen is larger, at 61mm, but the resolution of 240 x 320 pixels isn't anything to get excited about - even if it will play 30fps video.
We should applaud Sandisk for outfitting the Sansa Fuze+ with a micro-usb port. And the provision of a micro-SD card slot makes expanding on the internal storage capacity easy. At £64.99 for 4GB, £73.99 for 8GB and £89.99 for £16GB it's not like Sandisk's pricing is extortionate in the first place. It's barely cheaper to buy your own memory separately than to have it built in. In fact, that the 16GB version only comes in black whereas the 8GB and 4GB offer a range of colour options might have more bearing on which you'd choose.
The microSD bay also lets you use Sandisk's slotRadio cards. While the appeal of these is fairly limited, it's definitely a neat concept. The provision of a radio will please those who still listen to such archaic forms of audio delivery. Which includes us at 6pm on a Friday night, thanks to Radio 4.
The more obvious change on the Fuze+ verses the Fuze is the removal of the control wheel carried by ever Sansa player since the e200-series, in favour of a capacitive control surface. Capacitive controls being all the rage currently we can see why Sandisk made this decision, but we're convinced it was the wrong one. Touchscreen-interfaces excepted, the Sansa click-wheel was the best interface we've ever used on a media player away from that of an iPod so we're sad to see it go, especially when its replacement is, frankly, rubbish.
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