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The back and play/pause 'buttons' work well enough, as the areas of the capacitive control section given to their functions seem large enough not to interfere with anything else. The D-pad area, however, proved the cause of much frustration. Menus can be navigated either by tapping in the direction you wish to move or by scrolling. The tapping action works well enough, but occasionally we ended up hitting the centre "okay" control instead of a directional one. We could chalk that up to clumsy thumb gestures, were the swiping action not woefully inaccurate, making it pretty much impossible to navigate a long list easily.
To its credit, the Sansa Fuze+ somewhat makes up for the failings of its interface with the functionality beneath it. Video playback, for instance, is as good as you can hope for from such a small display, and format support - WMV, H.264 MPEG-4 and Flip Video - is reasonably comprehensive. We remain unconvinced by the appeal of watching more than the occasional short clip on such a small display, but at least the ability is there if you want it; unlike on the iPod nano.
The Sansa Fuze+ will also handle just about every audio format you could ask of it; namely Audible, MP3, WMA, Secure WMA, AAC Ogg Vorbis and FLAC. However, whereas previously we lauded Sandisk's players for sounding significantly better than their iPod rivals, we're not so convinced this is the case any more. The Fuze+ doesn't sound better than the iPod nano so much as different. Which sounds 'better' will be more a matter of personal taste, coupled with what headphones are being used, than any objective measure.
While FLAC support could theoretically offer excellent quality, in reality we couldn't really claim to have noticed the difference between lossless and high bit-rate lossy files on the Fuze+ - and of course the iPod nano will play (Apple) Lossless files if you want to, so the Fuze+ doesn't offer anything special there anyway.
Besides which; while a number of you are likely to cry foul at the suggestion, we're not so sure that sound quality is the most important aspect of this class of media player, anyway. The Fuze+ sounds 'good enough' for its asking price, but so do a number of other players with better interfaces, the Sony Walkman E-Series being a prime example.
If you can live with the ropey interface, the Sansa Fuze+ proves a capable, reasonably priced media player. However, there are plenty of other players out there that offer a better user experience for similar, or less, money.
Scores In Detail
- Sound Quality
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