TR (and myself in particular) weren't alone in our great affection for the Sansa e200 series, but with more than a year passed since its introduction and new nanos finally on the scene, it is time to make a move...
In a linguistically surprising move SanDisk has announced the 'Sansa View': the name originally given to its postponed PMP, but branding aside it looks set to once again cause Apple sleepless nights.
Choosing to stick with its candybar-esque format and spruced up 'ring interface' rather than the nano's controversial short and squat design or the landscape layout Creative chose to give to the Zen means the View is perhaps the most conventional looking of the next gen players, but it steps up to the plate with an enlarged 2.4in QVGA LCD (Zen: 2.5in QVGA; nano: 2in QVGA) and greater capacities of 8GB and 16GB (Zen: 4GB, 8GB, 16GB; nano: 4GB, 8GB) plus the obligatory microSD/microSDHC expansion slot.
On top of this SanDisk has widened the Sansa's range of codec support thanks to a deal with DivX meaning there is now native 30fps playback for H.264, WMV and Mpeg4 (obviously that includes DivX/AVI). This matches the Zen and beats the nano.
On the audio side of things MP3, protected and unprotected WMA and WAV are in there along with support for gapless playback and Audible audiobooks. On the downside, SanDisk has missed a trick in not including DRM free ACC downloads which would have provided iTunes interoperability, but a digital FM radio with 20 presets and a built in mic for video recording softens the blow.
So far so very competent, but SanDisk has a recent history of pulling away from the competition and this is where it begins:
Firstly, battery life is now an utterly stupendous 35 hours for continuous music playback while video is a whopping seven hours. This slaughters both the Zen (25 hours audio, five hours video) and nano (24 hours audio, five hours video).
Secondly price. Whereas Apple is charging £99 for a 4GB nano and £129 for an 8GBer and Creative has come up with RRPs of 159.90 euros (£108), 199.90 euros (£135) and 299.90 euros (£203) for its 4GB, 8GB and 16GB Zens respectively, SanDisk has completely blown them away charging just $149.99 (£100) for an 8GB View and $199 (£134) for the huge 16GB flagship.
This makes the View costs virtually the same as a nano for twice the capacity and more than halves the asking price of Creative's 16GB Zen - a genuinely stunning achievement.
So what could possibly put a right minded person off? Well at 108 x 49.5 x 8.8mm and 82.2g it is certainly larger than the nano (69 x 42.3 x 6.5mm and 49.2g) and longer but narrower and thinner than the ZEN (83 x 55 x 12mm, weight unknown). Still, would anyone really describe an 8.8mm thick product that weighs 82g as bulky? I very much doubt it.
So while the e200 series was the anti-Apple brigade's weapon of choice the remodelled View could finally put the nano and even Creative's excellent looking Zen to bed. Global marketing aside, from a technical and financial perspective this is Game Over...