The View is not the iPod nano rival it once was in terms of design, however. Instead of shrinking the design SanDisk has chosen to make it larger. It’s still slim at 10.4mm, but the width and height (49.5 x 109mm) make it nearly three times the size of the nano and its polished black frontage and rubberised rear, though smart, doesn’t compare with the nano’s anodised aluminium finish. I was also disappointed to see that SanDisk has stuck with its proprietary interface for connecting the View to your PC or laptop.
If you’re into MP3 players doubling as jewellery, this is not the player for you, but the larger size and different design do have their advantages. First it’s a lot easier to hold without dropping. The nano, though beautiful, can be awkward to hold, and it feels slippery in your hand. Not so the Sansa View, whose rubberised back makes it feel much more secure.
Second, and more obvious, is that it boasts a larger screen. The 240 x 320 resolution 2.4in display isn’t quite as bright and vibrant as the 2in one on the nano, but it is far larger, and that means watching recorded TV programs, video clips and movies is a more comfortable experience. It’s a bit more flexible than the nano when it comes to file formats, too: the View offers compatibility, not only with Apple’s H.264 format (mp4) at 30fps, but also WMV files, also at 30fps. This allows you to take your pick of video converter tools, including the many excellent ones specifically available for iPod products.
And video playback is handled well – it’s a big improvement over the way video was handled in the e-series, which split video into segments in order to make them navigable. Here, there’s a progress bar so you can cue and review through video effortlessly, plus you can drop in bookmarks if you’re rudely interrupted.
Another improvement over the e-series players is the mechanical clickwheel, which can finally be said to rival Apple’s touch-sensitive version. The e-series boasted a backlit plasticky ring, which worked well, but didn’t feel very nice to use; the View has dropped the ring in favour of a slightly dished rubber circle – about the same diameter as the nano’s control – with a small, raised button in the centre. It’s a joy to use, especially in conjunction with the View’s excellent interface which, though not as sexy as Apple’s, is extremely effective and easy to use, putting powerful features such as on-the-fly playlist creation intuitively at your fingertips.