The SanDisk Clip Zip uses a simple interface that doesn't have the flashiness of a top-end Sony or Apple player. Each feature has its own "page" on the horizontally-scrolling main menu, and the music navigation style is entirely standard. You can browse by artist, album and other tags or sift through any recently added picks.
SanDisk has done its best to make the interface look friendly and fun, using plenty of colour, rounded fonts and animated transitions, but the blocky screen ensures it never looks particularly good. It is intuitive, however, and although the front buttons feel a little cheap they're positioned well-enough to make browsing through your music comfortable.
The player's audio output is clean and sound quality is good. However, it restricts volume to an unusually great degree. If you have earphones or headphones that are difficult to drive, like the Phonak Audio PFE 012, maximum volume may be required.
There is a way around this, though. Perform a factory reset, tell the player it's in the US - rather than EU - during setup and the volume limit disappears. Without the limiter maximum volume is much higher than most, and there don't appear to be any drawbacks to telling the player it's a yank.
There's an inbuilt equaliser nestled within the settings menu, but sound customisation is not a forte of the Clip Zip. 10 presets are included, as well as a custom option, but all are based on a ham-fisted 5-band EQ. Without the subtlety of the system fitted into players like the Cowon J3, it's not much use.
The SanDisk Clip Zip is a good budget choice for audio nuts, though, because of its support for the lossless FLAC format. Not all similar players from the big names - Sony, Apple, Samsung - offer it. However, while wide-ranging, format support is temperamental, with some files causing the player to hang.
A little patience is required, but the number of features SanDisk has packed into such an affordable player is impressive. It's small, its storage potential is impressive and although the interface isn't flashy, it is easy to use. Similarly-equipped music players from better-known names tend to cost at least £20-30 more.
There is one issue that turns us off the Clip Zip a little, though - battery life. At 12 hours, it's a lot lower than the current standard. They may be a little larger, but the Philips GoGear ViBE, Apple iPod nano and Samsung YP-Q3 all double that figure to around 24 hours.
This limitation and the unimpressive screen make the SanDisk Clip Zip work best as a second, or perhaps sport, music player rather than your prime music source. The low price makes this work as a proposition, though, especially as you can snag the cheaper 4GB model and make up the difference in storage with a microSD card for a few pounds.
Low cost, good format support and expandable memory team up to make the SanDisk Clip Zip MP3 player a solid choice if you're strapped for cash. It doesn't look or feel expensive, but its rear clip is sturdy enough to grip onto clothing reliably. Looking for a primary MP3 player? We'd recommend considering a slightly more expensive player with longer battery life. But as a second or sporty music source, it's a winner.