- Review Price: £22.40
Whether you leave your Christmas shopping to the last minute, or everything’s signed, sealed and delivered online already, there will always be some last minute panic-buying to be done. Stocking fillers, in particular, aren’t usually planned in advance, but a little bit of inspiration can go a long way when the big day finally rolls around.
This year, though, one stocking filler should be taken care of. Pick up one – or maybe more – of SanDisk’s latest flash MP3 player for the music-lover(s) in your life and you’re guaranteed to be in their good books. You’ll even have cash left over for a bag of walnuts and a bowl of satsumas.
That’s because the Clip – SanDisk’s long-awaited rival to Apple’s Shuffle, and Creative’s Zen Stone range of players – not only manages to better both in almost every respect, but has to be one of the best value pocket players we’ve ever seen here at TrustedReviews.
First things first, though: this is not one for the MP3 fashion snob. It’s not quite as slim, the finish isn’t as slick as the Shuffle’s candy-coloured aluminium shell, and the angular boxy shape won’t be for everyone either, especially with the plasticky silver volume control and hold/power switch adorning each edge of the player.
But that’s really the only negative thing I can bring myself to say about the Clip. In every other respect it’s a fantastic little product, and when you fire it up, the bright blue backlight behind the controls makes up for those dowdy, out-of-the-box looks. It feels well put together, too, and has borrowed the Shuffle’s best feature – the ingenious clip – and improved on it by making it removable. Not that you’d want to do this, of course, because as I mentioned when I reviewed the Shuffle last year, I think the built-in clip is a brilliant idea especially for anyone who enjoys a soundtrack while working out. It makes it a doddle to attach the player pretty much anywhere about your person.
You’ll notice, too, that the Clip has quite a sizeable screen on board. Obviously, the Shuffle has no screen at all, so it’s no contest on that front and neither does the standard Zen Stone. But the Zen Stone Plus does and it’s not a patch on the Clip’s 1in screen which is larger, brighter, clearer and more colourful. And you can actually use it to browse the music on the player while you’re listening too; the Zen Stone Plus has the irritating habit of playing any track automatically as you browse to it, rendering the screen pretty useless.
The Clip packs other features in just as tightly as the Plus: there’s an FM tuner here, which you can record from, and an external microphone so it can turn its hand to dictaphone duties. But look elsewhere and you’ll find it edging ahead again: the battery will last five-and-a-half hours longer than the Zen Stone Plus and its also good value for money. At just £22.40, the 1GB Clip is around half the price of both the iPod Shuffle and the 2GB Zen Stone Plus.
So far, however, I’ve looked at aspects in which the three players are comparable. But there’s one area where the Clip takes several strides forwards, leaving the Shuffle and Zen Stone Plus in the dust – ease-of-use and on-device music management. The Clip’s d-pad is easier to use than the Shuffle’s and far less fiddly than the Zen Stone’s. The backlight also means you can see it in dim light or the dark, and that big, bright screen means browsing around tracks and albums is really easy. But that’s not the Clip’s only party trick – you can even build playlists on the fly with this little player. Just press and hold the button at the centre of the thumb-friendly d-pad and the track is added to your playlist. Considering many more expensive players completely miss this feature out, it’s an impressive inclusion.
Last but by no means least, sound quality is pretty good too. You’re probably not expecting mind-blowing audiophile-quality sound for this sort of money – and you don’t get it – but plug a halfway decent set of headphones (the boxed earbuds are, perhaps understandably, woeful and completely lacking in body and bass) into the Clip and you’ll be rewarded with a clear, punchy sound.
(centre)As its name suggests, it has a clip (do people still tuck jumpers into jeans?)(/centre)
I fired up the live recording of Georgie Fame and his Birthday Big Band at the Kentish Town Forum – an excellent test of everything from clarity to bass and volume power – and I was pleasantly surprised. The atmospherics aren’t all there and it’s not quite as pin sharp as the Zen Stone or as balanced as the Shuffle, but there’s really not much in it and the volume available makes up for this, coping with the complex big band dynamics admirably well. This player even goes loud enough to drive external headphones comfortably and, as a result, punches out energetic and complex music with less of a struggle than many cheap players I’ve listened to.
Perhaps the only disappointment is that the Clip doesn’t support more music file formats, but for this sort of money, MP3, WMA, protected WMA, WAV and Audible files is about as good as you’re likely to get – and again it’s no worse than that on offer from its rivals.
This latest SanDisk Sansa MP3 player is, in short, one of the best stocking fillers you could possibly hope to find this Christmas. Despite being slightly weak on format support, it is feature-packed and feels even a little luxurious in other respects.
It’s miles better than its main rivals, the Creative Zen Stone Plus and iPod Shuffle; so good, in fact, that you could even pass it off as a main present for the one you love, and save a bit of cash for the post New Year sales. But you wouldn’t be that devious…would you?
Score in detail
Sound Quality 7
|Internal Storage (Gigabyte)||1 GB|
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