Now I’ve gotten this far without mentioning the software, which is so often a killer, but this is with good reason: there really isn’t any. Far from the elaborate iTunes setup which locks an iPod to a specific PC and incorporates near endless options, SanDisk has gone for a simple drag and drop approach. Plug in the player and it’s recognised as a mass storage device, from here just drag and drop audio which is automatically arranged using the files’ ID tags. In the case of video and photos just drag and drop them onto the converter and they are automatically transferred to the player. No mess, no fuss.
Certainly, there will be some who miss the advanced features of the iTunes software but as a person who has owned iPods for the last few years I, for one, was actually glad to get away from this sizeable ball and chain. The case may be different were the Sansa’s range sporting capacities in the 30GB+ sector, but for 2GB to 6GB SanDisk’s approach feels light, straightforward, and tie-free.
Finally, this wouldn’t be a proper nano referencing review if I didn’t mention the Sansa’s outer casing. SanDisk has gone to great lengths with the e200s to make them heavily scratch resistant and though I’ve only had the device two weeks that hasn’t stopped butter fingers here from dropping it a few times while out and about. The good news is the coating SanDisk has used (which it coins ‘Liquidmetal’) clearly provides a finish with the strength of Superman’s brylcream since I’ve yet to pick up a single mark. Unbuttered fingers crossed it’ll stay that way…
So the new Sansa range sounds utterly enticing but what about the price? Well, here’s the knockout blow. The 2GB, 4GB and 6GB models come with RRPs of £119, £149 and £185 respectively. This already compares brilliantly to the nano’s 1GB (£109), 2GB (£139) and 4GB (£179) variants, yet given that the 4GB e260 can be found online for as little as £134.29 and the entire iPod range features virtually no online discounts whatsoever the contest is well and truly over.
Out of the blue SanDisk has come up with a genuine nano killer. The interface may not be quite as intuitive as the all conquering ClickWheel but it is still highly straightforward and while the lack of iTunes may be an unavoidable flaw to some its absence in favour of a far more streamlined non-tying approach will be a boon to many. It feels a much more durable product than the nano, sports a far greater range of features, offers a bigger and better screen and costs significantly less. Until Apple comes up with a viable alternative there’s a new Sheriff in town.