October 23, 2008

Review: SanDisk Sansa and SlotMusic MicroSD Album

Recently, SanDisk announced that they introduced Sansa slotMusic Player, an affordable portable media player solution and worked out a deal with major label makers to produce DRM-free albums on their MicroSD cards known as the SlotMusic. When I heard about it, the concept was simple and refreshing, as it turns out, it really is simple and refreshing and... affordable value.

Sansa slotMusic Player Review: This MP3 player is a no-frills player that keeps things to a minimal and well. With a "headless" design (no LCD display), it will combat with the iPod Shuffle at a fraction of the cost. ($19.99 retail). The biggest difference in design concept is that the Sansa slotMusic player is completely independent to a computer and proprietary accessories. Basically, it runs on a single AAA battery for a playback of 15-hours and will play music off of a MicroSD or MicroSDHC card. It supports MP3 and WMA file types, so long as you store it in a root directory labeled as My_Music.

The built quality is pretty sturdy and feels pretty good in your hands. The case slides open to reveal the battery compartment and has only four visible buttons to control FF, Back, Play/Pause and Volume. The package includes one AAA battery and a pair of black headphones which worked suprisingly well. I did try it out with my Griffin Tune Buds which sounds even better with a wider range of fidelity. Eventually, I'd like to see an upgraded version which supports a small display and give features like playlists or shuffle/repeat but for now, this little player is pretty good and I can see it being a pain-free solution to travelers who needs a quick solution at the airport/trainstation or parents buying this young ones a basic MP3 player for whatever occasion. I did try out the same slotMusic album in my Nokia N95-3 and the playback is pretty cool with proper ID3 tags displayed and albume image/title available (I'll go over that in the next section with pictures)



SanDisk slotMusic MicroSD Album Review: Nelly's Brass Knuckles
I tested out Nelly's latest album Brass Knuckles on the new slotMusic MicroSD platform. The package looks very much like the size of a CD but inside, there is really just two small parts: 1). the MicroSD itself containing the DRM-free MP3s and a USB adaptor for you to transfer songs on and off the MicroSD on your computer. Each album costs $14.99 retail, my guess is weekly ads from Best Buy may offer it cheaper down the road as they would promoting new CDs or DVDs in its first week. Even at $14.99, its quite a bargain considering you get a 1GB MicroSD card that can be used for pretty much anything that supports MicroSD or SD card formfactor (adaptor needed); in addition, it includes a USB adaptor which can be used for your other MicroSD card needs (a very thoughtful act on SanDisk). Just the hardware alone is worth $15, let alone getting a full album of the latest release from your favorite artist. The album itself is a no-frill list of DRM-free MP3s with ID3 tags as well as album info including pictures. Songs are stored in the rootdirectory labeled as "My_Music". As mentioned above, I tried out this album on both the Sansa player as well as my Nokia N95-3 smartphone and it is pretty cool to see how my phone recognized all the song information and displayed it back on my screen.





Overall
: I would say that I am very impressed with SanDisk's effort in putting together a very economic solution for music lovers. Music isn't about an image or gadgetry, its about being able to enjoy it for everybody. The Sansa slotMusic player is affordable and easy to operation with no computer required while the slotMusic albums are great for sharing with friends and transfer with a USB-adaptor combo. I hope to see this solution picked up by more mainstream stores so they are readily available. If I were SanDisk, I would try to get these players and albums into as many of the electronics Kiosk's that is popping up everywhere (malls, stores, airports, etc...). The fact that this is DRM-free alone with worth a round of applause from yours truly. Kudos!

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