As small as a matchbook, with a tiny screen and sturdy metal buttons, the SanDisk Sansa slotRadio product is an interesting new take in the saturated field of digital-music players.
For exercisers and outdoors types, the device has a solid, durable case made of die-cast aluminum. A built-in clip lets you attach it to your bike jersey or trail-running shorts and go.
But the real attraction is in the player’s ease of use: The Sansa (www.slotradio.org) comes with a data card pre-loaded with 1,000 songs, eliminating the duties of downloading and file organization associated with players like the iPod.
Granted, you don’t get to pick the songs. Listening to the Sansa is akin to tuning into a radio station. It plays a random mix of popular songs, most of which are agreeable and fun. The bad ones are easily skipped.
You can also add your own songs. The company leaves storage space to add files onto the slotRadio mix card that comes with the player. Or, you can fill up an empty microSD card with songs on your computer and play them on the device.
Out of the box, with the music buds in my ears, the first notes the Sansa pumped out in my test were from the domestic anthem of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” Not a bad start.
The playlist on the included card, which has 1,000 “Billboard top tracks,” included seven saved lists of the following categories: Alternative, Contemporary, Country, R&B/Hip-Hop, Rock, Workout, and Chillout.
The player and the initial 1,000 songs sell for $99.99. Ear buds and a wall-outlet charger are included in the box.
The form factor of the player — about 1.9 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide and about 0.6 inch deep — is so small that you might loose it in a pocket. But the metal spring clip on the back of the unit is solid, allowing you to secure it to a tab of fabric and then run or bike without worries.
A 1.5-inch OLED screen dances to life when you turn the unit on. Song titles are displayed in a random shuffle. You can skip ahead or go back to repeat a good track with arrow tabs beside the screen.
The SanDisk Sansa slotRadio player also has an FM tuner. And once you’re tired of the original 1,000 songs sent in the box, the company sells new 1,000-song mix card for $40 apiece.
In my test, the Sansa’s sound quality was comparable to the iPod I’ve had for a couple years. It’s easy to use, and the tiny, durable design is perfect for outdoors sports.
The company cites a 13-hour battery life between charges, letting you listen to the random mix — from The Killers to Beck to Bon Jovi — all day. Skip that last track — anything close to the ’80s and glam is not my thing — and the Sansa is good to go.
—Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.