I do not think I have anticipate writing any review as much as I have anticipated the Sandisk Sansa View. I first encountered the View last year when I discovered it on Sansa’s website. At that time, it looked significantly different than the entire line of Sansa players, bearing a large, wide screen and what appeared to be no visible control. I immediately began seeking a review unit, with no response. Shortly thereafter, the Sansa View was pulled by Sandisk and significantly reconfigured. The final release of the Sansa View bore a much closer resemblance to its predecessor, the Sansa e200 series. We may never know what spurred this reconfiguration (although I really wanted to check out that big screen), and all I can tell you about is what I have in my hands. Jump past the break to find out and I’ll show you around.
What’s In the Box: There is really nothing more than the bare essentials here. In addition to the Sansa View media player, you also will find: a USB cable which allows you to connect the Sansa to your computer for syncing content and charging your device. I was disappointed (as I often am) that the Sansa View did not include an AC adaptor for charging. You will also find a pair of the standard utilitarian headphones which come with most media players. These are the typical earbuds which rest in the outer portion of your ear. They are uncomfortable and really do not rest well in my ears at all. My suggestion is the just toss the headphones and invest in a higher quality set of in-the-ear earbuds.
Perhaps the most shocking omission from the package, however, was the lack of anything to protect the device. The Sansa e200 series included a small cloth pouch. It wasn’t much, but it offered some protection while you were in transit or carrying the device in a pocket. The Sansa View, even more so than its predecessor, is composed of a shiny black surface…in other words, a fingerprint and smudge magnet. Therefore, I was really shocked to find no pouch or case included in the package.
Fortunately, as often happens around these parts, it was Proporta to the rescue. Before I could even say Sansa View, they had a silicone case ready to go. I love the Proporta Silicone Case for the Sansa View because it adds almost nothing to the size of the device. It stretched tightly around all sides, protecting that glossy black finish. The sides have ridges to ensure that the case does not slip from your grip. Cutouts for the jack, plugs, controls, and screen, ensure that you can access every function of the Sansa without once removing it from the case. Oddly, however, there is no cutout for the home button. Instead, there is a small bump which aligns with the button, allowing you to easily press it through the skin of the case.
Overview and Controls: I was extremely impressed by the layout of the Sansa View. The controls have been greatly simplified when compared to the previous generation of Sansa mp3 players. Let’s take a closer look.
Almost everything is controlled from the scroll wheel on the face of the player. The previous Sansa generation had a recessed scroll wheel which controlled primarily the volume and menus. The scroll wheel was surrounded by directional buttons which seemed redundant and caused significant confusion.
With the View, Sandisk has enhanced the functionality of the scroll wheel by embedding all of the controls directly into into it. Just spin your way through the menus, tapping the inside of the scroll wheel to make a selection. In addition to spinning, you can tap the scroll wheel up to play/pause, down to access the options, and left or right to advance and return. The only other control is a small button to the right of the scroll wheel, which will return you to the Home Menu at any time.
Just in case you forget any of these controls, there are helpful reminders on the face of the Sansa. The perimeter of both the Home button and scroll wheel will light up with the traditional blue when either is accessed. Additionally, a play/pause, options, and home icons will light up next to the appropriate buttons. One interesting feature I found was that when the player switches into landscape mode, for example when you are viewing a video, the controls will rotate appropriately, ensuring that they stay in the same positions. In order to remind you of the locations of each button, the lit icons will also shift appropriately.
The remainder of the face contains a 2.4 inch TFT screen with 320×240 resolution. With the exception of the iPhone/iPod Touch, you will not find a bigger screen on any device of this size. Still, I thought there was a lot of wasted space on the face, which could potentially have translated into an even larger screen. Ideally, I think Sandisk should have tried to reconfigure the controls in order to include a 3 inch screen. Nonetheless, despite the smaller than ideal size of the screen, I was impressed by its clarity. I frequently question the wisdom of viewing a movie intended for the large screen on a screen that can fit in the palm of your hand. With this screen, however, it was easy to forget how small the screen actually is because the picture was so crisp and clear.
On the left hand side is a microphone and the power/hold button. Slide it up to turn the player on or off. Slide it down to lock the controls. The controls on this device are not overly sensitive, however, and I rarely felt I needed to lock it.
On the right is the memory card slot. The Sansa View is made by Sandisk, one of the largest manufacturers of memory cards in the world. So, you would expect a state of the art memory card to be used here…and you would be right. The View can utilize any MicroSD or Micro SDHC cards. This gives you up to an additional eight GB of external memory (more if you believe the rumors leaking out of CES of a 16 GB or more memory card.
The bottom of the device contains the sync/charge cable jack and the 3.5 inch headphone jack. I was happy to find the standard sized 3.5 inch jack here instead of the 2.5 inch jack which seems to be increasing in popularity. The only thing I noticed here was that the two jacks were a little too close together, making it difficult to plug in the View without unplugging the headphones. A minor inconvenience, to be sure, but an inconvenience nonetheless.
With respect to the headphones, it would also be nice if the Sansa View incorporated a Bluetooth radio. This has been a noticeable omission in every portable media player I have used. Stereo Bluetooth headphones have been steadily increasing in popularity, and the players have simply fallen behind with this technology. Bluetooth would add virtually no space on the device, but would significantly increase the usability and flexibility of the player.
One final note, any user of previous Sansa devices will instantly notice the reconfigured shape of the Sansa View. It has been made slimmer and lighter than any previous Sansa media player. In fact, at its skinniest point, it is only 8.8 mm. Set the View next to the e200 series devices, and you will think you are looking at before and after shots from The Biggest Loser. The View is skinnier and taller than its predecessor, and just a bit wider. This change in dimension is (presumably) in order to accommodate the significant increase in screen size.
Menu: When you power up the Sansa View, you will find yourself in the Main Menu. This menu should look familiar to anyone who has used a Sansa device before. The icons for each function are arranged to look like a circle. At any time, three icons will be displayed. The bottom one is the current selection, with the next two in line behind it. I did that it was odd that the current selection was not in the middle, so you could see the next selection in either direction, but really, once I started using it, the layout of the menu worked great. In addition to the icon, the label for the current selection will also be displayed on the screen.
There are six items in the main menu, which give you access to all of the media and functions on the device, including:
- More (which contains the radio and voice recorder)
- Last Played
- Now Playing
At any time, you can tap the Home button in order to return to this menu. One thing I really liked here was that tapping the Home Button does not stop playback, which means you can scroll scroll through your photos from the Main Menu without interrupting Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same.
Loading Media: Loading media is probably one of the largest sources of frustration I have found among users of portable media players. I am constantly asked questions following a review of these devices such as which formats will work, how do I get my stuff on (or off) of the device, and so on.
The Sansa View makes all of this extremely easy. There are two ways to transfer media. First, you can use Windows Media Player 10 or higher and sync your content with the device. This works just fine, however, it can be somewhat slow. For a much easier method, you can simply drag the media into the appropriate location on your device. I found this drag and drop method worked perfectly. It was much faster and more reliable. I did have a few problems with lost meta-information (album art, album titles, etc..) using both methods, however, I think this problem was attributable to my laptop, not the Sansa View.
Additionally, unlike the previous generation of Sansa media players, the Sansa View makes excellent use of the external memory card. With the e200 series, only music could be stored on the external memory card. Anything else (such as video or pictures) would never be found. This caused some obvious frustration, as video files can be up to 2 GB for a feature length movie. The Sansa View changed all of this. It will now allow you to store any media on the memory card, meaning you can store your larger video files on memory cards which can be swapped out of the device in seconds. This was on of my biggest frustrations with the e200 series, and I was thrilled to find it had been fixed with the View.
Music: OK. Time to look at how the Sansa View fared in what is really important, playing your media. We’ll start with music since it comes first in the menu.
One of the problems with audio playback is the vast number of formats. Obviously, most players must draw the line somewhere, and Sansa, I felt, struck an excellent balance with the formats supported by the View. All of the major downloadable formats are recognized by the View, including mp3, DRM-free mp3, WMA, and WAV. I tested all of these formats and experienced no problems with any of them, even when I switched between music recorded in different formats. The View even supports gapless playback, which allows for smooth transitions between songs.
To access your music, simply select “Music” (represented by the pair of headphones) on the main menu. From here, you will be taken to the music menu (above) which provides you with an array of options for selecting the song you wish to hear. You can choose to play all, or listen to recently added. You can also scroll through the albums, artists, song lists, or Windows Media Player playlists. If you have rated songs in Windows Media Player, you can select only those songs which have been rated. Frankly, if there is a way to subdivide, then you can use it to sort your music. The only thing I did not find was an alphabetical search option, which did strike me as a bit odd. If I want to listen to Van Halen, then I have to select artist and scroll through the entire list until I reach Van Halen. An alphabetical search option would let me jump right to it. A minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience nonetheless.
Additionally, from this music menu, you can also play downloaded podcasts, audiobooks, and even recordings which you have made with the Sansa View voice recorder.
One you have selected how you want to sort your music, then you will be taken to an alphabetically arranged list (again, no searching, you will need to scroll to your selection).
One feature I really liked here was the display of album art when you are scrolling through the albums. The other nice feature is that it will seamlessly pull all of your music together into one list, regardless of whether it is stored internally or on the removable microSD card.
OK. So, you select the song or album you want to hear. Let’s take a look at what will be displayed on the screen. While the song is playing, the album art will be displayed, along with the artist name, album title, and song title. Beneath the album art is the track number and then a status bar showing how much time is left in the song.
Pushing up on the scroll wheel will pause playback. Push the center of the scroll wheel to switch the views. You can switch to:
a graphical equilizer
full screen album art
or the next song title.
Pushing the scroll wheel left or right will jump to the previous song or next song respectively. While simply spinning the scroll wheel will adjust the volume. Finally, push down on the scroll wheel to enter the music options menu.
I was impressed by how simple and intuitive the controls were, especially compared to the Sansa e200 series. Everything is pretty much exactly where you would expect it to be and performs exactly right.
Video: To play video, we will again start at the main menu, this time tapping the Video icon. From here, you can scroll through a list of your videos, view your top rated videos, or scroll through your video bookmarks. Again, however, I was disappointed by the lack of a search option.
If you select a video which you have already been previously watching, then you will be given the option of starting over or resuming playback where you left off, which is a nice feature.
Videos will play in landscape mode and, as I mentioned, this results in the controls shifting around the scroll wheel.
In order to avoid confusion, the lit icons will shift accordingly.
I was extremely impressed by the clarity of the 2.4 inch screen (unfortunately, photos simply do not do this screen justice). This is one of the largest screens in a media player of this size (the iPhone has a 3.5 inch screen), and it is incredibly vibrant. I have never been a fan of watching movies on such a small screen — I am typically much more of a 60 inch rear projection LCD screen type of viewer — however, the Sansa View’s screen was so vibrant and clear that I almost forgot I was watching a movie in the palm of my hand. I did think it would have been nice, however, if there has been a small kickstand in the back of the device, so I could set it down while viewing.
The one drawback I did notice was that, particularly for a player which is purportedly designed to play videos, it actually recognizes a small number of formats. The View will playback MPEG4, Windows Media Video (WMV), and H.264. While MPEG4 worked fine, I did not have a lot of success with WMV, receiving errors every time I tried to use it. I could not find any H.264 media with which to test the player. I was surprised that more formats, including DIVX were not supported. Sandisk makes up for this by offering the free media converter which will convert almost any media into a format which the View will recognize. Still, that means you have to take two lengthy steps (converting and transferring) to get a video onto the player. It would be nice if more formats were recognized natively.
Nonetheless, once the video is on your device, it will be instantly recognized. And the best part for me, as I mentioned, was that video could now be stored on the memory card, and will be recognized just as easily as if it were stored internally. This was a huge step forward from the e200 series.
Photos: Once again, we will return to the main menu. From here, select photos to view all of the photos saved on your Sansa View. Again, it does not matter where they are stored, the View will find them and arrange them appropriately.
Once you have identified the photo you wish to view, simply tap its title or thumbnail to see the full screen image. Like the videos, photos will be displayed in landscape mode. Once You can view images one at a time, or tap play to watch the slideshow.
You can also create albums and “Photo Go Lists” for easier sorting of photos. Again, however, it would be nice to be able to do a keyword search to easily find photos of a particular item or person.
I was a bit surprised to find that the Sansa View would only display JPEG images. Fortunately, many of my photos are formatted as JPEGS, but it would be nice to be able to utilize PNG or GIF pictures as well.
Other Features: One of the things I really like about the Sansa View are the hidden treasures, just a few extra little features that make the player stand out from the crowded field. Of course, these hidden treasures are located under the treasure chest on the main menu. There are two such features, the first is the FM radio. The FM Radio surprised me by how clear a signal it was able to achieve without an external antenna. It was a little difficult to scroll through the radio dial to reach the station you want. Fortunately, however, you can pre-set up to 20 of your favorite radio stations. I would have liked an AM band radio as well. Why? For one thing, most baseball games are still broadcast on AM. It would be great to be able to listen to them on my Sansa View.
The second feature hidden under the treasure chest is the Voice Recorder. This worked very well also. There is a microphone next to the power switch which did a great job of recording my voice, but not the ambient noise around me. I will probably never use this feature, however, it is nice to know it is there if I ever need it. Of course, you can playback the recordings by selecting them from the music menu.
Additionally, from the treasure chest, you can access a myriad of options for all of your media needs. In fact, I was even surprised to find an option here which allowed me to record FM radio as it played. This is great for those times you hear that one song that you love, you know, the one by that band, with the drummer…Just hit record and take the snippet with you to the music store.
Memory: What can I say about the memory, but Wow! Looking at the memory in the Sansa View is like holding a giant empty box, endless space just waiting to be filled. There are two versions, an 8GB and 16GB, making it the largest memory capacity player in its class. And to add to that, Sandisk recently announced a 32 GB variation will be coming soon.
In addition to the internal memory, the Sansa Vide is also equipped to accept a single microSD or microSDHC memory card, meaning it can carry up to 8GB of additional storage space (or more as the capacity of the microSDHC continues to grow.
Battery: I thought the Sansa offered pretty good power management. The paperwork claims that it will achieve 35 hours of audio playback, which is a about a day and a half of continuous playback. I never came close to that, however, I did find that battery offered plenty of power for an entire day of listening (obviously, considerably less if you are watching a video). I tend to charge my Sansa View daily, so I am never in danger of losing power.
I was, however, disappointed by the charging cable. The Sansa includes a proprietary cable which will only connect with Sansa players. It charges by connecting to any USB port, however, there is no AC adaptor or car charger included in the package. This really irked me because the Sansa cannot play when it is connected to a computer. This means it will not play and charge simultaneously. I was able to resolve this problem by attaching the BoxWave Versa Pro Charger to the USB plug. This solution, however, will cost you $25.95, and it is a shame that Sansa did not simply include such an adaptor in the package.
Where to Buy:
Price: (8 GB/16 GB): $149.99/$199.99
What I liked: It is extremely easy to transfer media onto the device. The screen is crisp and clear. The controls have been simplified and are considerably more intuitive than the previous e200 series. An incredible amount of storage space.
What Needs Improvement: More video formats should be added. Better headphones and an AC adaptor should be included in the package. Add an AM radio. Needs a Bluetooth radio.
Proporta Silicone Case
Where to Buy: Proporta
8 Responses to “Review: Sandisk Sansa View — Could This Be Perfection In A Box?”
- 1 GreatDay Jan 12th, 2008 at 1:03 amYou might, hell, you are becoming my favorite reviewer. You have a knack for picking things to review that I already want, and then you review them for all the things I care about. This little puppy is one of them. I got my kids each e200’s, and I remember wanting one for me, but saying, no, I’ll wait for the video one. Good job here, and who knows, you may have sealed the sale for Sandisk….and Porporta…..and Boxwave…and….
- 2 alexk Jan 12th, 2008 at 12:52 pmWhat I really miss is a review of the Samsung P2. It looks to me like an attractive alternative to the iPod Nano. It is available with 4G und 8G. Please review it!
- 3 luke Jan 12th, 2008 at 3:56 pmFYI – “The View even supports gapless playback, which allows for smooth transitions between songs.”I have the 8gb model, and the View does NOT currently have this feature. It was initially advertised having it and then mention of it was subsequently removed from their website.Perhaps this is a bit nitpicky – as to the 3 different screen formats you can see while playing music – the (almost) fullscreen album art and graphic spectrum anlayzer only remain for a few seconds and then it reverts back to the primary screen (the postage stamp album art and song info). Not really sure what their logic was here, especially with the fairly substantial screen size – not being able to display full screen album art is silly.Sound quality is very good after adjusting the EQ settings
- 4 Doug Goldring Jan 12th, 2008 at 4:43 pm@ GreatDay. Thanks!! That is one of the nicest comments I have gotten. I’ll keep putting the reviews up here if you keep reading. @Alexk…I agree. That Samsung P2 does look great. If I can get my grubby little paws on one ten expect a review. @Luke. The 16 GB View I am currently using absolutely does have gapless playback. I have tested it on numerous occasions. And thanks for pointing out that the screen will revert back to the normal audio playback mode. I am really not sure why it does this either and that was one thing that just didn’t make it into the review. But you are correct about that. It should stay on whichever view you select.doug