The SanDisk Sansa Clip Review: The Smallest Big Music Player Around

Not long ago, I brought you a review of Sansa’s latest and greatest portable media player, the Sansa View.  Today, I will be looking at the View’s younger brother, the Clip.  This is a small, 1, 2, or 4 GB media player, which clips onto your clothing for easy transportation.  Perfect for the user who does not require all of the sound and fury of the feature rich View, but still wants quick and easy access to their tunes.

What’s In The Box:  Before we talk about what is inside the box, let’s talk about the box itself.  The Sansa comes packed in what appears to be a standard and innocuous cardboard box.  Inside that box, however, is a vacuum sealed, plastic, blister pack, which required two pairs of scissors to gnaw through.  This type of secure packaging is completely unnecessary.  I should not have to risk serious injury at the hands of these razor sharp plastic edges, just to get to my media player.

OK.  Enough about that.  Like the Sansa View, the Clip does not need and does not include a whole host of extras in the box.  All you will find here is:

  • the Sansa Clip media player
  • the standard throw-away earbud style headphones
  • a USB-to-miniUSB sync/charge cable
  • the usual assortment of manuals, ads, and paperwork

Overview and Controls: Holy cow is this a small music player.  I don’t know how it compares in size to the iPod Shuffle 2 as I have never seen one, but I can tell you it is much smaller than the original iPod Shuffle (and it has a screen) and, at a mere 2.17 inches tall, it is not even comparable to the other players in the Sansa line.

OK, well that is going to bring us to the time in the review when we take a quick tour of the controls, so let’s go ahead and do that.

Starting with the face of the device, which is the main user interface, we have a two color screen (yellow and blue) which provides about four lines worth of information.  No graphics and no album art.  Normally, I would be somewhat annoyed by a screen like this.  Fortunately, I was not reviewing the Clip in a vacuum, and I was able to view it next to its more powerful brothers.  This player is not designed to be the powerhorse of the family.  That would be the View, which I reviewed several months ago.  Instead, this is designed to be a small, light player which can hold your tunes and accompany you on a short trip, jog, or even a visit to the gym.  You just won’t need a powerful screen with advanced views for the types of uses this one is intended.

Moving down the face, we find the control buttons.  The small one on top is the home button (which is difficult to see with the control wheel lit up).  Tap it once from any screen and you will be instantly returned to the main menu.  Beneath that is the control wheel (which lights up blue when it is in use).  I was disappointed to find that the control wheel does not utilize the scroll wheel design of the Sansa View.  Instead, it utilizes the older design of the e200 series.  What does this mean?  Confusingly, although the controls are arranged in a wheel pattern, they are actually buttons.  The wheel does not spin at all.  Up and down will scroll you through the main menu options.  Left and right will take you from one menu level to another.  When you are playing media, up is play/pause, down will take you to the settings.  Left and right and fast forward and rewind.  The center button will select the current option.  When playing media, it will also toggle between displays.

On the right (if you are looking at the device) is the 3.5 mm headphone jack.  As always, I was very pleased to find this standard headphone jack rather than the 2.5 mm jack which seems to be increasing in popularity among phone and device manufacturers.  Beneath that is the volume rocker.  Push it up for increased volume and down for decreased.  I really liked this control.  It is intuitive to find and use.  I actually found it to be much more accessible than the scroll wheel volume control on the Sansa View.

On the left, we find the power slider.  This is exactly the same as the View.  Slide it up and hold it for a second to turn the power on or off.  Slide it down to lock the controls.  Above that is the sync/charge connection.  I was shocked to find a standard mini-USB connection.  Let me say that again.  This is a standard mini-USB connection.  Not the proprietary Sansa connector found in the other players in this line.  I am sure there is a good reason for using that cable in the View, e200, and other lines associated with the Sansa, but not the Clip.  I have no idea what that reason could be.  I wish Sandisk would redesign the other players to utilize the mini-USB connection like the Clip does.

I also really appreciated the fact that the mini-USB connection and earphone jack are not right next to each other.  These connections are both on the bottom of the View, which has caused some problems for me with one getting in the way of connecting or disconnecting the other.

There are no controls on the top and bottom of the Clip.  On the back, however, is the clip.  Of course, this is how this one got its name, so this should be a pretty nice clip.  The clip itself takes up most of the back of the device.  It seems fairly sturdy, though it is made of plastic, which means I will almost certainly find a way to break it.  At the top is the hinge.  Just press the top and the bottom will open like a gaping maw.  I thought it did a great job, securing the Sansa out of the way and accessible.  Perfect for running, working out, or any other physical activity in which you might ant your hands free.

Setup and Loading Music: Setup is really very easy.  Just plug the Clip into your computer’s USB cable and it will begin charging.  As with most things, however, there are a few complications if you are using Windows Vista.  First, the Clip I received had an older firmware.  Presumably, newer models will ship with the most recent firmware, however, an older model may also be received with an older firmware.  Upgrading the firmware is easy to do from the Sansa Clip forum.  The trick, however, is that the older firmware is not compatible with Vista at all.  As such, I had to download it on a Windows XP machine, and then upgrade my Clip from there.  Once I had upgraded the firmware, it was ready to go and could easily sync with Vista.  One other note, on the Sansa, there is a setting called USB mode.  There are three options here: MTP, MSC, and Autodetect.  In order for the Clip to sync with Vista, it must be set to MSC mode.

OK.  Now that we have the correct firmware, and the USB settings adjusted properly, it is time to sync your music.  This could not be easier.  Just plug the Clip into your USB port.  From here, you have two options.  You can open up Windows Media Player and sync your music to the Clip from there.  This works just fine.  You can also choose to simply drag and drop files from your hard drive to the Clip.  If you do so, however, the Clip will only recognize file formats which are recognized by Windows Media, including MP3, WMA, and secure WMA.  I was a little disappointed by the limited number of formats which can be used.  Then again, almost all of my music is stored in WMA format, so this really was not a significant concern for me.

I utilized both methods of transferring music to the Clip during my testing, and found both to be easy and effective.  In only a matter of minutes, my Clip was filled with over 300 songs (presumably, the 2 GB model would give you 600 songs, while the new 4GB model would give you over 1200 songs).

Playing Music: To get started listening, all you have to do is select Music from the main menu.  From here, all of the usual sorting methods are available.  You can choose to play all or sort by:

  • Artists
  • Albums
  • Songs
  • Genres
  • Playlists
  • Top Rated
  • Recordings
  • Audiobooks

You can also use the Music Options to select Shuffle or Repeat.  One thing I did find to be missing was an alphabetical search option.  If I am looking for ZZ Top, I have to scroll through the entire list of artists until I find ZZ Top at the end.  It would be nice if I could simply search by the first letter of the artist name to quickly jump to the “Z” section.  Then again, I typically just hit Play All and Shuffle and roll the dice trying to guess what the next song is going to be.

I also found the sound quality to be excellent.  The Clip includes a five band equalizer with five preset settings (normal, rock, pop, jazz, and classical) as well as a custom setting which allows you to directly adjust each band.  I really felt the Clip did a good job of projecting the music and creating an environment which was ideal for each song you played.

In addition to playing your synced music, the Clip also offers an FM radio.  This is a really nice touch which Sansa tends to include on their media players.  I love this option, and its ability to store 40 preset stations (who listens to 40 different FM stations, anyway?) however, I would note that most baseball games are still broadcast on AM stations.  It would be nice to be able to use the Clip to listen to AM stations as well.  Well, really, I just want to be able to listen in the next time Roger Clemens faces Barry Bonds…

Finally, the Clip also includes a Voice Recorder.  Simply select this option from the main menu, hit Record and start talking.  I found the microphone on the Clip to be superb.  I mean, I am not suggesting you take it into your next studio recording session, however, for those times when inspiration strikes while you are stuck in traffic with neither pad nor pen (such as that idea for edible paper you have been carrying around to eliminate waste), this is going to work great.  I held the Clip a comfortable distance from my mouth, and it worked great, picking up every word.  I even tested it while clipped onto my shirt, without moving it from my ideal listening position and it worked perfectly.

Memory: The Clip which I reviewed was the older, single gigabyte model.  While this seems small compared to today’s 8, 16, and now 32 GB mainstays, it is important to note that there are no images or videos to be used on the Clip.  This means that single gigabyte is free to be used for nothing but music.  As such, you will be able to hold over 300 songs on this single gigabyte.  Not too shabby.  Obviously, the two gigabyte and brand new four gigabyte models will hold over 600 and 1200 songs respectively.  Not too shabby at all.

The only significant omission I noted here was the lack of an external memory card.  Obviously, Sandisk is the world leader (or one of them anyway) in memory cards, and most of their media players highlight this prominently.  So, I was surprised by the lack, even, of a microSD slot, like the one incorporated in most of the other media players in the Sansa line.

Power and Battery: The Sansa Clip includes an internal (not removable or replaceable) rechargable battery.  Sandisk advertises this as providing up to 15 hours of playback time.  I have to admit that I found nothing to refute this claim.  I was quite impressed by the battery life on this little player.

Even more to my liking, however, was the mini-USB connection which is used to charge the battery.  As I mentioned above, most…in fact, all…of the other players in the Sansa line use a proprietary cable to sync content and charge the battery.  Only the Clip utilizes the universal mini-USB connection.  Why Sandisk chose to use the connection on the Clip and ignore it on any of its other, higher end devices, I cannot say, but I was thrilled to find it here.  I do wish Sandisk would incorporate this connection in all of its Sansa media players, as it allows me to use the same sync/charge cable for all of my devices, rather than carrying around a special cable just for my media player.

What I Liked: The size of the Clip is phenomenal.  Great memory and battery life.  Extremely easy controls.  Mini USB connection.

What Needs Improvement: Add a microSD slot.  Full color screen would be nice, but is not necessary.

Where to Buy: Sansa Store

Price:  1GB is $39.99 and comes in black

2 GB is $59.99 and comes in black, blue, pink, and red

4 GB is $79.99 and comes in a special silver edition.

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1 Response to “Review: The Sandisk Sansa Clip, The Smallest Big Music Player Around.”

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1 Comment on "The SanDisk Sansa Clip Review: The Smallest Big Music Player Around"

  1. The sound quality is excellent. Audiophiles use the Clip and the Clip+ because it has such great sound. The Clip+ can play back flac files which are lossless audio files. The clip+ also plays back ogg vorbis files for all you linux hippies.

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