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An economical alternative for portable music?
SanDisk has made quite a niche for itself as an economical alternative in the portable music player market. The Sansa Fuze+ continues this thrifty tradition, blending a nice feature set into a sleek package that won't break the bank.
Inside the Fuze+
The SanDisk SDMX20 Sansa (Fuze+ for short) is pretty much an all-around portable media player. In addition to digital music, it tackles photos, video, FM radio, and even does a little voice recording on the side. All this in a svelte package: 3.1 x 1.9 x .3-inches and just 2.1 ounces. It's literally so light you'll forget it's in your pocket (just don't that before laundry time...).
You interact with the Fuze + through a nice 2.4-inch color display with a resolution of 320 x 240. Below the display is a touch-strip navigation pad for scrolling through your music library and navigating around the Sansa's menu items. So you're not quite dealing with a touch screen display, but you don't have any clunky tactile buttons cluttering up the Sansa's sleek face. A word of caution though - touch controls can be sensitive in pockets when the Fuze+ is on. Fortunately it's easy to lock and unlock the screen during use.
One of the nice things about the Sansa Fuze+ is that it supports essentially every music file format you can think of - MP3, WMA, Wav, protected WMA files from pay services like Rhapsody and Napster and AAC files for all those iTunes lovers (the Fuse is also Mac-compatible just to tempt Apple lovers a bit more).
The Fuse + can also play back video files such as standard definition H.264, WMV and MPEG-4 format video. Included software lets you convert other video files (including HD videos from the Flip and other pocket camcorders) into a Sansa-friendly format for viewing on the go. Photos, too, are allowed in on the fun with JPEG and BMP support out of the box and the converter software on hand to handle TIFF, GIF and PNG photo files.
This wide format support is a big selling point, especially for those (like me) with a rather eclectic and scattershot digital music collection composed of a variety of different file types.
You'll find an assortment of equalizers and preset modes for matching the device's settings to get optimal sound quality. You shouldn't expect to be floored by the pristine clarity of music playback on the Fuze+ but for the price it's definitely a top performer. The included headphones are standard fare, with a bit of foam on the tips for comfort.
Unlike some portable music players that will remain nameless, you can expand the Sansa's 8GB of internal memory with a microSD card. (The Fuse is also available in 4GB and 16GB versions too, if you need more or less storage out of the box.)
On the battery front, you can get up to 24 hours of music playback or five hours of continuous video playback before you'll need to recharge the battery (which you do, conveniently, via an included USB cable).
With a built-in FM tuner, you can listen to, and record, live radio to the Fuze+'s internal memory or removable memory card. You can easily transfer these recordings off the Sansa and onto your computer.
Choice of Colors
You certainly don't lack for color choices with the Fuze+ - you can select either black, blue and red for the 4GB version; black, blue, purple and white for the 8GB or just black for the 16GB model. As we mentioned at the start, the Sansa Fuze+ is designed for the budget conscious - the 8GB version carries an $80 price tag.
Sansa Fuze+ Bottom Line
This is one capable MP3 player. With a price range of $65-100 depending on memory capacity, it's less expensive than an iPod with a greater range of format support. It's extremely lightweight, comes in a variety of colors, and while the navigation pad may trip you up, it still delivers an excellent set of features for the price.