SanDisk Sansa Connect

Back in January, SanDisk announced the Sansa Connect, a slick-looking flash MP3 player capable of hopping on open Wi-Fi networks and sharing songs with any other Connects anywhere. The device was sweet enough to garner a Best of CES award in the MP3 player category, and that was when we just had an inkling that a compatible service for cordless music acquisition was in the works. Now, the rumor has become a reality: SanDisk has partnered with Yahoo to offer its Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go service on the Connect, which means users can update music wirelessly from anywhere with an open Wi-Fi connection. (Head on over to Crave for more information on the wireless music features.)

The other big news is that the Sansa Connect hits shelves today at Circuit
City stores across the nation. The player carries an MSRP of $250, which is slightly high for a 4GB device, but it’s not unreasonable to pay a bit more for advanced technology. Plus, you can always add more memory via the built-in microSD slot–we certainly can’t complain about expandable memory. We also can’t complain about the player’s design and interface. It’s a slick little player with a nice-feeling black enclosure and a cute, stubby antenna poking out of the top, rather like that of a portable satellite radio device. The 2.2-inch screen is nice and bright with good color saturation, and the icon-driven menus are fun and easy to navigate. We especially like the bubbly main menu selections that rotate in an arc across the lower portion of the screen when you hit the home button. 

Fortunately, the Connect’s controls complement the interface nicely. Below the screen is a tactile scroll wheel, which can be clicked in four directions as well: up activates the home function, pulling up the main menu wheel at the bottom of the screen; down starts and stops playback; and right/left serve to shuttle between menu levels and tracks. A dedicated volume rocker sits on the left spine, while the power button and hold switch reside on the top. There’s even a built-in speaker on the rear of the device–of course, you just get mono audio out of it, but it’s still a nice touch.

In addition to its wireless compatibility with Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go, the Connect supports all DRM WMAs, including those from other music subscription services (such as Rhapsody), though you’ll need to connect to the computer to get those. Naturally, MP3 files are supported. You also can view photos on the device. In fact, you can browse photos on the go through Flickr, which is another neat wireless feature.  So far, we’re pretty impressed with the Connect’s inclusion of desirable features and its snappy processor performance in preliminary testing. We’re still having issues hopping onto the local free Wi-Fi, but we hope to work it out with some more communication with SanDisk.


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