Being the size it is the Clip has two obvious challengers for your hard earned - the iPod Shuffle and the Creative Zen Stone/Plus. The Clip has a couple of immediate advantages over the Shuffle.
Firstly it has a screen, in our opinion vital for any player with more than 512MB worth of music on board, and secondly you can get it with 4GB of storage as well as the more usual 1 & 2GB. Its a fair bit cheaper than the Shuffle too.
Kind to your pocket, both in expanse and expense
As for the Stone/Plus, well to be honest we have never really liked they way it looks or works. Of course neither the Shuffle nor the Stone support Ogg and Flac files.
As for pricing a lot will depend on how things shake out come September but by shopping around you should expect to pay about £25 for the 1GB model, £30 for the 2GB and £50 for the 4GB. Not bad when you consider that Apple will leave you light to the tune of 45 notes for a 2GB Shuffle.
If absolute compactness of design is what you are after the Clip doesn't really put a foot wrong. Its small, light, easy to use and pumps out a decent enough sound while the clip provides a simple and secure way of attaching the player to your person without making you look too much of a boob.
SanDisk Sansa Clip
@USB mass storage device
"Loading the Clip is a straightforward operation as either an MTP or MSC device and it picked up ID3 tags with 100% accuracy."
MTP: Media Transfer Protocol (access with a sync protocol or application)
MSC: Media Storage Class (access as a removable disk)
So you can sync with a crappy software stync tool or by drag & drop as an external hard drive.
USB mass storage device?
That's all very nice, but can you access it as a USB mass storage device? I hate having to use crappy proprietary Windows only applications to manage my music.
Ooooh I have one of these!
It's my 'workout' mp3 player (actually my only one, but that's all I use it for) - it's small, light, cheap & gets the job done. I'm not that bothered about sound quality - it seems fine to me. I think there *may* be a 'increase volume' option somewhere as there was with a previous Sansa mp3 player I had.
Works both with Linux & Windows - can plug it in & it's recognised as removable device. Also, you can create your own playlists (m3u files) under either OS & have them appear in addition to the 'Go list' - useful if you have some tracks that you have to listen to in a specific order (i.e. live albums, etc).
Once complaint is that outside (in the sun) it can be extremely difficult to see the display. Which makes it hard to switch tracks, etc, while running. Aside from that, I love it. I use my own (el cheapo) headphones, so can't comment on the quality of the included ones..