SanDisk Sansa c150 2GB MP3 player
Can SanDisk swipe the iPod Shuffle's market share?
UK Exclusive Everyone wants to be the 'iPod beater'. SanDisk is one of the latest to try its hand, and its introduction of Sansa-branded players last year brought it some success at the low-end of the market. Suitably encouraged, it's launched the Sansa c150, its first MP3 player with a colour screen and the ability to give the competition a run for its money...
The c150 doesn’t look all that special - it’s a standard-sized Flash-based MP3 player with a small LCD screen and a navigation pad on the front. It’s made out of black plastic – glossy on the front and matte on the back, with silver buttons and trim. It’s a rather basic design, but it's stylish and it works for me.
Rather unusually, you hold the player sideways when in use, so the screen is on the left, with the navigation pad on the right. On the right-hand bottom corner is the power button, which also doubles up as the menu button. Press is quickly to access the menu, press and hold it to power the player down.
The navigation pad is unusual too. Pressing it upwards will play and pause tracks, left and right is, respectively, reverse and fast forward, as well as skip back and forth in the track list. Pressing it downwards brings up the music options menu, which allows you to create playlists on the fly and enable options such as shuffle and repeat.
As you might have realised from the pictures, there’s also a centre button in the navigation pad, used as a select button in the menu system. It has no function during music playback. Below the screen on the side of the player are a microphone and a hold switch - on the opposite side is the volume control.
At the short end on the screen side you’ll find the 3.5mm audio jack as well as a hole for a neck strap. At the other end is a proprietary dock connector to which you connect the bundled cable for copying files via USB. It's a shame SanDisk didn't go for a standard mini USB connector as you'll need to take the cable with you whenever you want to attach the c150 to a computer.
At the back of the c150 is a small lid that hides a AAA battery, which makes it thicker than some competing products, but it also means that you can easily fit another batter if you run out of juice.
I was slightly disappointed with the screen from the moment I switched the c150 on. The back light is uneven – there are very bright parts in the corners – and it’s got quite large pixels which are very visible. Still, it’s easy to read and all the information you need is there. For one or another reason – I think mainly just to add another tick box on the features chart – the c150 can display pictures on its minute screen. None of the supplied pictures looked all that impressive and due to the fairly poor quality of the screen the colours didn’t look right on many of them.
The menu system is easy to navigate. The main options are music, FM radio – which may not make it onto European models; SanDisk has yet to decide – voice, photo and settings. The music menu gives you options to play all files, certain artists or albums, songs or genre’s or of course your playlists. The c150 can also play Audible files and you have to select them here. Same goes for recordings, although you have to go to the (separate) recording menu to record them.
The settings menu allows you to adjust the equalizer – there are five presets and a custom option – and reconfigure the power and display options. You set the FM radio region here too.
The review sample had a glitch with the radio that caused it to hum as soon as the LCD back light switched off, although SanDisk claims this has been fixed on retail product.
The model SanDisk sent over for review contained 2GB of memory, although a 1GB model is also available. There doesn’t seem to be a very big price difference on the UK market and the 2GB model will only set you back a couple of quid more than the 1GB model if you shop around.
Sound quality, to my ears, was very good and the c150 will happily play MP3 and WMA music. It is labelled with the Microsoft Plays for Sure logo and can play WMA DRM tracks. To do so, you need to use Windows Media Player 10 to copy the songs to the Sansa c150, but other files can simply be copied across by drag and drop.
The supplied earbuds are of average quality, and I would buy something better to get the most out of the c150. Sandisk also supplies a AAA battery to get you going, but you might want to invest in some rechargeables as the battery life isn’t amazing. You’re likely to get about 10-12 hours out of a single AAA battery, although SanDisk quotes up to 15 hours of continuous playback.
The SanDisk Sansa c150 is a pretty good, but not perfect, pocket-friendly MP3 player. At as little as £95 for the 2GB model, it's also quite affordable considering its capacity and features. It might not be the best looking player out there, but looks are a matter of taste and I don’t think it looks that bad either.
The player's sound quality is very good and it's easy to use, though the screen could be better. The c150 delivers pretty much what you’d expect from a current generation digital music player and its price makes it an attractive option. ®