SanDisk Sansa Clip MP3 player
Molecule-sized micro MP3 player
Review Come September, a version of the Sansa Clip with revised firmware will hit the streets in the UK, giving us an excuse to rustle one up and have a retrospective shoofty.
Much of the revised firmware is actually already available from SanDisk, including support for Ogg files, but come September all new Clips will also support Flac and come with FM radios as standard.
An entry level player with a decent amount of functionality
Currently you can get a Clip either with or without the radio, but the transfer of Sansa's manufacturing centre to the Czech Republic from the Fast East has sidestepped the EU tax on FM equipped kit. We are assuming this means that Clips with radios will then cost the same as Clips currently without.
Lacking official specs for the Clip our trusty Register ruler made it 34 x 54 x 10mm in size and we'd say it weighs about as much as a half empty box of matches or 25g...ish. Build wise its a little on the plastic side, but it doesn't creak, flex or groan no matter how you abuse it.
For an entry level micro-player Sansa have bundled a decent amount of functionality into the Clip so as well as support for the usual MP3, WMA, WAV and Audible formats you also get a voice recorder, an FM radio and a handy “sleep” function that powers the device down after anything from 10 to 120 minutes of play. You also get an on-the-hoof playlist facility, just hold down the centre button and the playing track is added to the GoList.
The Clip's screen is a 24mm OLED affair showing a sort of aquamarine text against a black background. It works just fine for the job in hand, displaying main menu options one at a time then displaying four lines per screen in other settings. The firmware upgrade has increased the screen's maximum brightness making it more legible in direct sunlight than before.
The main controls on the fascia bear an obvious family resemblance to the rest of the Sansa family though on the Clip the circular control doesn't actually rotate, but simply click at the four compass points. The action feels a little cheap, but then this is a small, cheap MP3 player and at least the control wheel surround glows a soothing non-budget blue when activated.
The clip shuts and stays wherever you put it
The front-mounted Home button, a great idea on the Fuze, is no less of a great idea on the Clip while the side mounted volume and on/off/lock controls both fall easily to hand.
Menu navigation is rapid and straightforward and as always we were happy to find an artist/album/track menu structure.
Loading the Clip is a straightforward operation as either an MTP or MSC device and it picked up ID3 tags with 100% accuracy.
We could hardly overlook the thing that give the Clip its name, the...err, clip. Detachable from the player only by a fairly hefty shove the plastic spring loaded clip is a pretty effective piece of design; push down at the top and it opens, let it spring back and it shuts with a degree of force that inspires confidence in it staying wherever you put it. A raised circular ridge on the clip ensures a firm grip on t-shirts and the like.
When it comes to sound quality the Clip doesn't compete all that well with its bigger brother the Fuze. Back-to-back listening of a couple of classic Jethro Tull albums – Songs from the Wood and Heavy Horses – and Linkin Park's Minutes to Midnight showed the Clip to be competent, but unexceptional.
It feels a little on the plastic side, but it doesn't creak at all
With the EQ set to normal the Clip lacked the solid bass and sense of warmth that made the Fuze so pleasant on the ear. Moving the EQ setting from 'normal' to 'rock' improved matters a fair bit, highlighting just how movable a feast the sound quality on an MP3 player can be and anyway as the Fuze is one of the best sounding MP3 players we have comes across saying the Clip is not quite as good is really not major league criticism.
One thing we wish the Fuze and Clip didn't have in common is the rather crumby bundled earphones. We replaced them with our trusty Griffin TuneBuds, which are not only far more comfortable but also considerably better sounding.
Sansa claim a battery life of “up to 15 hours”, the best we managed was just shy of 14 hours, which for a player of its size was reasonable enough.
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.