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Sansa Clip Zip Review: An Ultra-compact Clip-on MP3 Player Ideal for the Gym

Sansa Clip Zip: an ideal gym buddy for your workouts

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Sansa Clip Zip

Sansa Clip Zip

Image © SanDisk Corporation

Introduction

Following on from Sandisk's highly rated and successful Sansa Clip+ which we reviewed a while ago, the electronics giant has now launched the Sansa Clip Zip to bolster its popular clip-on range. Even though many people are now discovering the convenience of using an iPhone for music for example, there's nothing quite like an ultra-compact clip-on MP3 player that you can take and wear almost anywhere. Weighing in at under $50, the Sansa Clip Zip also boasts more features and costs a lot less than Apple's iPod Shuffle too -- this is one of its strong selling points if you're searching for a budget MP3 player that won't break the bank.

However, has SanDisk improved on their original 'clippy' portable enough to entice budget consciousness consumers to want to but it? Find out more in this full review of the Sansa Clip Zip.

Pros:

  • Improved display that is now larger and in full-color
  • Memory expandable with microSDHC card slot (also doubles as a slotRadio player)
  • New AAC format compatibility for playing back DRM-free songs from your iTunes library
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Built-in support for the Rhapsody music service
  • Offers superb value for money

Cons:

  • Comes with a very short USB cable
  • Control pad doesn't seem as positive as its predecessors (Sansa Clip / Sansa Clip Plus)

Information and Specifications

If you're in a rush or want more details on specifications, then be sure to read our Sansa Clip Zip profile guide that quickly gives you the information you need. This quick rundown on features, options, and specifications, includes details such as: color and storage capacity combinations, supported audio formats, minimum system requirements, and more.

Sansa Clip Zip Features

Screen display:
One of the most significant improvements SanDisk has made to its latest clip-on model is the screen display. Previous Sansa Clip's had a back-lit 1.0 inch color OLED screen. This has now been replaced with a 1.1 inch full color screen. This doesn't sound a lot, but when comparing the two models, there is a significant difference in screen size -- the Clip Zip's screen is visibly larger by quite a lot. The default screen brightness levels are good and the display is nice and sharp too. While using the Clip Zip, the display gives you plenty of useful information such as: battery level, album, track title, artist, and a progress bar. SanDisk have done a stellar job of improving the Sansa Clip Zip's display both in terms of resolution and the right level of information served up in a user-friendly way.

MicroSDHC expansion slot:
With the inclusion of a MicroSDHC card slot, you can expand the Sansa Clip Zip's capacity by a further 32Gb if necessary -- standard MicroSD cards can be used too. This is an excellent feature often found on PMPs and other portables that extends the life of your device as your music library grows. This expansion slot is also compatible with SanDisk's proprietary SlotRadio cards that are pre-loaded with 1,000 songs -- ideal if you want to purchase an MP3 player as a gift for someone who is a beginner in the digital music world, or even a complete technophobe!

Menu system:
The menu system has changed considerably since the last reincarnation of SanDisk's popular clip-on portable. The interface in fact is very similar to its big brother, the Sansa Fuze+. The new menu system consists of brightly colored sub-menus that have added graphics for easy identification. On testing, we found the menu system coupled with the high resolution display as intuitive as ever. Using the left and right controls, you can scroll to each of the sub-menus which are:

  • Music
  • FM radio
  • Books (Podcasts and audiobooks)
  • Voice
  • Card (if inserted)
  • Sport (a built-in stopwatch)
  • Settings

GoList:
As well as all the usual ways that you can sort music to play such as by artist, album, genre, etc., the Sansa Clip Zip also features a facility called GoList. This makes it easy to cherry pick songs and quickly add them to a customized playlist. While listening to a song, you simply hold down the select button to add it to your GoList.

ReplayGain:
SanDisk have also kept a useful feature called ReplayGain (found in the Settings menu) that can be a great aid in volume normalization. Songs can vary in loudness which often means you have to manually increase or decrease the volume level. ReplayGain can be used to automatically compensate for this variation in loudness.

Other Features

Sport mode:
This sub-feature of the Clip Zip is useful for timing gym work, laps, and other events that need accurate times. You can record elapsed time in hours, minutes, seconds, and tenths of a second. While timing a particular event you can press the select button to log laps -- these are saved in memory so you can look back at previous times. If you're into fitness in any way then this bonus feature could prove very useful.

FM radio:
If you've run out of music to listen to, or just fancy something different, then the built-in FM radio gives you the opportunity to listen to your favorite radio stations while on the go. You can store up to 40 radio stations as presets in the Clip Zip's memory and can even record a live broadcast (via the options button) for later playback. This is a useful feature if you are following a radio show or a series that is broadcast over a number of weeks.

Voice recording:
The Sansa Clip Zip comes with a built-in microphone for recording the sounds around you. A standalone digital voice recorder can cost quite a bit and so the inclusion of voice recording is a handy feature when you need it. Not all portables come with the facility to record voice and so this bonus feature certainly adds value to SanDisk's already feature-rich Clip-on portable. When we tested this feature, the built-in microphone performed well giving a recording that was clear and surprisingly loud.

Sound quality:
As with the older Sansa Clip's that we have reviewed before, this little MP3 player has a big attitude when it comes to sound. The Sansa Clip Zip produces excellent sound across all frequencies -- bass sounds are tight and high-end frequencies are crystal-clear and reasonably detailed.

Conclusion

There's no denying that SanDisk have improved on their previous model enough to make the Sansa Clip Zip an even better contender in the sub-$50 budget MP3 player market. The most notable improvement that makes this player a step up from its predecessor is the upgraded display screen which is now larger and in full-color. The new high resolution menu system is also a great addition that is a cinch to use and is as intuitive as ever. Another stellar improvement to the Clip Zip is support for the AAC format (DRM-free only) -- this enables you to now play songs from your iTunes library too. Moving to the Clip Zip's controls, we thought they were good overall, but we couldn't help but notice that the buttons on the previous Clip+ seem more positive. That aside, build quality is on a par with previous models and the unit should stand up to quite a lot of abuse -- especially in gym situations!

While on the subject of fitness, if you're looking for a budget MP3 player to take to the gym or use while walking or running, then the Sport mode might just swing you into purchasing the Clip Zip. This can be a handy feature to have for accurately recording and saving logs of your times and laps; these can then be referred to at a later date in order to see if you have improved your fitness level.

Apart from a short USB cable that might make it difficult to interface the Clip Zip to your computer, there's nothing to really overshadow this great MP3 player. Once again, SanDisk have improved on their little clip-on portable to make it a serious choice if you're looking for a budget iPod alternative that you can wear almost anywhere.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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