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Sansa Fuze+ Review: A Budget Media Player With 'Invisible Touch' Controls

A review of the Sansa Fuze+ SDMX20R Media Player (8GB, Blue)

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating
User Rating 2 Star Rating (3 Reviews)

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Sansa Fuze+ Family

Sansa Fuze+ Family

Image © SanDisk Corporation.

Introduction

When we reviewed the Sansa Fuze, it scored well on audio quality but suffered from slight video jitter. SanDisk has now released an improved version with more features and a new touch-sensitive control pad.

If you're looking for a budget Media player, then be sure to read our full Sansa Fuze+ review to see how SanDisk's MP3 player performs.

Pros:

  • New touch-sensitive control pad
  • Screen display is larger with improved resolution
  • slotRadio / microSDHC card compatible
  • Excellent sound and video quality
  • Very good value for money

Cons:

  • Touch-sensitive pad can be fiddly to use at first
  • Unit slow to boot up

Before You Buy The Sansa Fuze+

Minimum System Requirements:

  • Windows XP SP2, Mac OS X 10.3, Linux
  • Windows Media Player 10+
  • Internet Access (for downloading Sansa Updater, Media Converter Software, etc.)
  • USB 2.0 port
  • CD-ROM drive (bundled Rhapsody software -- Americas only)

Available Capacities and Colors: The Sandisk Sansa Fuze+ comes in a range of colors and storage capacities which are:

  • 4GB Version (Solstice Black, Electra Blue, and Flamenco Red)
  • 8GB version (Solstice Black, Electra Blue, Zinfandel Purple, and Birch White)
  • 16GB Version (Solstice Black only)

Audio File Formats:

  • MP3
  • WMA and WMADRM (WMA secure)
  • WAV
  • FLAC
  • AAC (M4a - downloaded iTunes songs that are free from DRM copy protection)
  • Ogg-Vorbis
  • Audible and Audiobook Files

Video File Formats:

  • Built-in support for: [Photo: JPG, BMP] ¦ [Video: H.264, MP4, and WMV]
  • Using free Sansa Media Converter software: [Photo: TIFF, GIF, PCX, TGA, and PNG] ¦ [Video: 3gp/3gpp2, ASF, AVI, DAT, DivX(ver 6.0), DVR-MS, MOV, MP4, MPEG 1, MPEG 2, MJPEG, FLV, and Flip]

Package Contents: (* denotes Americas Only)

  • Sansa Fuze+ player
  • Earphones with foam covers
  • CD containing software for Rhapsody (*)
  • USB 2.0 cable
  • Quick start guide
  • eMusic free trial offer (*)

Style and Design: Compared to the original Sansa Fuze, the new design is an improvement -- the unit is more stylish and sleeker looking. With the addition of a touch-sensitive control pad, this new design also enhances the Fuze+'s overall look and feel. SanDisk have done an excellent job of creating a stylish and well designed media player while maintaining build quality.

Getting Started

Sansa Fuze+ Package

Sansa Fuze+ Package

Photo © Mark Harris - Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Charging The Battery: The SanDisk Sansa Fuze+ has an internal rechargeable battery that is charged via the supplied mini-USB cable; this is long enough to reach around the back of most computers. According to the published specifications, a full charge for the Fuze+ gets you exactly the same as the original version -- up to 24 hours for audio and up to 5 hours for video.

Transferring Music: The Sansa Fuze+ supports two USB modes for transferring audio files; these are MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) and MSC (Mass Storage Class). In MSC mode the device acts like a normal removable drive; MTP mode is useful for subscription services that use DRM protection. During testing, the Sansa Fuze+ was detected automatically without any problems (Windows). If you use a software media player (Windows Media Player, Winamp, etc.), you can then synchronize your music with the Fuze+.

Earphones: The provided earphones give a decent audio response and come with foam covers which helps when using them for long periods. The 3.5mm jack plug is gold-plated and there is a generous length of wiring which also acts as the FM aerial.

Device Features

Controls: Sandisk has almost done away with a physical interface by incorporating their new 'Invisible Touch' control pad for the Sansa Fuze+. Apart from the on/off button and volume controls, the rest of the interface is totally touch-sensitive. This new interface makes it easy to navigate the menu system, although it can be fiddly at times until you get use to it. You can either tap you finger to scroll slowly, or slide your finger for fast scrolling.

To choose an item, you simply tap the center of the control pad. There's also tap points for play/pause and back. SanDisk have taken a gamble on using a touch-sensitive interface in favor of conventional controls. This change has paid off, but be prepared for a slight learning curve to get used the new method.

Menu System: The menu system compared to the original Fuze is much improved. The GUI is more intuitive and greatly enhanced with high-res images. Each menu option is displayed at the top of the screen. The sections you can choose are: Music, Video, Photo, Radio, Podcast, Voice, Card, and Settings. One great feature in the settings menu is Replay Gain which is useful if you've got songs that vary in volume. While playing a music track, the screen displays details on battery level, album, track title, artist, track playing time, etc. You can also use the Fuze+ as a slotRadio player by inserting a slotRadio card and navigating to the Card menu. Once again, SanDisk has done a great job of improving on the original menu system while keeping it user-friendly.

Screen Display: The Sansa Fuze+ sports a larger color screen (2.4") than the original -- it's resolution is also higher (320 x 240). In fact the Fuze+ has a larger and higher resolution display than the new Apple iPod Nano (1.5" @ 240 x 240) that costs significantly more. The screen display output is bright, clear, and colors are nice and vibrant. If you're specifically looking for an iPod alternative with excellent video capabilities, then the Sansa Fuze+ is a stellar choice.

Sansa Fuze+

Sansa Fuze+ 3D

Photo © Mark Harris - Licensed to About.com, Inc.

slotRadio / microSDHC Card Slot: As well as using your own microSD / microSDHC cards, you can use SanDisk's slotRadio cards -- purchasing one instantly gives you an extra 1,000 songs.

FM Radio: There are 40 presets for you to store your favorite radio stations and you can even record what you hear -- a useful option if you want to record broadcasts for later playback.

Voice Recorder: Not all MP3 players double as a voice recorder and so this feature really adds value to an already feature-rich portable. On testing, the voice recording was very clear.

Video and Sound Quality: The Sansa Fuze+ produces excellent sound and video. When listening to music, bass output is punchy and high-end frequencies are well defined; sound is also crystal-clear when playing podcasts and audiobooks. Video is top-notch -- photos are clear with vibrant colors, and video playback is jitter-free.

Conclusion

Is it Worth Buying?
There's little doubt that SanDisk have made major improvements with the new Sansa Fuze+ when compared to the previous version. As well as a leap forward in design and specifications, new features such as the new touch-sensitive pad makes the Fuze+ a joy to use. However, be prepared for a small learning curve in order to get used to the new control method. With even more support for audio and video formats than before, and an iPod nano-beating video screen, the Sansa Fuze+ represents great value for money. If you're looking for a high-spec media player below $100, then you'll be hard pushed to find a better player in the budget media player category. Highly recommended.

Disclosure: A review unit was provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 4 out of 5
A Good Decent Media Player, Member rskipk

With all the negative reviews going around I thought I would toss in my opinion as I have used this product for over a month now. The Sansa Fuze + is a really good player with a lot of useful features and yes, a small learning curve to get used to the touch controls. It took me a couple of days to get a feel for this player and that is it, now I can use it with ease and there is no mystery behind this. First, if you buy one, download the latest firmware and it is maybe the reason the reviews are so polarizing, people either like it or hate it. Getting used to the touch pad just takes a little patience and some practice, you learn to swipe side to side and up and down by using your finger on the touch strips, there is also a back touch spot and a play/pause one; once you do that getting around the player is very easy, it puts out very decent sound, has settings for Eq, backlight, sleep timer, radio presets, and the optional external memory easily integrates with other music you have on the player. I find the build quality to be good, it has a nice solid feel, just the right weight and it fits comfortably in your hand. The screen is nice and bright and the menu is easy to navigate and find what you want, this is after you spend a little time learning how the thing works. I think the problem people have is that they don't take the time to get a feel for the way the Fuze+ works and then they get frustrated and think it isn't a good product; this is pretty unfair in my opinion because most electronics require at least a little learning curve to get the feel of the product. For the price I find the player just fine and am glad I bought one, I was tempted not to by bad reviews but then I started looking around and read other reviews like mine from people who had spent more then ten minutes with the product. For under $100 bucks, I don't think any other player comes close.

20 out of 21 people found this helpful.

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