Thursday, November 6, 2008

SanDisk Sansa View. My Review.

Problems and Solutions. My first impression of the Sansa View was great. It lasted about 5 minutes until I plugged it into my Vista Home Premium PC. The PC saw it as an MTP device, but would only succeed in installing the appropriate driver about one in 5 times I tried. Even when it succeeded, neither Windows Media Player 11 or the Rhapsody software that came with it could detect it. I could spot an MTP Device listing in my device manager, but after a couple of minutes even that would disappear. Unplugging the View would leave it in Connected mode where only a long hold of the power slider to reset it would shake it free. Without the PC the View worked fine, but it left me with no way to put media on it directly. I spent a day looking for a Vista hotfix, but what finally "fixed" the problem was new View firmware and changing USB mode from within the View's Settings menu. The View fortunately worked perfectly with my Asus EEE Netbook running XP. I used it to install the new firmware on it. Changing the USB mode from Auto Detect to MSC did the trick for my Vista PC.
Included: In addition to the View the package included a proprietary USB cable, earbuds, software install CD, Quick Start Guide, a Rhapsody Brochure, An Audible Brochure, a hearing level warning pamphlet, and the warranty/safety sheet. The one reviewed is an 8gb model, but you can also find Sansa Views in 16gb and 32gb.
Controls are simple. The left edge reveals the Power/Hold slider and a small hole for the microphone. The face houses a mechanical control wheel with a center Enter/OK button and a Home button. Tap the top of the wheel for Play/Pause, and the bottom of the wheel for Options/submenus. Connections are all on the bottom edge. You'll find a headphone jack and the proprietary USB jack.
Music: The View supports MP3, WAV, WMA, secure WMA, and Audible formats. Sound quality was decent through the included earbuds, but much better when a higher quality headphone set was worn. Music options include: Add to Library, Rate Music, Purchase, Repeat On/Off, Shuffle On/Off, EQ, Add to Go List, Clear Music Go List, and Delete Song. There are five preset EQ settings (Normal, Rock, Pop, Jazz, Classical), and one Custom five band equalizer you can set. Not as many EQ settings as the typical iPod, but neither my iPod Touch or Nano have a custom user setting option. I'll give Music an A- .

Videos: The View is compatible with MPEG4, WMV, and H.264. Additional video formats are supported via the Sansa® Media Converter software (available for download at Although it doesn't tell you this in the User Manual, you can get THIS CABLE and use it to show videos and photos on your TV from the View. NTSC or PAL format. You can also use the red/white ends of the cable for audio line-out to your home stereo. Videos look fine, and the screen is viewable from extreme angles. Video gets a B+. Not as nice as my iPod Touch or Samsung P2, but as good as the Insignia Pilot which has the same sized screen.

Photos: The View will display JPG photos on it's 2.5" screen and they look great. Compared to many other players I'm dissappointed with the lack of options. I could find no way to rotate a photo. I could find no way to zoom in on a photo. One thing it does do that seems odd to me it to show you any album art that you may have attached in your MP3 files. There is a View Thumbnails mode which makes it easy to find a photo. You can play a slide show of photos and adjust the timing. Photos will output to a TV if you have the appropriate cable. You can play Music behind a slide show. You can add or photos to a Photo Go List, or clear the list. Lastly you can delete a photo. With no zoom, Photos gets a C from me.

FM Radio: There are 20 possible station presets. Another undocumented feature is that you can record audio from FM stations to your View. It records in 2-channel(stereo) .WAV format. Auto Detect found all my local channels. It nicely lets you jump to the next preset by pressing the center OK/Enter button, and you can still manually tune up or down the dial. I could find no way to directly go down one preset, but you can call up list of all the presets to choose from in the options menu. No RDS, but with the ability to record off the radio I'll give FM radio on the View an A-.

Voice Recorder: The built-in microphone does a good job of picking up voice and any other nearby sounds. Recordings are saved as WAV files. You can pause and restart a recording. I don't think you can play (to review) what you've recorded while still in the process though. Not a good dictation device, but should be fine for recording lectures, voice memos, or a podcast you're creating on-the-go. Some players give you a quality of recording option but the View does not. The voice recorder works, and is easy enough to figure out. I'll give it an A- .

User Interface: For a non-touchscreen player, the Sansa View is better than most for finding and playing your media. Rotating the thumbwheel moves you through the options efficiently. The buttons respond with a tactile and audible click. Radio and Voice recorder are under the "More" option from the main menu. Getting to the main menu requires one press of the Home button. Information you need is well placed. I was able to figure the UI out without peeking at the user manual. Easy enough. A .

MicroSD: Sansa is promoting slotMusic, which is music that comes pre-installed on MicroSD cards. More info HERE. The View has a MicroSD slot that supports MicroSD/SDHC cards up to 16gb at the moment. Media on the card gets read into the View's database and lists with media on internal memory. A nice touch. No switching back and forth from internal to MicroSD memory. With a card in the View it takes a little extra time when you turn it on to check and update the database. Having support for MicroSDHC cards is an excellent feature Samsung and Apple should consider. I'll give the Sansa View an A+ for this feature.

Conclusions: While my View did give me some initial grief, I've come to like it's simplicity when all is working. Not too many options on the main menu to confuse you. A couple of nice surprises with TV output and FM recording. If you are looking for a player with good video capability including output to a TV then this is a great one to consider. I'm personally more a fan of touchscreen players, but with it's efficient User Interface this thumbwheel controlled player is as good as any and better then most. There are other 8gb player out there for less money, so that should be considered. I feel like the features it has make it worth what I paid for it. I'll rate the Sansa View a Good Buy.

If you have one feel free to share your thoughts about it. Don't forget to tell me if I got anything wrong.


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