Friday, March 25, 2011

Sansa Fuze+ Review.

The Sansa Fuze+ MP3 Player (Black)is the successor to Sansa's original and legendary Fuze. This model eliminated mechanical controls for the hopefully more reliable touch sensitive alternative. The gloss black plastic body is nicely sculpted, but aggressively attracts fingerprints. In general it is a fine MP3 player. It will also play videos, shows photos, and has FM radio for your entertainment. Use it to record a voice memo as well. I found it a decent player, although the UI takes a little time to get used to and there is no easy way to scroll through a long number of songs. Mine came from my local Target store. Sansa players are available almost everywhere you can find an iPod for sale.

Specifications: 2.4” QVGA LCD(320x240) screen. Capacitive touch control pad. The rechargeable battery lasts for up to 24 hours of audio playback or 5 hours of video playback. Your results will vary (downward) depending on your usage habits and the properties of the content consumed. External controls include Volume +/- and Power/Hold. The control pad has Play/Pause, Back, and a 4-way direction pad with center Enter/Select. MicroSD-HC slot holds cards up to 32gb. The firmware version on the Fuze+ reviewed here is 2.36.03A.
Dimensions: 3.8" tall x 2" wide x 7/16" thick, and weighs 2.26oz(64g).  You can find the Fuze+ in 4gb, 8gb, and 16gb versions. It has a microSD card slot with support for up to another 32gb.  Color choices depend on which version you get.  The 16gb version is only available in black.
UI: Getting around the Fuze+ is a little confusing. At the upper level you have the main media apps side-by-side, and can slide to each with a left/right slide or tap. Tap the center of the direction pad to make a selection. Once you enter into the music app you can slide/tap left or right to move from Artist to Album to Song to Genre and so on. On each sort option the list will rebuild using the selected ID3 tag. Scroll up/down to make your selection from the items listed. I often get the Back button confused with the Left button. Once in the Now Playing screen of any media app you'll need to tap or hold Back to go back to your content list.  The Power button on the top edge will lock/unlock the controls with a quick press, but turn OFF the Fuse+ if you linger just a little longer on the button. I strongly recommend reading the User Manual, as there are several functions that use a double-tap or long press on a control button.

Music: Formats supported include MP3, WMA, secure WMA, FLAC, AAC/M4A, (DRM-free iTunes® music files), WAV, and OGG-Vorbis. In addition, the device supports Audible and audiobook formats. You can sort your music by Artist, Album, Song Title, Genre, or Playlists. If you have a few thousand or so songs expect it to take several dozen swipes to find a specific song. No textual search, and no alpha-numeric shortcuts. Sound quality is good. Not the best I've listened to but up near the top. One pleasant surprise was gapless playback. No break in the audio between consecutive songs in a live album where applause or prattle carries across tracks. Delightful! Music gets an A from me. If there had been a quicker way to scroll/search/locate songs it would have been an A+.

Video: The Fuze+ plays H.264, MPEG4, and WMV file types (320 x 240). Additional file formats including 3gp/3gpp2, ASF, AVI, DAT, DivX(ver 6.0), DVR-MS, MOV, MP4, MPEG 1, MPEG 2, MJPEG, FLV, and Flip® file formats can be added to the player easily using the optional free downloadable Sansa Media Converter (SMC).  The 320 x 240 resolution limits the value of the Fuze+ as a Video player. Yes, it plays them.  Odds are that you'll need SMC and lots of patience just to get playable videos installed on the + though. Don't buy it as a video player. I'll give videos a C+. Average for other devices with the same screen.

Photos: The Fuse+ will display JPG and BMP images. The screen isn't the best I've seen. The low resolution also reduces its value as a photo wallet. You do get a slideshow option. You can add any photo as background. You can reorient them. You can also select music for your slideshow, and also delete any photo.You start with a thumbnail array of the photos on board, then can swipe or tap to move from one to another. I'll give photos a C+. No zoom capability and the small screen suggests you don't buy the Fuze+ for its photo capability.

Radio: RDS support. Swipe left or tap right for Presets list. Hold center to Add or Delete current frequency from presets list. Double-Tap center to bring up options listed below. With RDS and recording capability, as well as great sound, I'll give radio an A.
  • Add or Delete Preset status of current frequency.
  • Record Radio
  • Play Recordings
  • Auto-Scan for Presets
  • Seek Mode On/Off
  • Delete all Presets
  • Delete all Radio Recordings
Podcast: Podcasts play just like any music on the Fuse+.  No special features like bookmarking I could find.  You do get fast or slow playback as an options, but I can't tell how MUCH it speeds up/down the playback.  You can also delete a podcast from the Podcast player. With no bookmarking I have to give podcast playback a C.

Voice (Recorder): The voice recorder does a good job of recording from within a foot or two of the Fuze+. Notably clear when played back with no static or buzz. You can Pause and Resume, or STOP and save the recording easily. The recordings are 44kHz Stereo WAV files. MUCH better than most players that use 128kbps mono MP3 format. You can play them back with a right tap or left swipe to the playback side of the Voice app. Double-tap the center of the pad to bring up an option to delete the recording if you wish.

Card: Media on an inserted microSD card is combined with onboard media in the music/photo/video apps. If for some reason you need to seperately access content on any inserted microSD card you can choose the CARD option.  It will give limited options for card content.  Music by Artist Search only.  Videos, Photos, and Books if there are any on the card.

Settings: You get reasonable control over the capabilities of the Fuse+ in Settings. Here is a summary:
  • Music: Repeat and Shuffle toggles.
  • Video: Brightness and Orientation.
  • Photo: Slide show timing, Shuffle and Repeat toggles, Music choice, and Orientation.
  • Podcast and Book: Playback Speed and Chapter Skip On/Off.
  • Radio: Set Region, Mono/Stereo, or Delete Presets.
  • Background: Use one of three patterns or any on-board image.
  • Backlight: 15 to 90 seconds.
  • Brightness:
  • Power Saver: None, or from 5 to 120 Minutes
  • Sleep: 10, 20, 30, 45, 60, 90, or 120 minutes.
  • Customize Menu: Allows turning OFF or ON any media feature from showing in the main menu cycle.
  • Equalizer
    • Normal,
    • Rock, Pop, Jazz, Classical, Funk, Hip Hop, Dance,
    • Full Bass, Full Treble
    • Custom EQ (5 bar)
  • Replay Gain
  • Volume Level Limit
  • Language
  • USB Mode: Auto Detect, MTP, or MSC.
  • Date:
  • Time
  • Format
  • Restore
  • info

Summary: If all you need is an affordable and easy to find MP3 player, then the Fuze+ is a good option. Music playback was stellar and gapless. Easy to add music to it. No iTunes or Zune software required. You can drag and drop or use Windows Media Player to sync music to it. You can download Sansa's Media Converter for free if you want videos on your Fuze and need them converted to work. I prefer touchscreen rather than touchpad UIs, but you won't find a decent touchscreen player at the prices you can find the Fuze+ at.'s prices: Sansa Fuze+ 8gb


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