The SanDisk Sansa c100 series includes a 1GB (c140) and 2GB (c150) version of this flash based MP3 player. The player includes your basic set of features, including a 1.21 inch screen for viewing photos and navigation through WMA and MP3 audio files. The player will also support WMA DRMed tracks, including subscription services such as Yahoo! Unlimited and Napster To Go. The Sansa c100 also packs in an FM tuner and voice recording.
Overall the SanDisk Sansa c100 series is a good entry level MP3 player, but has some issues with build quality.
Inside the package you will find a decent set of accessories, such as earbuds, lanyard, proprietary USB cable, user guide, and a AAA battery to get you started. The accessories are pretty straight forward, except for the USB cable. It is very unusual that SanDisk would use a proprietary cable for such a small flash based player like the c100. The connection is also fairly large- like something you would most likely find on a larger hard drive based MP3 player. I believe that this is a good indication that SanDisk will be rolling out various accessories, such as docking stations for the home and car.
SanDisk already sells a car transmitter and home speaker dock that works for their e100 series players, which connects to the proprietary dock. They are using this same connection on all of their MP3 players, past and future, so that SanDisk docking stations and accessories like this can be used with all SanDisk MP3 players. This promise of accessories for the Sansa line of players could be nice, but it still is slightly disappointing to have to carry around another cable.
SanDisk made a brilliant move appeasing two different crowds by including MTP in addition to true UMS drag and drop support. This means that the Sansa c100 can be used on any operating system that supports UMS. Additionally, the player can be used with DRM based unlimited subscription music services using Windows Media Player 10.
SanDisk accomplished this by allowing you to select the transfer protocol in the settings. The player can be set to either “Auto Detect” or “MSC”. Auto detect will automatically detect the transfer protocol, but prioritizes MTS over UMS. If you want to use the c100 on a Windows computer as a UMS device you will have to set it to MSC. (Mass Storage Controller is the same thing as what we always refer to as UMS.)
When using the player in UMS mode you can simply drag and drop your music in any file folder configuration and the Sansa c100 will create a database using the ID3 tags for browsing, keeping your folder structures in tact. Transferring by MTP using Windows Media Player works just as any MTP device, allowing you to auto synch or transfer songs ala carte.
The player allows you to use both modes for uploading, but will segregate the MTP transfers from the UMS transfers. All tracks will be visible while browsing and listening but you will have to switch back and forth from these modes when you want to access them with your computer. This is nice when you use DRM ala carte and subscription; it allows you to separate the DRM tracks from non-DRM tracks.
One of my biggest complaints with new MP3 players is that they are MTP only, restricting consumers to operating systems as well as how they organize their media. However, MTP will please those who want DRM services like unlimited subscription music services and ala carte downloads. UMS will also please those who want ultimate simplicity and control. SanDisk did this right, period.
Design & Interface
The design is plain, but its small size allows it to fit nicely in most hands. However, the build quality is probably the Sansa c100’s worst attribute. The player feels like a toy with a lot of empty space inside. The buttons main control circle feels loose and can rattle around. Nonetheless, the cheap build quality does not affect the performance, as the buttons still respond accurately. The user interface is straight forward, and after only a few minutes of pressing buttons, you will be acclimated to the players OS. SanDisk also decided to have dedicated volume buttons on the top of the player, which I believe is an essential feature.
The c100 uses AAA batteries. The downside to this is that you would either have to spend mone
y on batteries or buy additional rechargeable AAA batteries along with a charger. But on the on the upside it is nice to have for travel when you don’t want to take along a charger, especially when you are in a different country and your charger won’t fit in those crazy looking sockets.
The battery is rated at 15 hours. With a few tests using a standard battery it fell a bit short of the 15 hours at around 12 to 13. However, by using the expensive lithium AAA batteries you will get a minimum of 14 hours and up to 18, from what I tested. The battery times will highly depend on how you use the player and at what volumes you set it to.
The photo viewing works, but I question the usability of this feature due to the small screen. The photos lose a lot of detail by being compressed to fit on the screen. You can browse the photos just like music files in a list, flip through them one by one full screen, or play them full screen in a slide show. The c100 was able to handle big files coming from a 7 megapixel camera, but it was very slow when viewing them. Overall, the photo viewing feature works better than most tiny MP3 players, but it is just not practical on the small screen. The player supports JPEG only, but it comes with software that will convert and transfer other picture formats such as TIFF, GIF, PNG, TGA, PCX, and BMP.
The audio quality sounds surprisingly good for a flash based player. The c100 plays at its loudest volume with a flat EQ and little to no distortion on a pair of decent headphones. There was however, a slight audible hiss when the volume was at its max and the music levels where low. The player does a great job driving standard headphones and earbuds, but it may have trouble driving larger audiophile headphones. Overall the audio in the Sansa c100 performs very well for its class.
SanDisk managed to pack in a user adjustable 5 band EQ along with a few different factory presets. The 5 band EQ responds smoothly and sounds natural.
The player also has FM and FM recording. The FM reception on the c100 is typical to any portable radio with similar features such as presets and auto presets. Recording FM is lacking, recording in 32kbps WAV formats, which is barely tolerable to listen to for music. On the other hand if you don’t want to miss your morning talk show it may be ok along with a selectable auto recording duration.
Voice recording is good, but if you are messing with the player while it is recording you may pick up sounds of the buttons shaking around in the housing. Otherwise it works as expected, but again, it only records in 32kbps WAV format.
The Sansa SanDisk c100 series is not the most solid feeling MP3 player nor does it have the best color screen. Overall the player feels like a toy. The c100 may not appease hardcore portable MP3 player fans.
The Sansa c100 however, should not be dismissed- it is a great entry level MP3 player with a great feature set for the price. In addition to all the features most people would need, the player comes with a nice set of included accessories. The sound quality is better then most flash based MP3 players, helped by the c100’s custom EQ.
You won’t have trouble finding this one in brick and mortar stores; SanDisk has a vast distribution network reaching into a lot of different retail stores. Check out Amazon for the best price.
- MTP & Drag and Drop UMS
- Good Sound Quality
- Audiable Support
- Music Subscription Support
- OTG Playlists
- Build Quality
- Proprietary Dock
- Sub Par Screen