The SanDisk Sansa e200 series includes the e250, e260, and e270. The 2GB, 4GB, and 6GB are a new breed of high capacity flash based MP3 player set to compete in features, as well as price, with the Samsung Z5 and iPod Nano. The Sansa e200 has a few advantages over the two, such as a brilliant 1.8” screen, video playback, expandable memory, and a user replaceable batter.
SanDisk, seemingly out of nowhere, has come up with something to shake up the portable audio market. They will be an interesting competitor to watch.
Inside the box you will find earphones, lanyard, proprietary USB cable, software disc, protective pouch, and the player itself. It is a nice set of accessories to get you started, most notably the protective neoprene-velvet-esc pouch.
The proprietary connection is a good indication that SanDisk will have other accessories available for this player. SanDisk already makes a speaker dock and car dock with the same proprietary connection for the e100 series. These two items will probably work for this e200 series as well.
Update: SanDisk has created a “Made for Sansa” program and many third party manufacturers and now creating accessories for the e200 player. These include cases, docks, speakers, FM transmitters, and many others.
Transferring Music & Software
SanDisk gave us the best of both worlds by including MTP and UMS transfer protocols, which are switchable in the user settings. MTP gives you the option to automatically sync your media with Windows Media Player 10 and other DRM services. UMS (SanDisk calls it MSC, or Mass Storage Controller) allows you to drag and drop your music onto the player, keeping the folders organized how you want. UMS also means that the Sansa e200 is compatible with virtually all operating systems. When the device is disconnected after using a UMS connections the player automatically updates and sorts the newly transferred songs to the database. The e200 uses ID3 tags for it’s indexing of songs and does not support file tree browsing.
The player will allow the use of both methods simultaneously, so all of your music will show up on the player no matter how you put it on. However, when the device is plugged in as an MTP device you will not be able to see the tracks you loaded via UMS and vice versa.
The e200 comes with Sansa Media Converter software that will convert and transfer photos and video to the device in t
he supported file type. …more on this in the photo and video section below.
Unlike the e200’s smaller sibling, the c100, it feels very solid. The back of the player is made from Liquidmetal and the front is a hard glossy plastic. The plastic is not the same plastic found on the Zen Vision:M or the iPod, which is very susceptible to scratching from normal use. The plastic found on the e200 is much more resistant to scratching. It is not to say it won’t scratch, but it holds up very well for everyday use.
Since the plastic is very glossy it shows fingerprints very easily. Surprisingly the Liquidmetal back shows fingerprints easily as well. It seems to pull the grease out of your hands onto the velvety feeling metal surface.
The screen is comparable to the Zen Vision:M’s screen- very bright and very crisp, with a very consistent backlight. Overall the colors are produced accurately, but whites tend to get exaggerated and washed. The vertical viewing angle is very good and near 180 degrees, but the horizontal slightly suffers.
The brightness levels can be adjusted to 12 settings. By default it is set right in the middle at 6 which is more than adequate for almost any lighting environment. Setting 12 is very bright, almost too bright for viewing in low light settings.
Taken as a whole, the screen will please almost everyone, being that it is one of the best screens I have seen on an MP3 player.
All of the controls respond well, but the navigation ring and the center button feel loose. In fact, if you shake the player you can hear the center button rattle. The scroll wheel is great for flipping through hundreds of songs easily, but it doesn’t feel smooth. If you look at the picture of the inside of the wheel you can see that it is basically a gear and it feels that way. You can actually hear the gear turn as you rotate the ring. Everything is durable and works, but it doesn’t feel right.
I don’t hate the controls and they wouldn’t keep me from purchasing the e200, but I think they could have been better. Even a 5 way directional button like on the iAudio MP3 players or even the setup on the Samsung Z5 would have worked better. Additionally, a dedicated volume button would have been great to have on the side.
The graphical user interface is very responsive. It moves as fast as you can press the buttons. The menu transitions are animated and slide in and out smoothly. The only time the GUI pauses is when it switches to radio mode or saves a recording, but in general the GUI provides pleasant experience.
The good news is that the battery is user replaceable. The bad news is it cannot be replaced on the go because you need a small screw driver to take off the back. I still commend SanDisk for making the battery replaceable.
The battery takes 3.5 hours to charge and is rated at playback of 20 hours. I did not do any formal timed testing of the battery, but based on the many other players tested and my informal testing of this unit, you can expect around 15 hours of playback from normal use. These ratings are heavily dependent on many factors of how you use the player. These factors include, file bitrates, file types, screen brightness, photo viewing, track scanning and even file browsing. So take the rated time with a grain of salt.
Inside the Sansa e200
The Sansa e200 uses the PortalPlayer PP5024B SoC (system on chip), which is a newer chip from PortalPlayer designed for flash based MP3 players. What the interesting thing about this chip is, is that PortalPlayer states on the product page that the chip does have the video-out capabilities. Weather or not SanDisk built that functionality into the hardware and firmware is unclear.
FM / FM Recording
The FM reception on the e200 is typical to any portable radio, with an auto program function for quickly flipping though all the available stations in the area. Recording FM is not the greatest. Like the c100 it only records in 32kbps WAV format. This bitrate is not tolerable for listening to music. But this feature will work ok if you want to record your favorite morning radio talk show. The player is missing schedulable recording, but it will allow you to set the duration of recording.
Voice recording is good, but again it is only recorded in 32kbps WAV format. One problem with recording is that the microphone will pick up mechanical noises from the loose buttons and scroll wheel if you are messing with the player while it is recording. On the left side of the e200 there is a quick record button, which can be nice if you do a lot of voice memos, but I would have liked to see a dedicated volume button instead.
MicroSD / TransFlash Slot
On the left side of the player there is a slot for additional memory. Currently there are
2GB 1GB MicroSD cards available that can bring the total capacity of the e270 to 8GB 7GB of storage. When music is added to the MicroSD card and then inserted, the player automatically indexes the songs, combining them viewed as one media library. When the device is used in MSC mode the MicroSD card will show up as a separate drive; there is no need for a separate card reader. Additionally you can play protected MicroSD cards called Gruvi cards with preloaded content.
Photos must be transferred to the player via Sansa Media Converter, which converts and downsizes the photos to fit the screen. Browsing photos is very easy with either list view or thumbnail view. Slideshows can be played with music and adjustable slideshow intervals.
The only video type supported natively by the Sansa e200 is QuickTime. The Sansa Media Converter will convert video to the supported QuickTime files. The official supported convertible codes are: Windows AVI, MPEG, Video CD (.DAT), Advance Systems Format (.ASF), DVD (.VOB), QuickTime (.MOV), MPEG-4 (.MP4). DVDs are a snap to get onto the player because it is just a matter of ripping the .VOB file with DVD Decrypter then converting with the Sansa Media Center. I have successfully converted a few XviD and DivX files that played back, but most of them did not play. This somewhat held true for the other officially supported formats, as a few of them did not playback correctly when converted. The video conversion is not perfect.
Video plays back superb without any blocky artifacts; it is not just an extra feature SanDisk through in, and the video is very watchable, even on the 1.8” screen. The video is very smooth despite having a frame rate of only 15 FPS. The audio track is lacking, however. It sounds very flat.
SanDisk used QuickTime probably because it is the only thing that the PortalPlayer chip can play. The QuickTime format is an extremely inefficient antiquated format, compared to new formats today. When SMC converts a 175MB XviD 20 minute file it will result in a 200MB+ QuickTime file with half the pixel size, half the frame rate, and a much lower bitrate audio track. Videos will eat up memory on this player really quick. A 21 minute 42 second TV show will take up 234MB of space or a little over 10MB per minute.
The audio sounds good for a flash based player. The e200 plays distortion free at its loudest volume with a flat EQ and little to no distortion on a good pair of headphones. The player drives regular headphones and earbuds at more than loud enough volumes. Some heavier duty headphones were loud, but could have been a touch louder. There was some audible “electrical noises” when nothing was playing while navigating through menus or photos. Overall the Sansa e200 is a little better than average in sound quality and will not disappoint.
The e200 is missing one critical audio component, a custom EQ. This is st Custom EQ added in the latest firmware version. Check out the Sansa forums for details.
range due to the fact that the c100, the lower end model, has a custom EQ. As a matter of fact the e100’s EQ works great. Why SanDisk did not include this is a mystery. There is a possibility that they will add a custom EQ in future firmware updates, but for now you will have to settle for the pre-programmed EQ settings.
One last item worth mentioning about the audio playback is the track order. The Sansa e200 disregards any track numbers and just plays the songs in the order it feels like, no matter how you transfer music over, MTP or MSC (UMS). This problem can be fixed in future firmware updates. Issue fixed in the latest firmware
There are a few things I find annoying about the e200. The resume fuction is buggy, the tracks do not play in the correct album order, and there is no custom EQ. All of these are possible to fix in the firmware, so hopefully SanDisk will fix them in the near future. The tactile scroll wheel works but it doesn’t feel right, the controls could have been better with a different type of interface.
Despite those issues, the Sansa e200 series is a very nice player. The build is solid, the screen is bright and crisp, and the battery is replaceable. It is also nice that SanDisk has made this player more manageable by including UMS support so that it can be used with any operating system without the need of any additional drivers. SanDisk seemingly appeared out of nowhere with the e200 series making the company a major contender in the portable MP3 player market.
- Solid Build
- UMS & MTP
- Crisp Bright Screen
- User Replaceable Battery
- OTG Playlists
- Tactile Scroll Wheel
- Proprietary Connection
- Fingerprint Magnet
No Custom EQ