The Sansa Express is SanDisk’s budget MP3 player selling in the sub sixty dollar price range. Although it is what you would expect from an inexpensive MP3 player, there are a few features that give it a little bit of an edge in the budget MP3 player market, one being its microSD slot for memory expansion of up to 2GB. Memory is cheap these days; last I checked a 2GB microSD card can be had for around twenty bucks.
The Express is not perfect, but it may be worth having as a second MP3 player, or it may be a nice for a first time buyer looking to get into portable digital audio without breaking the bank.
- 1GB and 2GB Capacities
- microSD Slot for up to 2GB
- MP3, WMA, WMA-DRM, WAV, and Audio Support
- Voice Recording, FM Recording
- 4-Line 2 Color OLED Screen
- 15 Hour Battery Life
- Subscription Music Support
- MTP/MSC OS Selectable
The Express comes with the basics: headphones, lanyard, and USB extension. There are a few third party manufactures making aftermarket products, but they are mainly protective cases and arm bands for your sporty needs.
The Express is an MTP device, but will default to MSC if MTP is not present. So what does this mean to you? Basically, it will work in any modern operating system- Linux and Mac included. XP users may have to do a bit of updating by installing the latest service packs since MTP devices are buggy in early versions of XP. However, with Windows Vista the Express shows up just as it would if you were inserting a flash drive.
In addition to being able to drag and drop in most operating systems, there are quite a few software options for loading and managing playlists. Windows Media, Monkey Media, Yahoo! Jukebox, Rhapsody, and WinAmp are some of the popular media players. Also if you are into purchasing music ala carte or by subscription, the Express is compatible with any PlaysForSure based services such as Urge, Napster, and Yahoo! Music found though many of the above mentioned media players.
The Express will support up to a 2GB microSD card in the slot located near the headphone jack. Transferring music to it can be done one of two ways: either with a card reader or while the card is inserted into the Express. If the card is inserted into the Express it will show up as a second drive. Either way, music can be dragged and dropped anyway you like: directly onto the card or organized nicely into folders.
One thing to keep in mind if you have a full 2GB card inserted into your player is that it may take a few extra seconds to refresh the player’s database. This is not bad if you leave the card in; expect and extra few seconds on the boot up time. However, if you remove the card and put it back in, the Express needs to re-read what files are on that microSD card. A full 2GB card will take around 40 seconds to index all of the tracks.
The Express feels plasticy and toy-like but still is feels fairly solid. The button tolerances are a bit inconsistent, but they still depress nicely with an audible click. Overall, the build quality of the Express is not the best, but is what you would expect for an entry level MP3 player.
Even though the build quality could be described as cheap, it can take quite a beating. My Express gets thrown in and out of a gym bagalmost daily and dropped several times a week without a case. The exterior is a bit worn, but it is still functional like it was just out of the package. This is also the same player I have ripped apart several times (see photos). Because of this firsthand experience I don’t question its reliability. It will take some abuse.
The face of the player is a mirror finish that is completely mirrored when it is off, but when the player is on the display shines though. This mirror finish is a fingerprint magnet, but is still 100% readable even when
smudges completely cover the screen.
The screen is nice bright 2 color 4-line OLED screen. It gets very bright at the highest settings, enough to light your way in a dark house at night so you may even want to drop the brightness back a few notches for nighttime use. (Unfortunately you cannot dim that iconic glowing blue ring around the controls.) Overall it’s a very readable screen under normal conditions. However, the screen does become almost unreadable in bright outdoor sunlight. All is not lost, though. You can, with some effort, shade the sun with one hand, control with the other, and read the screen with some degree of success.
If you are familiar with other small capacity Sansas, you will be familiar with this. Although it is not the most intuitive interface it is still very easy to use with just a slight learning curve.
The main navigation is controlled by the five buttons on the front. Navigating menus and libraries these are directional buttons, but when in the now-playing screen they become pause/play, skip forward, skip back, and menu buttons. Depending on the mode, the center button is either select or add to go list. At the top of the player is the menu/power button and hold button. Last, at the bottom are two dedicated volume button controls, an always-welcome feature.
The battery is rated at 15 hours of playback according to SanDisk. I found it to be a bit less at around 12 hours, give or take an hour under normal use. Charging a dead Express only takes a few hours directly plugged into your computer. I have also had success charging the player with a standard AC wall USB charger which can be bought for fewer than ten bucks.
A nice (and common) addition is the FM radio, and reception is decent. I mainly use it for tuning into the gym TV’s FM transmitters with success. The Express allows up to 20 FM presets and also has a handy auto scan features the will automatically fill the player with all tunable stations.
The FM radio also has a record function which will capture your favorite radio stations in WAV. A nice addition to the recording is that you can set the duration to record in 5-minute increments which may come in handy for recording your favorite radio talk show.
The voice recorder is straight forward and works well for taking a few voice notes thought your day which also records to WAV format. The play will do a good job of personal dictation but may not work in all environments where the user would like to record, for instance, a class lecture. I’m not saying that it won’t work, but results will vary. One of the problems is that the Express picks up the loud button sounds clicks and sounds made from the case scratching against a surface.
The sound quality is okay and what you would expect from a budget MP3 player. It may not quite have the dynamics as some of the more expensive flash players or larger hard drive based players, but works well with a nice set sub $100 IEMs. In addition to manufacture EQ presets, the 5-Band customizable EQ is an added touch to tweak your tunes or headphones to your liking.
The Express in an entry level MP3 player much like others in its budget price range. The build quality is mediocre with a light toyish feel and button tolerances that are a bit off. But at the same time it can take quite a beating. The sound quality is okay, but is nice to have 5-band equalizer to give it an extra tweak. Yes it sounds pretty unmoving; however, the Express has two qualities that I think give it an edge in its price class: direct USB connection and a microSD slot for memory expansion of 2GB for around $20.
I have quite a few nice MP3 players, but recently I have been using the Express a lot and pretty much exclusively for the gym. Why? The Express is like my “beater” MP3 player; it is inexpensive with a convenient feature set and at its sub $60 price tag, I couldn’t care less if it gets scratched, lost, stolen, or broken. That said, the Express is for those who want an extra MP3 player. It also makes a good choice for first time MP3 player buyers wanted to delve into portable audio- Linux and Mac users included.
- Nice feature set for money
- microSD Expansion
- Built-in USB
- Cheap Build Quality
- Ok Sound Quality
- Display hard to read in direct sunlight
- Boot time can be slow with a full microSD card