The Sansa View is SanDisk’s flagship flash MP3 player with the ability to playback video on its 240×320 64k color screen. What makes the Sansa View interesting is its high capacity flash memory along with memory expansion putting it in close rivalry to hard drive based players. The other thing going for the View is the “bang for the buck” factor. It may not be a high end player, but it is one of the best values on the market.
Throughout the review I many times compare the View to the e200 because it is basically an updated and improved e200- in all the good ways but some of the bad ways as well. If you are looking to upgrade your e200 or are looking for an inexpensive player with a lot of features, read on to see if the Sansa View is for you.
- Quick Look
- Size: 108.9 x 49.5 x 8.8 mmWeight: 82.2 g
- Screen: 240×320 64K color
- Audio Support: MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, Audible
- Video Support: MPEG-4, DivX, XviD, WMV, H.264
- Rated Battery: 35 hours audio / 7 hours video
- Photo Support: JPG
- Transfer Protocol: MTP/MSC OS selectable
- Capacities: 8/16/32GB
- Complete Specs
The Sansa View comes with the basics to get you started: the player, USB cable, and the software. There are many aftermarket accessories like cases, docks, and speakers. Also a quick mention that at the time of this review there is no official video out cable, so you will have to make your own or wait till SanDisk releases them.
The face of the player is made of a scratch resistant hard glossy plastic. It will scratch if you try, but it does hold up well with typical use. The back of the player is a rubberized metal, it has a velvet feel much like what is found on the Palm Treo. It will keep scratches at bay and at the same time keep it from sliding around on smooth surfaces. Overall the design feels solid and rugged. However, it does not quite feel like a higher end gadget and does still has the toy feel common to the Sansa family, but it is the best built Sansa to date.
The View’s 2.4” 240×320 pixel, 64k color screen is a bit bigger than the e200’s 1.8” 176×220 pixel 64k color screen, but it is almost identical in quality. In the e200 review I stated this screen type to be above par. However that was a year or so ago, and newer generation screens have been much improved hence making the View’s screen subpar to current competitors. The screen still looks great, it’s nice and bright and the colors are pretty accurate, but there is an odd texture or glow to the screen when compared to others of similar size and resolution. If you are happy with the e200’s screen you will be happy with the View’s since it is similar- just bigger and with a higher resolution.
User Interface / Controls
The physical controls are familiar to the e200’s, but are improved with regards to the build quality. Additionally the rubberized wheel just works better than the plastic wheel on the e200. There are subtle “clicks” (it’s not a click but that is the best way to describe it) in the View’s wheel that corresponds to a single item move in the interface. The wheel has 10 of the bumps per revolution, so when scrolling though a list you will get through a single page with one revolution. This works out well for short and fairly long lists, but it is a problem for very long lists such as the song list- it will take quite a bit of time to traverse that list with the wheel.
The View has progressed nicely and improved in terms of features and design, but I am disappointed in the lack of user interface improvements. The e200 interface was good, but nothing great. What gets worse is the View has many more features than the e200 and they have been haphazardly thrown into the UI, cluttering the menus and options. So in some ways it has almost been a step back from the e200.
There is much on the View that can be impro
ved with respect to the UI (I will be jumping into that in a multi part article on improving the Views’ interface), but the major gripe about the interface is the home screen. It is visually confusing in that there is not point of reference; it is one free flowing circular interface with very little contrast between the menu options. The interface would benefit by having a static iconic list where the only part the screen changes is the highlighted menu selection.
Overall the View’s user interface is not terrible, most anyone can pick up and use it and that says a lot. On the other hand, there is so much room for improvement.
The View is an MTP/MSC OS selectable device. This means that it will mainly cater to Windows XP and Vista in MTP mode, but will default to MSC in other OSes (Though only XP and Vista are officially supported). Drag and drop is possible with fully updated XP systems and Vista. XP systems may have some issues with drag and drop since MTP was added later with updates, but Vista drag and drop works like any MSC based device; plug and play- no drivers needed.
There is still a huge community outcry for the View to have a user selectable MTP / MSC option. SanDisk did a perfect job with this option in the Clip, giving users the ability to set it as MTP, MSC, and Automatic- it would be great to see that on the View. There currently is an undocumented way to get the View to go to MSC but it’s a hack and a pain to use. (see View Forum)
I along with many users have found vastly varying battery times anywhere from 5 to 30 hours for audio. This variation seems to stem from the use and brightness setting of the back light. To maximize your battery you can dim the screen and set the back light time out to 10 seconds. It’s very odd since other players do not have a discrepancy this large with relation to screen brightness. On the video side I consistently achieved between 3 and 4 hours of battery life.
The initial release of the View had some issues with the firmware that caused a few crashes and lockups. The latest firmware has addressed many of the issues making it a much more stable player. Expect many firmware updates that will fix bugs and add new features. For instance, at the time of writing the video out features were too buggy to announce as a feature and gapless playback has yet to be implemented as promised in early literature.
This is a common practice is the industry- Samsung is another example of constant firmware improvements adding features as they go. However, the difference lies in the stability; SanDisk releases unstable firmware, so ownership can be rocky. It is the same thing that happened to the e200; I thought they would have learned their lesson the first time.
I guess the silver lining is that the firmware update process is seamless with the Sansa Updater program. When a new firmware is available it’s automatically installed and updated when you plug your View into the computer. Additionally, I see SanDisk as one of the more responsive companies to community requests- so expect a bumpy ride, but expect the player to be constantly fixed and improved.
As I finished this review for the third time, the firmware got an update once again- literally the same night. It has addressed bugs and stability, but I am not rewriting again. The ability to create stable firmware is SanDisk’s biggest weakness. It is a frustration to early adopters, the last demographic you want to upset.
The radio reception on the View is very good and the autopreset pick only the clear stations. You are able to manually add and remove presets as well. You are also able to record in WAV format. Files are high bitrate WAV and sound nearly identical to the initial recording, but there is a trade off since these files will be rather large in file size. If you are near capacity you will not be able to record much. Overall, recording is straightforward and there are no advanced features like scheduling, but you can set the duration of how long you want to record in five minute intervals.
The voice recorder is standard, much of what you would find on any other player. Files are recorded in WAV format, a lower quality than FM, so there is plenty of room for voice notes or lectures. It does have the same problems as other players in that it will pick up mechanical noises of button presses or microphonics of anything rubbing against the player.
The right side of the player is graced with a microSD slot capable of up to 32GB of additional memory (At the time of writing this review, only 12GB microSD cards are currently available, but 32GB is not too far off). Basically, the View can be a very compact 64GB flash based MP3 player which is very cool. The memory card does fully integrate with the main memory acting like a single library.
The photo viewing is not too different than what you would see on other players with typical thumbnail viewing and slideshow. While you will see many similarities to other players the View’s photo feature set adds a few more features than standard.
Photos can be viewed either by thumbnail or what I particularly like is the list version since you can set it to show (if the thumbnail setting is on) the thumbnail above in the top half of the screen. There is also an album view mode which will show a list of folders calling them albums. Album view will not however show a folder within a folder- each folder gets shown as one single list no matter what the depth is. The odd thing about Album view is that it will only allow you to browse by list and not thumbnail. Really album view should not exist and folders should be shown in list and thumbnail view.
The photo feature also has a “go list” that will allow you to create a single playlist of photos. This is nice for a full on slide show with music output to a TV.
The View supports MPEG4, WMV, and H.264 in resolutions of 320×240 at 30FPS. I found that the View is picky in what it will play. While the Sansa Media Converter does a decent job of converting and getting the proper format onto the player- drag and drop of seemingly correct files was not consistent. Some 320×240 h.264 popular podcasts played, others didn’t.
If you are looking to rip and convert your own videos there are many other tools and programs out there aside from the included Sansa Media Converter. Most programs for the PSP and iPod will work for theSansa View.
At the time of writing this the video out feature has not been officially supported nor have any accessories been made to facilitate video out. I did hack together my own cable to test the video out and I was very impressed with the quality. It was a smooth 30 frames per second and could have been mistaken for 640×480 resolutions. When these accessories become available or you hack together your own cable, you will have a very capable portable video player.
The View allows for Audible Audiobooks. These are DRMed .aa files that you must purchase from Audible’s website. There is a section on the music list for audiobooks but this will only display Audible content, so if you rip you own books you are out of luck and will not be able to file them in the “Audiobook” section on the View. Also the downside is you cannot bookmark them either. They will however resume to the spot you left off when you turn your player back on.
The podcasting section on the View may be a half baked feature since the only real thing the podcast section serves as is a genre filter fo
r the main menu. They also do not include or have anything to do with video which is completely off base since the majority of downloaded podcasts are video. In order to user the podcasting section you just need to have the genre tagged “podcast”. There may be more features coming to this, but right now there is nothing to see here.
Multiple playlists can be managed and created by most media players. You do have the option to create a “go list” which is a single on the go playlist, but the View lacks the ability to create and name multiple playlists. This is a much needed feature.
The sound quality is good but not outstanding like the Sansa Clip, it is however a big improvement over the e200 series. The low end its nice and filled out much more so than the e200, but the highs are a bit lacking in that they are not as open as they should be. The bottom line is that the View can run with many of the above average players in terms of sound quality, helping to shake the Sansa’s bad reputation for sound quality.
The entire SanDisk Sansa line of MP3 players is undoubtedly the leader in the best “bang for your buck category” and this is no different for the View considering its many features and large capacities. Over time you will see the View getting big discounts like seen with the e200; making this player even more attractive. There are a few trade-offs in firmware stability, screen, and build quality, so it may not be a winner for the more demanding consumer. The bottom line is that the View is an excellent update to the Sansa e200 series and a great value for your money.
- Sansa View vs Sansa e200
- Sansa View vs Creative Zen
- Sansa View vs Zune 4 / 8
- Sansa View vs iPod Nano
- Sansa View vs Insignia Pilot
- Expandable microSD Slot
- Good radio
- Great looking video out
- Buggy Firmware
- Mediocre Screen
- Unorganized UI
- OK Build Quality
The Sansa View can be found most retail stores that sell MP3 players, but if you would like to get the best price and avoid sales tax, check out Amazon. Currently it’s selling for well under MSRP.