There was a gap that needed to be filled in the Sansa product line in between the Clip and the View. This gap was filled by the Fuze with a bigger screen, more capacity, and a memory slot compared to the Clip; but it wasn’t quite the flagship as the View with a lower resolution screen, smaller size, smaller capacities, and weaker video playback abilities.
Falling nicely in between the two the Fuze is a welcome member to the family with many improvements all around- even outperforming the View in some respects. If you would like the full scoop, read on, and I will break it all down for you.
- Quick Look
- Size: 3.1 x 1.9 x 0.3 in
- Capacities: 2GB, 4GB, 8GB (microSD memory slot)
- Screen: 1.9”, 64k color, 224×176 pixel
- Audio: MP3, WMA, WAV, AA
- Video: Converted MPEG-4 20FPS
- Battery: 24 hours audio / 5 hours video
You will just find the basics in the box: the Fuze, proprietary USB cable, and earbuds. Accessory support for Sansa MP3 players have been pretty good, you will be able to find plenty of protective cases and a few dock accessories.
The Fuze is constructed much like the View in that it consists of a rubberized back plate and a glossy plastic face. The use of the velvet-like rubber on the back plate is a great material for gadgets since it is extremely resistant to wear and tear; it’s also nice to keep it from sliding around flat surfaces. I can attest for this material since it is on my most (ab)used gadget, my Treo. The Fuze’s face is a hard plastic and resistant to scratching, but you will still need to use some care and not place the player face down on hard surfaces.
The wheel is similar to the View’s rubberized wheel but is made of a lighter matte plastic that fits in a lot better with the design. The rotation of the wheel is smooth and has very subtle bumps for each list or menu movement. So far this is the best wheel on the Sansa products to date- it is much improved since the early days of the e200.
The total of the design has a solid once piece feel and a nice heavy weight. SanDisk has always been known for their cheaper feeling designs and they has historically cleaned up in the lower end MP3 player market, but I almost don’t want to call this cheap. I say almost because there are still some tolerance issues on the assembly, mainly between the front and back plate. Still, the construction quality of the Fuze is the best of Sansa to date.
Previous Sansa players have always had mediocre screens. They were always bright and the colors fairly well represented, but all suffered from this weird “shimmer”- that would be the best way I could describe it. While this shimmer is not completely gone, it is a very noticeable improvement with probably about 80% of this problem is cured. This improvement is most recognizable in the contrast of screen text, making it mo
Like most non reflective screens the Fuze’s screen is a bit difficult to read outside in direct sunlight. You will have to crank up the brightness for readability.
The battery is rated at 24 hours for audio. I have been getting about 19-21 hours under normal use. I have noticed that the turning the screen brightness down can really help battery life. Video playback fell a little short at a little under 4 hours, just shy of 5 hours rated.
The firmwares on previous Sansa players have been kind of a mess with constant updates for stability reasons and bug fixes. The Fuze however seems much more finished and stable. I have been using it for two solid weeks and it has not locked up even once. There were no bugs so to speak, but there are some disconnects and organizational issues in various menu and features- meaning there is room for improvement.
The first thing I noticed and was pleasantly surprised by, was the improved responsiveness of the UI. It really breathed new life into the Sansa interface making much more usable all around, even though it is more or less the same UI as before.
First time users will be able to pick up and use the player since it is fairly straight forward and intuitive. The interface is good but by no means perfect, being that it still suffers from some inconsistencies and organizational issues. One example of this is that the there are sometimes two ways to scroll though a menu or list of media- either rotating the wheel or clicking up and down on the wheel. In order to give the UI some consistency and improve usability there should only be one way to traverse lists- that being the rotation of the wheel. By doing this it frees up the two buttons for other tasks. You could then pause/play your music while in a menu. It would also give you’re the ability to toggle in and out of a menu more quickly for reserving the menu button only for the menu. Sounds reasonable to me.
The Fuze has all the bases covered being that you are able to select MSC, MTP, or Auto Detect. This basically means you can use it with any operating system (SanDisk only will give you support for Windows. If you are looking for Mac and Linux support, please drop into our Sansa Forums).
For those unfamiliar with the difference in these transfer protocols are, here is a quick run though. MTP is typical to most MP3 players and it will allow you to take advantage of subscription music services such as Napster or Rhapsody, as well as allow you to create playlists with desktop media players. While it does support drag and drop without the use of software, you will need to be on Windows XP SP2/3 or Vista.
MSC basically acts just like your thumb drive would, allowing you to drag and drop on any modern OS. This mode will work well if you are going between different OSes, but keep in mind you will be limited to less flexible third party playlist create applications.
I have been successful in switching back and forth between the two modes without corrupting the library. Everything seems to work fine, but you can only see the media you add in the mode you add it in. For instance you can only see files added over MTP in MTP mode and MSC in MSC mode.
Historically the radio has only been so-so on Sansas, but this time I would call it above average. The reception is as good as radio reception gets and the auto program feature carefully selects only the clear stations. Your mileage may vary by what headphones you used since they act as the antennae for reception.
The Fuze can record radio in WAV format. The function is very basic, but has the ability to set the duration of the recording. Possibly handy for recording your favorite morning radio show.
Like FM, Voice recording uses WAV format, but does not have the ability to set the duration of the recoding. The feature works well and picks up sound well from the mic located right below the microSD slot.
This feature works like any other photo viewer having basic list or thumbnail view mode. For each folder you have in the photo directory on the internal memory or on the microSD card, it will show as an album. It will only show a list of these and will ignore folder hierarchy. Slide intervals can be set for the slide show with or without music. Additionally, like music, a single go list can be created for a more personalized slide show.
There isn’t a limit set on the file or resolution size set for photos but I did have some problems with larger photos that displayed an unsupported message. Also you should note that larger files take longer to load and may look a bit distorted from resizing.
The microSD memory will allow you to add an additional 12GB of memory, but will reach 32GB when these sizes become available to purchase. The card will fully integrate with the main memory including photos and video, creating one library. The media library will only refresh the database when the card is first inserted. This was relatively quick with a 2GB card, but I could imagine it to take a minute or so with a full 12GB card. The memory card still shows up separately in both transfer modes on your computer, so you will be able to delegate where your media will go.
If you are looking for good video support, look elsewhere. Video playback on the Fuze is equivalent to the e200 where as it is more of a “bonus feature”. Granted it is a big improvement over the e200, but the Fuze’s low power processor requires the video format to be rather bloated. The format used is a 20FPS DivX format at the 224×176 screen resolution which takes about 6MB per minute of video, so typical movies will approach 1GB each. Conversion is also the issue. It is easy with the provided software, Sansa Media Converter, but it does take time.
Playback is decent, but the 20FPS lends to a slightly choppy effect. Under the options menu you have the ability to rate the video as well as add a bookmark. Adding a bookmark is a great feature, but I question the usefulness of rating a video considering that you can’t fit too much on the Fuze in terms of video. I also fail to see the usefulness of rating videos in general since they don’t get the same frequency of play as music.
The music menu is organized like any other with typical artist, album, song, genre, ect setup. It also includes a “recently added” menu item for the last songs transferred to the player and a “top rated” that will show songs with 4 and 5 stars.
The album menu is the only real unique category in that album icons show beside each album title when it is highlighted. This is a nice visual feature, but you have the ability to turn it off since there are a few downsides. For one the album covers take a second to appear and two, you only see 4 albums at a time as opposed to 6 when the feature is turned off.
The one big thing missing from the Fuze and all Sansa players is multiple playlist support, something that many people miss. There is however a “go list” that will allow you create at least one playlist directly on the player. For more playlists you can create all you like with any media player in MTP mode. Under MSC mode you will need some home brew apps to create playlists. Check the forums for these.
Audiobooks have their own section under the music menu. These books will show up there if you tag the genre with