Sandisk Sansa Fuze is great for podcasts and audiobooks…mp3s too

I used to think that Creative Zens were the best MP3 players for my needs, but after much research I decided to switch camps and try the Sansa Fuze. Why?

  1. No special software to install: The Fuze can appear as a removable drive and you just drag and drop your music. By default it will go into MTP mode which requires you to use Windows Media Player for file management, but if you change to MSC mode, it will appear as a removable drive
  2. Subscription music support: Works with PlaysForSure sites like Rhapsody and Napster, just like the Zens
  3. Passive Bookmarking: When you listen to podcasts or audiobooks, the Fuze will let you resume at the point you last left off. MP3 Audiobooks are usually multiple files and the Fuze will remember the last file as well (unless you play another file). Never seen this before. (On the Zen you have to manually set bookmarks.) (TIP: Use a utility like MP3 Split Join to make a single file.)
  4. Charges from any USB connection: The Creative Zen for example, generally, will only charge if you connect it to a PC with the Zen software installed. A big pain if you want to charge at work or a friends house, etc.
  5. Adjustable playback speed: When you are listening to podcasts or audiobooks, you can playback at a faster (or slower) speed. Great for catching up on your podcasts.
  6. MicroSDHC slot: Internal memory is 8GB on my model, but I’ll be able to add up to a 32GB SDHC chip once they come out. Right now they max out at 8GB, but 16GB were announced earlier this year. Paid a paltry $25 for the 8GB chip.
  7. Got it for $79 at! Yup, the 8GB model.

I like the UI navigation is pretty good. I actually like it better than the Zen. It uses the scrollwheel to go through any list of options, while the four “corners” of the wheel do certain things like play/pause, left, right, and options menu. This gives you more immediately available “buttons” compared to, say, the Creative nub joystick.

This is a minor point, but if you have multiple albums by the same artist and you choose to play all songs, it still plays them in album order. Other players I’ve used have this option, but play them in alphabetical order. Who would want to listen to them in that order?!

The case seems pretty durable. Mine is a gun-metal gray. The build seems very solid, particularly compared to the very plasticy feel of the Zen V.

What don’t I like? Well, my main gripe is the lack of a standard mini-USB connector. Instead a proprietary wide-type (ala iPod) is required. So although you don’t have to install special software, you have to always carry around the special cable. I suppose they are trying to standardize on one connector across the Sansa line and need to accomodate video out, docking, and other things that might be more problematic with USB or require multiple outputs. Still, my Nokia N95 does it with a multi-function 1/8″ jack–headphones, remote control, video out, etc., all from the same jack, and PC connectivity is handled by mini-USB. In other words, it can be done without the proprietary connector. I was able to get a second Sansa cable for $5 on Amazon to carry around in my briefcase, but I wish I didn’t have to.

The placement of the headphone jack can be troublesome. It’s at the bottom on the right. I would prefer it be located on the top or ever sides. If you are using headphones, it’s not that big of a deal, but if you attach mini-speakers or something larger it’s very awkward.

I like the fast podcast playback feature, but couldn’t they have included pitch adjustment? I don’t want to listen to the chipmonks.

My final complaint is that you can only delete one song at a time. There appears to be no way to delete an entire album or artist. The Zen lets you do this.

Overall, I REALLY like this player. It does most everything I need an MP3 player to do and I just have to live with the proprietary cable.

I’ll still mainly use my Nokia N95 for podcasts since it automatically grabs them over WiFi without the need to connect to anything. Also, I usually listen to podcasts exclusively in the car and it’s cool the way the N95 stops and resumes playback during and after calls.

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