I noticed that the “review” category has not had much activity, so I’ll remedy that.
In March of 2005, I bought a Rio Karma. This MP3 player was fantastic, with 20 gigs of storage space (enough for about 1/6th of my music collection), a fantastic interface, on-the-fly playlisting and all that jazz. It did not have an FM tuner or voice recorder, and it did depend on proprietary protocols to save music, but the ability to rearrange music and choose popular songs and all that were great. Sadly, the Karma is a delicate beast, with its hard drive not being the most durable they could find. Since it broke and Rio is gone, I was quite happy that I had paid for the 24 month warranty from Buy.
In June of this year, I replaced the Karma with the warranty money, getting a Sandisk Sansa e260 4 gig flash player. At the time, it was a 200 dollar player; it’s now routinely available for 150 or less.
With the most current firmware installed, the Sansa is a wonderful music player, although I do miss the Karma’s interface. The Sansa has two protocols: MTP and MSC (sometimes called UMS). In MTP mode, the player works only with Windows XP; in MSC mode it works with anything that recognizes USB removable media. Playlists are transferred only via MTP, although MSC mode is a faster system for simple transfers.
The Sansa also has a cool feature few players do these days: expansion. You can plug in a tiny little memory card, the microSD, to add up to 2 gigs of memory in theory (so far I can only find 1 gig cards at most). The expansion card can’t hold subscription content, and it’s not visible in MTP mode on the computer, but for music you want to keep on the player, or if you use MSC mode anyway, it’s another drive letter in Explorer.
That covers connections, but what about features? It has an FM tuner (and recorder), a voice recorder, and can manage videos (through a converter), photos, and either MP3 or WMA audio files. It supports the PlaysForSure stores, including subscription content, but I’m told does not support Audible files.
Playback is from a rather straight-forward interface, using a wheel and six buttons. Playlists from the computer are visible and usable, as well as one on-the-fly playlist on the player. I can’t tell you how well PlaysForSure works, as I refuse to participate in DRM. Thankfully, I can tell you that it works wonderfully with MediaMonkey in MTP mode. I don’t try to sync in MSC mode, so I’m not sure how well that works with MM; MSC mode is useful for clearing out old content you decide you don’t want to listen to, and it’s mandatory for firmware updates.
Photos are bright and sharp, although there is no zoom and a 1.5 inch screen is not exactly usable for a photo album.
You can play all your music, an artist, an album, a playlist, a genre, or a single track. In any of these, you can have shuffle engaged or not. There are several equalizer settings, and a custom equalizer (with latest firmware). Album art is displayed when you are playing a track, and you can cycle through a fairly useless spectrum analyzer, a larger view of the album art, and the next song in the queue. I rarely can tell what the next song will be before the player switches back to the default view, though. You have about three seconds to see it before it changes away, but it scrolls slowly through artist/album/track so if you have an artist and album with too many characters, you’re out of luck.
So, other things I dislike about the player? You can’t delete content on the player. The voice recorder button can’t be disabled without locking all controls; you will end up recording yourself without meaning to. You can’t edit playlists, except the “Go List” on the player. I really miss the “songs of the 80s” type playlists that the Karma had. Of course, with only 4 gigs of space, some of those modes are less useful than they were with 20. The videos are pretty pointless; not only is the screen only 1.5 inches, the videos are converted to an incredibly inefficient codec to play: the MJPEG format in Quicktime.
My son is able to navigate his playlist without any hassle, the radio works pretty well, and overall it’s a great and reliable player. Highly recommended for anyone who hasn’t already paid too much for DRM-infected files from iTunes Music Store.