Most people would probably be familiar with the SanDisk brand, being a manufacturer that deals mainly in storage solutions via its numerous flash drives on the market. But as with many companies, SanDisk has also gone beyond its roots and dabbled in the portable media player front with its Sansa series. One of its recent models, the SanDisk Sansa Fuze, made its way into our labs so we juiced it up, hooked our audio receptors in and gave it a spin.
There weren't any surprises with the Fuze's design. It comes with a 1.9-inch screen that displays the basic interface with a 5-way navigational scroll wheel below it. The wheel is well-designed with the necessary bumps for each specific menu change as you scroll in both directions, but it can still get out of hand due to its smooth rotation.
Keeping things simple, the Fuze comes with two other switches, namely the Home button located at the two o'clock position of the scroll wheel, and at the right profile, the Power button which doubles as the Hold button when you lock it down in the bottom position.
Besides the 4GB internal storage (other models include a 2GB and 8GB), the Fuze also comes with microSD expandability and theoretically supports up to 32GB of additional storage capacity due to its SDHC compatibility. Memory expandability has always been a useful feature in products, and this was one of the better moves on SanDisk's part.
Despite its featherweight size, the Fuze comes with numerous features such as digital FM radio (including FM radio and voice recording) and audio book playback. This is on top of its imaging, audio and video playback capabilities for JPEG, MP3/WMA and MPEG4 formats.
So how does it fare for the all important test of a media player - audio fidelity? Disregarding all other factors, we found ourselves less than satisfied with the Fuze's performance on certain levels. Testing Gwen Stefani's booming "What you waiting for?" track with no additional equalizers, the returned audio quality can only be described with one word: flat. We didn't experience the thumping strong bass volumes nor get a lively pitch with the vocals on the mids. We swapped the bundled earphones that gave us the flat quality with a pair of inner earphones, and lo and behold, immediately heard an improvement on the bass and trebles.
Video viewing is of little consolation either, as the Fuze supports only the MPEG4 format. Whilst the device is definitely easy on the pockets, it won't be on the eyes with its small screen. Rated at up to 24 hours and 5 hours of audio and video playback respectively, we did manage to run the Fuze up to 10 hours of mixed audio and video playback on its internal battery.
To be honest, the tech world has been going on the convergence route. In an era where mobile phones are more than capable of holding its ground as an alternative multimedia platform, the portable media player market will definitely see a drastic change in the years, or in the worst case scenario, even months to come.
SanDisk's Sansa series such as the Fuze would probably face the crunch more sharply than major manufacturers such as Sony or Apple, but if they play their cards right (such as with its microSD expandability), there's still hope for the memory giant's Fuze device, priced at S$159 for its 4GB version (S$129 and S$209 for the 2GB and 8GB variant respectively)