Going toe to toe with other established brands may be daunting, but it hasn't stopped SanDisk from releasing an updated version of its Sansa line of media players, the Sansa View. Available in three flavors: 8GB, 16GB and a 32GB, the Sansa View is the direct successor of the Sansa E200 series and is often regarded to be competing against Apple's iPod Nano and Creative's Zen due to its almost similar screen size and format playback range.
As with most gadgets these days, the Sansa View comes glossy and shiny in piano black, though this is limited to the front part of the unit only. The back is instead wrapped in a matte black metal covering. Size and weight-wise, the View loses out to both the Zen and the Nano, being much larger and heavier. All is not lost however, as the 2.4-inch display of the View is comparable to the Zen and larger than the Nano.
While it does resemble the Sansa E200 in shape and form, the biggest design change is the removal of the four buttons around the scroll wheel and the implementation of a clickable wheel. We found the wheel slightly less satisfying to use as we would occasionally encounter some resistance when scrolling with it, though it does score points for being rubberized, which gives better tactile feel.
The Home button is placed conveniently if you are right handed, though lefties shouldn't have any problems reaching it too. The unit also switches its Play/Pause and Menu buttons when in video playback mode to accommodate the change in display orientation (portrait for music, landscape for videos and images), and the backlighted icons also move accordingly, which is a nice touch.
In terms of features, the Sansa View comes with an FM radio, a SHDC microSD slot, voice recording, JPEG photo viewing and audible audiobook support. For video playback, the Sansa View has support for MPEG-4, WMV and H.264 video formats; should your video be incompatible, the Sansa Media Converter is available for download here, though we do recommend the more adventurous to try free encoders such as Super for a much wider file and codec support. While one can probably play some videos without re-encoding, note that playback can become stuttered for high bitrate files which are outside the View's processing capabilities. Generally, playing back videos on the Sansa View is an easy affair, as the player supports drag and drop functions without requiring additional installation of software.
Audio quality was pretty spot on. At the highest volume setting, music could be heard quite clearly over a noisy rumbling train. The playlist was easy to navigate and the Sansa View also features support for podcasts. Its radio reception was also smooth and crystal clear; the unit allowed up to 20 presets stations to be stored.
Power consumption was another plus factor for the unit as it could go up to seven hours of video compared to the five hours of the Nano and the Zen. Audio playback is also rated at 35 hours compared to the 24 and 30 hours of the competition respectively.
As the successor to the Sansa E200 series, the Sandisk Sansa View enters a market already saturated with portable video and audio players, which does make things a tad hard for it. Fortunately for the Sansa View, it packs a nice punch into a small package that at S$419 (~US$295) for the 16GB version seems like a steal for its value despite its quirks. If you haven't already gotten a portable media player, consider the Sandisk Sansa View for your shopping list.