The SanDisk Sansa e280 is a sexy MP3 player! The e280 is a 8GB flash-based player with tons of extra features, a microSD slot, an impressively stylish design, PlaysForSure support, and a user-replaceable battery. The e200-series players are also a bit cheaper than their Apple counterparts. The Sansa’s drawbacks have to do with the controls and playlisting features, and although it is technically capable of connecting to both Macs and PCs, the cross-platform experience isn’t without its risks. The e280′s combination of features, style, performance, ease of use, and price make this the best non-Apple player out there. But the overall user experience isn’t quite as smooth as that of its chief rival, the powerhouse iPod Nano.
The e280 is beefier than the iPod nano. The e280 manages to maintain a very hip sleekness. The back of the e280 is made of a military-grade metal alloy that’s light, but extremely strong. The 1.8-inch, 220- by 176-pixel LCD takes up about half the front face, which is made of a clear-lacquered black polycarbonate that will pick up plenty of fingerprints, but not as many scratches as the Nano. In the lower left corner of the e280′s face, there’s a power button that also takes you to the main menu screen when pressed briefly; this button could use a bit more tactile feedback. Other controls are sometimes difficult for larger fingers.
The headphone jack and hold switch are on the top of the e280, the proprietary dock connector is on the bottom, and thereâ€™s a dedicated record button on the left side. On the right side, there’s a microSD slot, which means you can expand the e280′s storage beyond its built-in memory! The slot also takes Sandiskâ€™s TrustedFlash Cards. Considering how inexpensive MicroSD cards are, this is an interesting solution. Although you can’t copy files from the device to the card or vice versa, music on the card still shows up in a seamless list along with music already stored on the player itself.
The device ships with a protective sleeve that very, very similar to the one that ships with the iPod Nano. The e280 also comes with a USB cable, earbuds, a lanyard, the software CD, and documentation. There’s no AC adapter, but the device charges via USB and will work with any USB to DC (5V) adapter plug.
The player takes close to 15 seconds to start up; it doesn’t have the iPod’s instant-on capability, though this means the Sansa’s battery won’t drain at all after you’ve turned it off. The main menu is clear and easy to navigate using the scroll wheel, which lights up a bright blue and gives you some tactile feedback. You can also use the play/pause and contextual menu buttons to move up and down in lists if you desire more precision. The menus are all circular, which means when you get to the bottom of a menu it automatically loops you back up to the top.
The e280 blows away the iPod nano in terms of features. The FM tuner is one of the strongest ones on the market, and supports lots of presets, as well as FM recording! The built-in voice recorder is clear, although some digital traffic pops up here and there in the recordings.
The e280′s built-in rechargeable battery is removable, and SanDisk says that spare batteries will come with screwdrivers and extra screws. The company rates the battery life at 20 hours for continuous audio playback with the included earbuds.