The release addressed a few functional items we felt were important to get out there, as well as a couple bug fixes. Here are the highlights:
1. Improved MTP error handling on the player that was causing some PC connection problems.
2. File transfer performance between the player and PC was
significantly improved allowing for much faster transfers of both DRM and clear tracks.
3. Improved streaming performance of the LAUNCHcast radio stations – this will minimize dropped connections and buffering.
4. Corrected an issue that was causing some track downloads to fail. These tracks were showing up in the “Unable to Download” queue.
5. Added an on-screen indicator for when your player is connected via USB to the PC. You’ll notice that the player is still fully functional when connected to the PC.
It’s also worth noting that there’s a newer version of the YMJ PC software than what was shipped with your player. The new release is significantly enhanced from a stability and performance standpoint and we highly recommend that you complete the upgrade.
While I applaud that Sandisk/Yahoo addressed these issues (several of these were issues I didn’t like during my short review of the Connect), I would much rather that they fix these problems before it goes out to the customers. I don’t like this trend of releasing products before they’re truly complete and fairly rigorously tested. Customers should not be beta testers. If they want us to be beta testers, they should be paying us for the time spent testing the product! The problem with this approach is that customers might just assume that, “Oh, yeah, there are issues, but I’m sure they’ll release a firmware update to fix this stuff,” and realize the company isn’t actually going to do anything of the sort (*ahToshibaGigabeatSem*!).
Again, I am glad that Sandisk hasn’t just put out the Connect and left customers to fend for themselves. If they fix more issues like being able to search Yahoo Music Unlimited directly from the Connect, or opening the WiFi support to other subscription services, and tweak the hardware a bit to fix the touchy scrollwheel, I might just consider their 2nd-gen product. So far the Connect’s net radio streaming has been a better experience than Rhapsody streaming on the N800!
Powered by ScribeFire.
As I did with the Sansa Connect review, I’m going to give you guys a mind-mapped version of the ideas I took note of for Yahoo Music Unlimited subscription service. I tried to keep it focused on the subscription service itself, but some elements of integration with the Sansa Connect cropped up. I’ll try to come back to this review and flesh it out in actual paragraphs and stuff, but for now, here’s the mind dump:
- Hard to just browse store catalog on PC
- Genre layout not intuitive
- Had to drill down too many levels in genres
- Example: alternative was a sub-genre under the “main” genre of rock
- Didn’t look as “professional” as other online services
- Yahoo Jukebox client is awful
- Crashed a lot
- Store front looked blah
- Slow syncing to device
- This is mainly due to Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) v. USB Mass Storage (UMS)
- Timed transferring a playlist of podcasts to the Sansa Connect and to the iPod, and the Connect took at least 2x as long, using Yahoo Jukebox, Windows Media Player, and Mediamonkey (all sw that handle MTP devices).
- Stream v. subscription tracks
- If auto-syncing tracks to device, software should have the sense to skip over tracks deemed “streaming only”!
- If software won’t handle it automatically, should offer configuration option to filter out streaming only tracks from being added to local music library so that they don’t “muck up” the library for your portable device.
- If there is an issue with licensing for certain tracks, software should take care of fixing the problem, transparent to the user.
- Had issue where a long list of tracks had licensing issue. Was told in an error dialog to right-click on each track to retry license (or whatever). Like I’m going to do that for a list of 20 tracks!
- Licensing errors made automatically syncing the whole “My Music” library to the Sansa Connect painful. The software kept choking on certain tracks, either due to perceived dupes, or perceived licensing issues. Eventually because of all of the app crashes, my PC didn’t even recognize the Connect when it was plugged into a USB port. Had to clear out all downloaded tracks on PC and device, and uninstall and reinstall Jukebox software. Then start over with no automatic syncing to portable to get things working again.
- No integrated podcatching functionality
- Probably not that important to most users, but since I listen to podcast more than I listen to music (at the moment), this is an important feature for me to have. So far no other mp3 player I’ve tried beats iPod + iTunes in this respect.
- Link to LAUNCHCast radio stations is good
- Zing Menu
- Great to be able to get “like this song” mixes when listening to radio stations or music locally on device
- Allows user to easily download the song or album currently playing
- Songs download in background and didn’t seem to affect streaming or playback much at all
- Can get recommendations from friends, or recommend songs to others
- Yahoo Messenger
- Nearby Sansa Connects
- Subscription allows user to download related tracks, if available
- Problems with dupes
- Example: U2 18 best singles album had same tracks as a different U2 album, and as a result it seems that the “overlapping” tracks were interpreted as dupes (WHY?).
- Had issue where error dialog popped up asking if I wanted to replace a certain track with the same version; software kept hanging because I chose no. When I finally chose yes, it was able to complete the library update. Error handling was pretty poor.
- Unknown genres for some tracks?
- I noticed that a bunch of the downloaded subscription tracks had unknown genres in the ID3 tags. VERY sloppy.
- Generally like the idea of music subscription
- Fickle music tastes means I get tired of listening to certain stuff pretty quickly
- Allows me to explore other artists without “risking” buying an album I don’t like
- Easy to download “one-hit wonders” or nostalgic tracks without worrying that may have already bought the album (but can’t easily find it around the house) and am wasting money
- Make “transient” mixes for parties or entertaining
- Listen to “guilty pleasure” songs/artists to get it out of my system.
- Not sure how filled out YMU library is compared to competing services
- Subscription limitations
- Song previews were inconsistent
- Some songs didn’t have any previews!
- This is totally ridiculous, especially when the same album(s) on different retailers like iTunes or Amazon had 30-sec previews. This just forces/encourages people to go elsewhere to preview the songs, which could lead to them buying the tracks/album wherever they could preview the music (example: soundtrack to Stranger than Fiction)
- Some songs only had 30-sec previews
- Some songs could be played fully
- Some songs/albums were marked as streaming only
- Some songs/albums weren’t available at all for streaming or subscription, only purchase
- Inconsistency makes the overall experience frustrating, especially when there isn’t an apparent reason for why certain albums are unavailable for subscription access. Subscription access should apply to ALL of the tracks available in YMU.
Powered by ScribeFire.
Since I have been dragging my feet a bit in posting my review of the Sandisk Sansa Connect, I thought I’d post a straight dump of the mind map I did on bubbl.us, an online mindmapping application. I will probably revisit this and flesh it out a bit more in the next couple days, but I wanted to post something now, since I know some of you are waiting to hear more about it.
**Sorry about the fonts and the weird formatting. I can’t seem to get it to look right from my WYSIWYG editor (ScribeFire extension for Firefox). I already enlarged the fonts overall, but there are still some really small fonts. Mea culpa!
- Vivid colors
Downloading tracks directly over WiFi
Downloading tracks at the same time as streaming net radio or listening to music did not seem to affect the streams that much
Easy, just log in to YMU service and subscription is taken care of
Very easy to download a song or an album of the current song playing, whether it is on the streaming radio station, or a local track on your player.
Sounds great for a small, mono speaker
A lot more convenient than a speaker dock
Connection to Flickr is really cool
Since Flickr requires Yahoo login, assuming your Flickr and YMU subscription are under the same login, the connection is automatic
Colors seem very close to my iMac monitor
Menus look fairly pleasant
Okay, bright color scheme (Yahoo-ized, as mentioned elsewhere) that sort of looks glassy, like Aero Glass on Vista, or Aqua elements in OS X
Album art is shown in just about every menu, whether it is for local content, or for streaming radio stations, or for Yahoo Music Unlimited content under the “Get More Music” menu
Consistent context menus available for different options during playback
Options menu (left button under screen)
Can rate not only current song, but also the album and artist. This feature is very good for tailoring music recommendations from subscription service.
Control shuffle and repeat; nice to be able to do this without having to leave the “Now Playing” screen.
Remove song from playlist or from device. I really wish the iPod had this feature! Helps to get rid of listened-to tracks while away from computer.
Zing menu (right button)
My most liked feature: “make a mix like this song”
Main draw for this player — WiFi functionality is accessed through this menu option
Sending recommendations to friends
Yahoo Messenger buddies
Can see what music your buddies are listening to if they are online and have the feature enabled
Nearby Sansa Connect users
Getting recommendations from friends
Sending tracks to other Connect users nearby
Downloading individual songs or albums
Slow sync time
At least 2x slower at syncing playlists than iPod
*Granted, I did sync to a HD-based iPod. I don’t know if syncing to my nano would’ve been closer in syncing time to the Connect. I highly doubt it, though, considering my past experience.
This is likely due to MTP. When I used two other apps to sync a playlist to the Connect, I got similar sync times (both of which were still at least 2x slower than iTunes syncing to an iPod).
Means that you’re limited to programs that handle MTP
Windows Media Player
Preferred, since it seems the least bloated out of all of these apps. Also seems to be more effective at managing ID3 tags and album art.
Yahoo Music Jukebox
Winamp (via plugin)
Can’t use as Flash drive
WiFi is limited to Yahoo services. Cannot specify your own favorite online radio stations. Can still use any PlaysForSure tracks, but not over WiFi.
LAUNCHCast radio stations
Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go subscription service
Yahoo Music Jukebox software sucks*
This and the Yahoo Music Unlimited subscription service will discussed in more detail in a separate blog post.
Crashed several times
Problems with licensing, dupes, no genre ID3 tags on some subscription tracks
Storefront looks blah, hard to navigate, too much drilling down into genre categories
WiFi interface to YMU is not robust enough to completely forgo Jukebox software
Only limited to a certain number of “top tracks” in each genre.
Genre categories are not as intuitive as on other music services; need to drill down too much to get to certain common genres, like “alternative”.
Can’t download tracks from PC over WiFi (i.e. podcast playlists)
No OTG playlist creation
This would’ve helped in “untethering” the player from the PC, which could’ve help the Connect overcome the lousy syncing software it has to use.
No video (would have been a nice bonus with the big screen)
Screen is not that much smaller than 5th-gen iPods, so watching short video podcasts or short TV shows would be a decent experience
No Audible support?
No display customization
No themes or wallpaper choices
Only one view for playback window
No “album art-friendly” display option to show the album art fullscreen
Very Yahoo-ized look, which isn’t that bad
Price is high compared to competitors
While comparable in price to iPod nano, or other 4GB flash players, a user would really need to subscribe to Yahoo Music Unlimited to get the full experience on the Connect. So price is really $250 + $15/mo subscription.
MicroSD slot is too hard to access
The slot on my particular unit seemed deeply inset, so you need to use something like a fingernail to really push the card into the slot properly. And I already have small hands. Someone with larger hands would surely have a problem with this.
Mechanical scroll wheel, while smooth, sometime lags behind, or does not register movement. So navigation can be a bit touchy.
Battery life might be short compared to competitors; didn’t do any scientific tests, though
Power button doesn’t have enough tactile feedback. It is relatively low-profile, so sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not the button press was registered by the device.
No extra features like games, clock, alarm, sleep timer. Would have at least liked a clock display at the top of the screen during playback.
Podcasting support is nonexistent, meaning podcast are just treated as any other audio track
No bookmark feature for playback
Essential for long podcasts/audiobooks
The rew/ff speed of the player isn’t quick enough (IMO) to skip through a long track to get back to where you left off.
No show notes support for podcasts
No easy way to filter out podcasts or audiobooks from music library
During shuffle, would probably get podcasts interspersed with music, since the two types of tracks are not differentiated.