Damn you, Indecision!

Parting thoughts about the Sandisk Sansa Connect

I just wanted to post a quick “final thoughts” entry about the Sansa Connect. 

Firstly, I think its WiFi functionality is the best implementation so far.  The ability to stream LAUNCHCast radio stations and then use the Zing menu to get mixes of songs similar to what you’re listening to is an awesome feature.  And the fact that you can not only rate individual songs, but also albums and artists is a very good way of tailoring your music recommendations even further.  Also, downloading songs or albums directly to the Connect over WiFi was a great feature.  It would’ve been even better if the interface to the Yahoo Music Unlimited library would’ve been more full-featured, but as is, the connection to the YMU library was okay.  If you’re a big streaming music or subscription music user, I think the Sansa Connect would be a great portable music player for you.

However, because I am mainly a podcast listener, the Sansa Connect lacked some key features in this regard:

  • bookmarks, so that even if I decide to listen to stop listening in the middle of a podcast and listen to some music, I can resume where I left off when I return to the podcast
  • treating podcasts differently from the music content, so that if I shuffle all of the music on the Connect, I won’t get podcasts mixed in (unless I want that)
  • separating out podcasts in the music library so that I don’t have to wade through a bunch of artists or song titles to get at my podcast content
  • no on-the-go playlist creation
  • on the PC side, there was no integrated podcatching functionality in the syncing software for the Sansa Connect

If the Connect had bookmarking, on-the-go playlists, and was able to download podcasts directly to the device, it would’ve been a definite keeper for me.  The added benefit of streaming online radio and downloading music once in a while to the device would’ve been icing on the cake.  I already thought that the external speaker was awesome for listening to podcasts, since the transition from my car to listening to the Connect on my couch was minimal, no need for a speaker dock.

Some other miscellaneous observations:

  • The mechanical wheel had little detents (I think that’s what they’re called) — little stops around the circle that meant to coincide with individual items on the Connect’s menus.  So if you scroll slowly, each little click around the wheel will bring you to the next menu item.  However, if you’re scrolling moderately fast, the wheel becomes less responsive and will sometimes not register movement, so that’s when navigation gets frustrating.  Not good if you have lots of albums/songs on your device.
  • It seemed like the headphone output was softer than my iPod.  I use an audio cable in my car to connect the headphone jack of my iPod to the aux-in jack on my stereo, and when I was using the Sansa Connect, I had to crank up the car stereo volume a lot more.
  • A nitpicky thing, perhaps, but while the curvy shape of the Sansa Connect looks nice, it doesn’t make it easier for accessory manufacturers to make cases or other types of accessories for the Connect.  I’ve always been a big believer in the idea that the mere lack of accessories for a device — cases, docks, audio/video connectors, etc. — can really turn off a consumer from buying said device.  It may be shallow, but I at least want to be able to buy a case for my player (and not just some cheapo neoprene junk that barely accommodates the device), as well as some other things to personalize it.  Lack of accessories can put a damper on the consumer’s experience with the device, so manufacturers would do well to appease their buyers in this respect.
  • Sandisk would do well to create their own syncing software to interface with Yahoo Music Unlimited (or untether themselves from Yahoo and support all of the music subscription services over the WiFi connection, as well as adding Pandora, last.fm support for streaming radio).  Yahoo Music Jukebox software is a total joke.
  • The Flickr connectivity was really really cool, especially for someone like me, who likes to check out the Flickr Explore page semi-regularly for photographic inspiration.
  • The large screen had very good resolution and color rendition.  When I compared pictures from the Flickr Explore set on the Connect to the same picture on my iMac, they looked very close in tone.  The pictures looked very sharp on the Connect.

The first-gen Sansa Connect is a pretty good device.  Despite its locked-in nature with Yahoo services, the Connect’s WiFi features still kick the Zune’s butt.  Perhaps the second-gen device, or even some firmware updates will address some of the issues I mentioned above, maybe it won’t.  Either way, I think Sandisk did an admirable job creating a product that can seriously compete against the iPod nano and other flash-based mp3 players.

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