Looking at the design of the Sansa Fuze, it's obvious which MP3 player it's setting its competitive sights on. The slim, credit card-sized form factor, the scroll wheel and the dock connector on the base all scream "iPod Nano", but there are enough distinctions to keep Steve Jobs from speed dialling Apple's patent infringement lawyers on his iPhone.
First up, the scroll wheel rotates mechanically rather than being touch-sensitive, and its perimeter is backlit in blue. Unlike the ridged and uncomfortable wheel found on, the Fuze's wheel is smooth and thumb-friendly and rotates with nary a snag.
At the top-right of the wheel is a small circular Home button which instantly reels you back to the graphic-driven main menu regardless of what sub-layer you're in. A microSD slot and teeny mic sit on the player's left side, while the right side hosts a combo power/hold switch. As with the Nano, headphones and a proprietary USB cable get plugged into sockets on the bottom of the player.
As for the all-important size comparisons, the Nano is 6.5 millimetres thick, 69.8 millimetres tall and 52.3 millimetres wide, while the Fuze is an elongated, slightly less emaciated 7.6 by 78.7 by 48.3 millimetres. Though it may seem disadvantageous, the Fuze's heavier weight — 59.5 grams against the Nano's 49.2 grams — gives the player a sturdier, more robust feel. In other words, it's not likely to get busted if sat on by a hefty buttock or two.
Where the Fuze trumps Apple's offerings is in its features list. Sansa's player sports an FM radio, voice recorder and a microSD expansion slot — and all this is available at a lower price than the RRP of the equivalent-capacity Nanos. Apple's players retail at AU$189 for the 4GB model and AU$249 for the 8GB version, while the sassy Sansa undercuts Jobs and Co at AU$180 and AU$233.