Speaking of music discovery, the e200R comes preloaded with 500 channel/playlist tracks in 13 different genres. These tracks, which include The Church's "Under the Milky Way" and Kanye West's "Gold Digger," will be available for two months or 1,000 plays and can be added to your library if you subscribe to Rhapsody To Go ($14.99 per month). Adding songs to your library is as easy as a push and hold of the Select button (this can be customized to Add To Library, Purchase Track, or Rate Song. If you're not into the subscription thing, you can still use Rhapsody to manage your device and purchase tracks. Or if you want to use the e200R with Napster or Urge, you can do so--just make sure to switch modes when using a Windows Media-based store.
If you're familiar with the e200, you'll notice little differences such as the addition of star ratings and embedded artist info within playback mode. One of Rhapsody's strengths as a music source is its deep editorial database, and the e200R now features bits of artist information accessible as a song is playing. Also, on the e200R interface, you will see a tiny green dot that tells you that your subscription tracks are licensed and refreshed. A yellow dot says you have 10 days, and, well, you know what a red dot means. In addition, Rhapsody will actually refresh your 30-day license each time you sync. The account option in settings will tell you exactly how many days you have left to sync before song licenses expire.
One annoying thing I've noticed when you connect the e200R to Rhapsody: you'll get a NoDisk error, which is referring to the empty expansion slot drive. Otherwise, I've not had a single problem with Rhapsody recognizing the e200R. The device also works well in PFS mode as well as within Urge and Yahoo Music Unlimited. In addition to Rhapsody Channels, the e200R firmware allows for superfast transfers, both of unprotected music and subscription tracks. Rhapsody says "two times as fast as PlaysForSure," and while I haven't seen those speeds, getting tracks onto the e200R happens efficiently and pretty invisibly.
Though SanDisk rates the battery at 20 hours, our CNET Labs found the average battery life for the Sansa e200R to be 17 hours of continuous audio playback from a single charge. That's not spectacular, but it's decent. Though the e200R packaging is a different color, is branded with Rhapsody (and Best Buy), and includes the presence of Lil' Monsta, the contents are the same as the e200: a proprietary USB cable (boo), typical earbuds, a protective case, a lanyard, and a quick start guide. The installation CD includes the Best Buy-skinned version of Rhapsody.
At the same price for a refined interface, cool new features, and a special Rhapsody relationship, the Sansa Rhapsody player looks like a better option than the e200, whether or not you join Rhapsody To Go. Certainly try the tactile scrollwheel--some like its grainy control, while others view the wheel as cheesy and rattly--before you invest, and understand that photo and video files need to be converted using the bundled media conversion software. Also be aware, though the SanDisk sounds decent, of the slight system noise that is audible at the lowest volumes.