The Fuze is now broadly compatible between Mac and PC, thanks to a flexible USB connection mode that can automatically switch between MTP and a generic MSC connection standard. It's a small thing, but it's still one less hurdle for anyone looking for an inexpensive iPod alternative.
On the video front, you can sync most standard definition content in an h.264, WMV, or MPEG-4 format. A free Sansa Media Converter application is included (also downloadable) that makes quick work of converting the majority of other common video formats, specifically including Flip camcorder footage.
Features such as photos, FM radio, and voice recording work just as you'd expect and we have no complaints, especially at this price. The radio doesn't offer the same "live pause" capability as the Apple iPod Nano, however, it does allow you to create recordings off the radio on the fly, and displays station call letters and other RBDS info. Recordings made either from the radio or the integrated voice recorder are stored as uncompressed WAV files, which can be easily transferred off the device and played on any computer.
Another noteworthy feature that SanDisk continues to support is memory card expansion. Granted, as one of the world's leading manufacturers of memory cards, it would be insane for SanDisk not to support memory cards. To this end, SanDisk doesn't skimp on memory support, allowing up to 32GB of extra MicroSDHC memory to be shoved into the side of the device for people looking to store as much music as possible. The feature is also compatible with SanDisks' own line of SlotRadio music cards, which offer a pre-loaded selection of music based around certain genres or themes (Billboard Hits, Classical, Workout Mix, etc.).
The Fuze+ features a dedicated main menu heading for podcasts, which is a great nod to podcasts fans like us. Of course, to download and sync podcast content, you'll need to use the Fuze+ with podcast-friendly software, like Songbird or Winamp, or even iTunes if you're comfortable with dragging and dropping content manually.
There are plenty of good reasons to buy a Sansa Fuze+ over an iPod, but audio quality is not one of them. Like any iPod, the Fuze+ includes a lengthy list of EQ presets to massage the sound, as well as a custom five-band graphic EQ--but nothing really worked to coax out a better-than-average sound. The included earbuds come with foam covers on them as a measure of comfort, but they offer no sonic improvement over Apple's ubiquitous white 'buds.
That said, the fact that the Fuze+ is sonically on par with the iPod Nano, and available at half the price, is no small feat. But if audio quality is of paramount importance, you're better off looking at players from Sony, Samsung, or Cowon.
Video quality on the Fuze+ is impressive. The screen's 320x240-pixel resolution isn't worthy of taking in a feature-length film, but the pixel density looks tight and crisp, image quality is smooth, and colors pop for both photos and videos. Our review unit had a pretty nasty viewing angle when held in landscape view and tilted towards the right, but if that's the only complaint we can make of the experience, we think the Fuze+ still comes out ahead.
SanDisk rates the battery life of the Fuze+ at 24 hours of audio and 5 hours of video, which is above average for the price. We'll update this review with battery results from CNET Labs once testing is complete.