Editors' note: The rating of this product has increased to reflect significant enhancements offered by a firmware update. Find out more information here.
SanDisk continues to add to its line of Sansa MP3 players, which has been attractive to consumers from the start thanks to the low price point at which the company can list its players. While cheap pricing has made SanDisk a real contender in the portable audio space, the company is not content to rest on that fact alone to draw new customers, persistently tweaking its new offerings in an attempt to make them better. Such is the case with the Sansa Fuze, a slim device with a high-quality feel and several shiny color options. Sure, it's a bit of a Nano clone, but it also sounds good, offers plentiful features, and is cheap as all get-out--just $80, $100, and $130 for the 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB models, respectively.
SanDisk thought up the perfect name for the Fuze, because the player really resembles a Sansa Clip and a Sansa View blended together. At 3.1 inches by 1.8 inches by 0.3 inch, the Fuze is only a bit bigger than the Clip overall, and it comes in the same color options: black (2GB, 4GB); blue, pink, and red (all 4GB); and silver (8GB). But the build is more like that of the View, with a clickable scroll wheel, a shiny, plastic face and smooth, metal backside--the Fuze definitely has a solid, weighty feel to it. It seems more durable and high-quality than early Sansa models.
This observation in quality unfortunately does not extend to the Fuze's interface. The icon-driven main menu is nice enough to look at, and the device is very easy to navigate, with music organized into playlist, artist, album, and so on. And yet, as with other Sansa models we've come across, the inner menus are dull, and while we appreciate the option to at least change the wallpaper color, we'd love to be able to set a favorite photo as a backdrop or otherwise tweak the look-and-feel to our personal preferences. Still, this is a minor gripe, and part of the problem is actually caused by the screen's protective coating, which casts a grainy shadow on the LCD.