SanDisk Sansa Express review: SanDisk Sansa Express

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Sound quality; radio quality; integrated USB; no additional software required; easy to use; simple menus; professional design; microSD expansion.

The Bad Battery life could be longer; can't customise voice-recording quality; no AAC support.

The Bottom Line A truly great player for the price. With its excellent sound quality, ease of use, pleasant design and simple media management, SanDisk has produced a really fine player. We'd love to see better battery life and support for the excellent AAC format, but they're only small complaints

7.5 Overall

The Sansa Express is part of a new line of Sansa players from US flash-memory juggernaut SanDisk. Its previous players, such as the Sansa e260, have scored well with our editors and even earned our prestigious Editor's Choice award.

The Sansa Express comes in 1GB (the model reviewed) and 2GB breeds, with prices starting at £30. Are budget players just too rubbish or has SanDisk got some sneaky tricks up its sleeve with this shiny scoundrel?

Design
It's not unusual for super-cheap players to look super-cheap, so we were pleased to see that this affordable model has a look of professionalism about it. It's a sleek player that's seen some polish. It also doesn't need any cables -- the USB plug is built into the player. In case your USB sockets are surrounded by casing or other devices, SanDisk provides a very short cable to extend the socket.

All navigation is done with a comfy four-directional keypad and a simple four-line display. Dedicated volume controls are on the player's underside, with power and hold controls on the top. These, along with the headphone socket, microSD slot and microphone, are all crammed into one side of the chassis, meaning a curious bulge protrudes in order to encase the electronics inside. It's a well-built player though, and feels rugged in spite of its feather-like 30g weight.

Features
As an MP3 player, you might not be surprised to learn it plays MP3s. It'll play WAV and WMA files too -- protected or unprotected -- but sadly that's where the format support ends. We'd love to have seen AAC support. Still, Audible audiobooks will play, making this a functional choice for commuters who enjoy spoken-word productions. Sadly though, the popular and free Podcast Ready software isn't compatible.

A digital FM tuner -- no, not DAB -- will scratch that broadcast-hungry itch inside your skull, but it also lets you record directly to the player's internal memory. A built-in microphone will satisfy your dictation needs by squeezing your voice into its adequately capacious digital bowel.

Customisation of the Sansa Express is minimal. There's an equaliser with five presets and an on-the-go playlist system, plus shuffle and repeat options.

Probably the most unusual feature about the Express is its microSD expansion slot, allowing you to up the player's memory by as much as 2GB. At a cost of around £8 each, using multiple 2GB cards for different types of music could allow you to carry significant amounts of data around without buying a player that comes with more built-in memory. Internal memory and microSD memory appear as two separate drives inside the Sansa Express icon in Windows, potentially allowing you to use the Express as a disk drive and a music player at the same time.

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