The SA1335 is about the size of your average cigarette lighter at 80.5mm by 31.5mm by 15mm and 40 grams. The player is held horizontally, with a 128 x 64 pixel display taking up residence next to a square button with a round central selection key similar to a mobile phone's navigation key. The top and bottom part of the square adjust volume and scroll through files, while the left and right portions navigate through tracks. The circular button controls play/pause and also acts as a selector for menu options.
Three small buttons -- Record, A-B Repeat and Menu -- adorn the adjacent face, but it's an odd choice for the menu key to be placed here in button Siberia, given how frequently it is used.
The electric blue display seems to float on the player's mirrored surface -- an elegant look, but, as with most OLEDs, impossible to make out in sunlight. Overall, the construction is sturdy, and the SA1335 looks sleek. As an added bonus, it's not prone to the scratches that can accumulate on other MP3 players with mirrored faces (first-generation Nano, anyone?), although it does attract the odd fingerprint.
The player has a retractable USB plug that allows it to slot directly into your computer without a cable (although an extension cord is supplied just in case). It's convenient to not have to cart a cable around for recharging, and a feature we liked in Sony's similar-calibre NW-E005.
One thing that concerned us about the SA1335's design was that it rattled when we shook it. This seems to be due to the main buttons being loosely set, as when we held them down, the rattling stopped. The movement isn't a major issue, but it is a little disconcerting.
The SA1335 harbours a pretty standard list of extras, such as an FM tuner, recording for voice and radio, and a custom EQ. The screen is way too small for inclusions like photo viewing or video playback -- although that didn't hold back mobiBLU's ludicrously spec'd Cube2. Basically, the focus is on music, with the radio and voice features being nifty extras.
Settings such as the equaliser, scroll speed of titles and sleep options for the display can be adjusted by pressing the menu button when a song is playing. The equaliser performs well, with custom adjustment particularly effective.
We appreciated the ability to drag and drop files using Windows Explorer -- one of our main complaints about the NW-E005 was that proprietary SonicStage software slowed down the transfer process by converting songs to OpenMG format.
Scrolling through Artist folders in the Folder View menu option was a bit trying, given the display struggled to keep up with multiple button presses. The fact that the LED only displays three lines of text also makes the delay more pronounced -- if you have a lot of different artists loaded on your player, you will probably find yourself getting frustrated at the slow response.
One of our pet hates when taking MP3 players for a test drive is when buttons do dodgy double duty; that is, when they perform different functions according to how long they are held down for, but don't seem consistent in their response. Although some of the buttons on the SA1335 are multifunctional, we didn't have a problem with any of them.
Battery life reached just short of the specified 12 hours when tested with two hours' music playback per day. It was great to see a manufacturer's claim being met, as lifespan often fails to measure up to the number on the specs sheet.
The problem with the SA1335 is that it's just not distinctive. While we don't need a flashy or quirky gimmick if the product is solid, there's just nothing to set this one apart from a line-up of similar players. It looks cool and sounds good, but we found the scroll delay to be too much to put up with for daily use.