The C series of Sansa players represents SanDisk's mid-range MP3 offerings, and certainly have it over their entry model M series cousins in terms of looks. Sporting an understated yet appealing black design with metallic silver trimming, the C Sansa's feature an overall superior build quality than M series players, as well as a few other noticeable extras. The overall feel is still rather plastic and low-end compared to something like an iPod Nano, but it should pass muster for most looking more for functionality than design.
The C's colour screen is the main differentiator. While the M series players only featured a monochrome screen with a blue backlight, the C series has a 64K colour screen that can display album art and photos. The resolution is on the low side, however, so don't expect the clarity of the iPod or the Creative Zen Vision M. Plus, the C series' elongated portrait screen isn't exactly ideal for viewing images.
Despite what the positioning of the SanDisk and Sansa logos on the unit would have you believe, the C is meant to be used on its side, with the screen defaulting to a landscape presentation. And while the silver control pad next to the screen looks suspiciously like a scroll wheel, it's not -- it's a four way control pad (up, down, left, right) with a confirmation button in the middle, and acts as the C's main navigation tool.
We tested the c150, the 2GB capacity model of the C series (which also comes in 1GB capacity). Its features list has everything you'd come to expect from current MP3 players (apart from the iPod that is), such as MP3, WMA and Audible audio file compatibility, voice recorder, FM tuner and recorder, and digital photo viewer. Perhaps the most impressive thing about a player at this price range is the inclusion of a colour screen, although as we've mentioned previously, it's not exactly a high quality display.
The SanDisk C player connects to a PC via a proprietary USB cable (supplied in the box), and can be synced with Windows Media Player. Far easier, however, is the ability to directly drag and drop music files into the player itself using Windows Explorer. Photos don't receive the same ease-of-use -- SanDisk's Media Converter software must be used to transfer any digital images across to the player.
The little SanDisk player takes AAA batteries for its power source, but has a fairly low life of about 15 hours. Considering most other players (with rechargeable or replaceable batteries) can boast up to 18 hours of continuous play, the SanDisk C doesn't exactly represent good value, as you'll need a stock of AAAs to keep the player running.
We found the c150 to be a fairly intuitive player to use. The player's menus are sensibly laid out, and feature cute little graphics representing each function. Options are also context-sensitive -- press the options button (down on the scroll wheel) during music playback and it will present music options, picture ones during photo playback, and so on.
One thing that might get some frustrated is the lack of information available on screen at any one time. The C's landscape display can only show three lines of text, which means you'll need to be patient if you're looking for one particular song amongst the hundreds you may have stored on the unit.
Sound quality of the SanDisk C is decent quality, although it falls behind other players we've tested this year including the Sony NW-A1000 Walkman and the Toshiba gigabeat flash (512MB). That said, most non-audiophile users will have no complaints with the SanDisk C. As a bonus, the player features several preset equaliser settings, as well as the ability for the user to modify the settings to their preferences.
FM recording quality, however, is rather poor. Recordings made are played back in mono, which is a bit of a shock to the ears after listening to decent stereo sound when it comes to the radio or music files. Voice recordings are also fairly average -- the C's in-built microphone doesn't have an extremely long range, so recordings made in lecture theatres or large environments become a little hard to make out.