Editors' note: The rating of this review has been updated to reflect the inclusion of album art support, a feature previously thought to be absent from this player.
SanDisk knows how to produce affordable MP3 players, which is probably why value-conscious music lovers have made Sansa the second most-popular device in the U.S. market (behind the Apple iPod). The company's latest release is the Sansa c200 series, successor to the c100. At $79 for the 1GB version and $99 for the 2GB version, the c200 is SanDisk's cheapest player series to date. However, although the player is easy to use and packed with features, it's not a high-quality device.
The physical design of the Sansa c200 is nothing special, but it works. It's almost identical to the c100, except controls (Fast-forward, Reverse, Play/Pause, Menu/Power, and a center Select key) are laid out in a square rather than a circle. The c200 measures 3.1x1.4x0.6 inches, so it's not the most compact device on the block, but it can fit in a pocket. Around the edges of the player you'll find a well-placed dedicated volume toggle, a microSD slot, a proprietary USB connector, a record button, a hold switch, and a standard headphone jack. The drab, 1.5-inch screen sits on the front of the c200, just left of the control pad.
The Sansa c200 has one of the simplest interfaces we've ever used, yet it's also extremely boring. Text font is uninspired and displayed on a dull blue background--we get depressed just looking at it. At least the top menu is icon-driven, with images representing various selections. You can also view photos (while listening to music) on the c200, but we don't recommend it: photo color appears washed-out. You can adjust the screen's brightness, but resolution and contrast is poor. The FM tuner, however, is pretty decent, and includes a recorder, an auto-scanner, and up to 20 (oddly unnumbered) presets. A pin hole microphone lets you record voice.
To transfer music to the Sansa c200, use the included USB cable to connect the player to either a Windows or Mac PC. Note that you'll need to first select the mode--MTP or MSC, respectively--in the settings menu. Mac users can simply use the drag-and-drop method in Finder to transfer artist or album folders to the player's music folder. Windows users have a choice of transfer methods: use drag-and-drop or a WMA jukebox such as Windows Media Player or Rhapsody. The Sansa c200 is compatible with MP3s and both protected and unprotected WMA files. The player supports playlists as well.
SanDisk isn't known for its stellar audio quality, and the c200 keeps up the tradition. Sound quality is fair to poor; music sounded flat, bass-deficient, and slightly tinny when listening with the included earbuds. Swapping in a set of Shure E4cs improved quality slightly, offering more on the low end, but songs still lacked warmth and depth. Most music sounded fairly hollow, although down-tempo, minimal rock (Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, for example), and dub music sounded passable to pretty good, depending on the track. The rechargeable battery, which is user-replaceable, is rated for an unexceptional (but acceptable) 15 hours; CNET Labs tests beat that rating by about an hour.