Flash memory and device manufacturer SanDisk clearly has a thorough understanding of the saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." We sure are pleased about that, because when the company decided to update its extremely popular Sansa Clip, it could have mangled a perfectly peachy player. Luckily, SanDisk knew a good thing when it saw one and created the Sansa Clip+, a fantastic follow-up that builds upon the great foundation of its predecessor. The player continues to offer an ultracompact design complemented by useful features and solid sound quality--and all at an unbeatable price. The Clip+ is available in 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB options for $39.99, $49.99, and $69.99, respectively.
Design on a dime
Or several stacks of dimes, anyway. The SanDisk Sansa Clip+ is very similar to its predecessor in design, which means you still get an ultracompact shape (2.1 inches tall by 1.3 wide by 0.4 inch thick), a light weight (0.9 ounce), and a superhandy built-in belt-clip on the back of the device. That said, there are some notable--though very minor--differences between the physical aspects of the Clip+ and its predecessor. First, the player's control pad is square rather than circular, though it is the same five-way configuration, with play/pause, track FF/RW, and a contextual menu button surrounding a center select key. Also, the dedicated volume rocker has moved from the right edge to the left (under the standard mini-USB port) in order to make room for a MicroSD card slot. And SanDisk has eliminated the hold-and-power switch, electing instead to add a power button to the top of the player and integrate hold functionality into the home key on the front.
Perhaps the most obvious change to the Clip+ is the overall body design, although this, too, is relatively slight. The player is less blocky, with a slightly curved brushed black plastic back plate that wraps slightly around the edges of the front. The colors--black, red, and blue at release--are relegated to just the face of the device. The overall effect is that the Clip+ feels like it has a higher quality build than its predecessor, and we welcome the improvement.
Those who are familiar with the Clip will be glad to know that the interface of the Clip+ is nearly identical, with a small menu addition to accommodate the MicroSD card slot. As you can use SlotMusic and SlotRadio cards as well as cards formatted with your own music, SanDisk has thoughtfully created a separate menu option for SlotRadio that allows you to access that content directly. The main menu also includes selections for music, FM radio, voice, and settings. Diving into the music submenu will let you navigate by artist, album, genre, and playlist as well as a folder-tree option. This is also where you'll find dedicated sections for podcasts and audiobooks. All in all, it's very simple and easy to navigate. The only issue: the display is quite small (1 inch diagonally) and thus the tiny, monochrome text may be difficult to read if you don't have perfect vision.
Tiny package, big features
For such a small player, the Sansa Clip+ has an impressive array of features--even more than its predecessor, which already had plenty. The major omissions include wireless capability and support for photo and video, but in a device this size and for such a budget-friendly price, these features are not only unnecessary, but would probably cripple the overall functionality. What you do get is playback of a wide array of audio formats, including MP3, secure WMA (subscription music), WAV, FLAC, OGG, and Audible. We are a touch disappointed that SanDisk omitted AAC, but that is something that could potentially be added via a firmware updated. There's also a built-in mic for voice recording and an FM tuner with an autoscan mode and 40 preset slots.