Anything tagged with the phrase "world's biggest" tends to be worthy of fascination for the average Australian -- think of the hordes of visitors that flock to the Big Merino and the Big Banana. When SanDisk's Sansa e280 was announced in August, it garnered a lot of attention for being the flash MP3 player with the world's biggest capacity. A formidable threat to the, the 8GB e280 looked impressive for its list of features, memory expansion slot and black-and-neon-blue design.
Since then, Apple has grabbed the spotlight with the launch of the second-generation Nano players, also available in up to 8GB capacities. But, on paper at least, the e280 still has the edge in terms of specifications.
The e280 is the latest in SanDisk's Sansa e200 series, which created a stir with an anti-iPod marketing campaign that portrayed owners of the little white player as mindless sheep and monkeys. Although the wannabe-rebel advertising seemed a bit try-hard to us, we stopped complaining when we reviewed the 2GB e250. A feature-packed model with a simple, elegant design, the player impressed us with its sharp-looking video, simple drag-and-drop software interface and attractive price.
The e280 looks identical to the e250, with an iPod-esque vertical orientation, mechanical backlit scroll wheel and glossy black casing. The back of the player has a brushed bronze finish, a metal we've been seeing a lot of lately in phone models like Sony Ericsson's Walkman range. Also on the back are four little screws that hold the back-plate in place. These tiny bits of metal provide hope to those who have been burned by faulty iPod batteries, as they mean that the battery can be replaced without needing to trek to a service centre.
On the right side of the e280 is a MicroSD card slot, which allows for an additional 2GB storage. A flash player with 10GB of memory overall -- not too shabby. The left side features a dedicated recording button for capturing voice and FM radio, and the top of the e280 houses the headphone socket, hold switch and a pinhole-sized microphone. On the bottom is the proprietary port for USB connection and charging.
When we reviewed the e250, we mentioned that the grooves of the scroll wheel "feel a tad icky to the thumb". Nothing's changed with the e280; while rotating the glowing blue jog dial isn't exactly arduous, it's not quite the smooth experience of spinning your digits around the Nano's touch-sensitive scroller. The four buttons on the outside of the wheel -- play/pause, forward, reverse and menu -- are also too small and too close to the jog dial. Not a prohibitive design issue, but when you've been spoiled by Apple's simple iPod layouts, you become picky.
In terms of features, SanDisk has gone all-out for the e200 series. All players in the range sport voice and FM radio recording, photo and video playback, and that much-appreciated ability to expand overall memory by up to 2GB.