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SanDisk slotMusic Player review: SanDisk slotMusic Player

In fact, you don't even need a computer to use the Sansa slotMusic Player, and the package doesn't include a USB cable--there's no syncing port on the device anyway. Instead, SanDisk includes a USB adapter that can be plugged into the computer for transferring content directly to and from the card (you can add your own content to the slotMusic cards, which generally have a fair amount of leftover space). Rather than having a built-in rechargeable cell, the unit is powered by a single AAA battery (rated for 15 hours), which is concealed beneath a removable faceplate that wraps around the player. SanDisk will offer a variety of the "shells" in different colors and designs for sale as optional accessories. Although the device has a hefty and durable feel, it's relatively compact at 2.7 inches wide by 1.4 inches tall by 0.6 inch deep, making it about half the size of a cassette Walkman and significantly smaller than a Discman--plus, there's no skipping with flash memory.

No doubt, $20 is cheap, but it's important to keep in mind that the Sansa slotMusic Player on its own is little more than a paperweight awaiting a higher purpose. A microSD card--preferably of the slotMusic variety--is a necessary accompaniment, and it's important to keep in mind that this format is tiny and easy to misplace. (To SanDisk's credit, a Sansa Card Case is available as an optional accessory.) Albums in slotMusic format are roughly the same price as CDs, carrying an MSRP of $14.99, and that ain't cheap when you consider a blank 1GB card can be found for $5. Various branded bundles, including a Robin Thicke slotMusic Bundle and a "Don't Quit" Fitness Bundle, will be available for $35, so that's the price you're looking at for an uberbasic MP3 player with a 1GB capacity and an album's worth of music (plus any extras the artist chooses to add to the card). Overall, that's probably a decent value for the target audience.

The Sansa slotMusic Player uses the same audio chip as the Sansa Clip and the Sansa Fuze, so one might expect sound quality to be on par with its siblings. In the case of the slotMusic player, we did the majority of the audio testing using the preloaded slotMusic cards, for which each track is encoded at 320Kbps MP3, but WMA is also supported. Of course, the included earbuds aren't the best, though they actually sound decent--music came through reasonably clear and warm-sounding. To get a better idea of what the device is capable of, we swapped in our Shure SE310s, although pairing $250 earphones with a $20 MP3 player seems a tad ridiculous. Audio had a decidedly less muffled quality to it, and we actually heard some (but not much) bass. Mids were smooth, and high-end detail was impressive across genres. Overall, the slotMusic device is a solid-sounding MP3 player.

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