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SanDisk e200: Socking it to the iPod nano

Watch out iPod army, here comes the Operation Desert Storm of the MP3 player world. SanDisk is getting all jihad on Apple's ickle beauty

It looks like the company that ran the anti-iPod "I Don't" campaign has decided that it does. The SanDisk e200 series borrows the iPod nano's black chassis and Clickwheel concept, but -- unlike the iPod nano -- offers video play.

SanDisk is challenging Apple's touchpad Clickwheel by implementing a mechanical scroll wheel in the e200. This mechanical wheel may evoke memories of the iPod five years ago, but it's a step in the right direction. What's more, it glows. No company has come up with a viable improvement on the wheel-based navigation control, so the choice of interface makes sense.

The flash-memory e200 (available as the 2GB e250, 4GB e260 and 6GB e270) is twice as thick as the nano, but then it does pack video playback into its chassis. This is a boon for SanDisk, but given that the screen is 45mm (1.8 inches) across, you're going to need a high tolerance for miniaturised viewing experiences. The software bundled with the e200 will convert a variety of video codecs into something the player can display.

Praise the gods that SanDisk has designed the e200 to mount as a generic USB device. A simple drag-and-drop interface means you aren't tied to any specific platform or software -- this is the way all MP3 players should work. Early reports indicate that the chassis is scratch-resistant to a degree that shames the nano.

It looks like SanDisk pretty much has the MP3 player to cash the cheques its ego has been writing. Though the Holy Grail of Apple's Clickwheel continues to elude rivals, SanDisk's crafty marketing campaign and e200 player are welcome competition. The e200 is available now for £119 (2GB), £139 (4GB) and £189 (6GB). Expect a full review soon. -CS