Editor’s Note: This story is reprinted from PC World. To see images of the Sansa Connect browsing through Yahoo stations, streaming audio, preparing to download a track, and viewing a Flickr photostream, click here.
PC World has been eagerly awaiting SanDisk’s Wi-Fi equipped MP3 player since it was announced at CES this year, and finally this networked wonder is here. I’ve been playing around with our 4GB Sansa Connect for a while now, and here are my first impressions:
The Wi-Fi is actually useful: Welcome to a social you might want to attend. While Microsoft was one of the first to build Wi-Fi into a digital audio player, the Zune’s limited sharing options didn’t exactly set the word on fire. The Connect gives you many more options, built around a partnership with Yahoo. Find an open access point, and you can stream Internet radio from Launchcast stations or browse Flickr photo streams. Sign up for Yahoo’s portable music subscription service, Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go ($12 per month for an annual subscription, or $15 if you go month-to-month), and you’ll be able to download any tracks or albums you like over Wi-Fi. I’d still like to see wireless syncing with my PC as an option, but the streaming radio is a very nice touch.
Streaming Internet Radio Sounds Quite Good: Stations took a little while to buffer using my home Wi-Fi connection, but the quality of the streams was quite nice, on par with 128kbps MP3 files. I didn’t experience any drop-outs even while I had several other network transfers going. If you hear a song you like, it’s easy to queue it up for download using the Zing menu button just above the device’s control wheel on the right. I’ve had trouble getting the download function to work with my Yahoo ID, so I’ll have to report back on that later.
The Screen Looks Great: The Connect’s 2.2-inch color screen isn’t quite as good as the display on my 5.5G iPod or Creative’s Zen Vision:M, but it’s not bad. The screen’s refresh rate is just barely visible, which is a minor annoyance. Photos, whether streamed to the device or downloaded, showed particularly vibrant colors.
Pretty Interface, Sluggish Operation: The Connect’s interface is a pleasure to look at, with colorful icons, and crisp fonts throughout. Unfortunately, the Connect’s scrolling dial takes some getting used to. Though its physical operation mimics the iPod’s Clickwheel, the main control’s placement at the bottom of a fairly small device feels somewhat awkward. Plus, the wheel has a bit of lag to it, making it easy to overshoot your target in a list of songs.
Is the Wireless Worth it?: At $249 for a 4GB player, the Sansa Connect isn’t cheap. But with a MicroSD slot included for expansion, and the ability to pull down songs wherever there’s an open access point, the Connect’s lack of storage isn’t a big deal. As the first truly useful wireless MP3 player, the Connect is sure to be a popular gadget.