Archive for the ‘sansa’ Category

Sansa e260, part 2

2008-12-19

This is part 2 of a review of my experiences with a refurbished sandisk sansa e260. See here for part 1.

sansa e260

The record button is placed poorly – it’s on the side, right about where you have to grab the device to remove it from whatever case it’s in, so it’s easy to press it accidentally. I suppose I could just turn on the hold switch during those times, though…

The volume/select knob/rotary encoder wheel sticks out too far above the surface of the device, so that it’s difficult to get to the up/down left/right buttons that are right next to it. Also, the knob/wheel doesn’t turn all that easily – as if it were a ye-olde-style mechanism that needed to be greased. Apparently, this is one of the things they changed for v2 of this player before they stopped making it, and since I have a refurbished v1, this complaint doesn’t apply to the newer model.

FM radio reception ain’t great (3 of 8 stations that I’m using to listening to don’t come in without static), but the only reference receiver I have is in the car, so maybe it’s not a fair comparison. The radio does tune very quickly (within 350ms), and with a bunch more presets than a car stereo usually has, it makes for an overall better radio experience than in the car.

stock firmware

As noted above, the record button is too easily pressed, and once you tell it that you didn’t really want to record, it doesn’t go back to what you were doing (although it’s always just 2 button presses to get back there).

The fm radio receiver software lets you autoscan for stations, which is nice. However, if you add any more stations to the list after you do so, they appear out of order, and there’s no way to re-order them. There’s also no way to name the station presets other than by their frequency nor is there any way to categorize them by genre.

Switching between fm radio and stored music is well done. If remembers which station you were on and it also remembers where you were in the stored song and starts you where you left off when switching between the two, which is some nice polish. However, the button for skipping to the next track is different from the button to skip to the next fm preset, so minus some points for polish there.

The sansa has the same button / wheel configuration that an iPod does, but the buttons don’t do the same things (it’s the same, except that play/pause and menu are swapped). I don’t mind the difference in function. Way back when, however, it took me a while (like a year or so) of using an iPod before realizing that the counterintuitive button/wheel combination (and it is counterintuitive) allowed you to hit play/pause, skip forward and skip back anytime while navigating the menu. What I do mind is that the stock sansa firmware does not allow this (the one nice iPod feature).

armband

I got a sansa holster armband for jogging that cost $4.99 shipped. Turns out it’s also useful for listening to music while mopping floors and just randomly doing stuff without having to worry about the screen getting scratched by keys or whatnot while in your pocket.

Unfortunately, after using my armband for 4 days, it broke. While riding my bike. While in traffic. Fell on the asphalt. The whole armband is mostly fabric and velcro, except for one small piece of rigid plastic, which is the part that broke. Ah, well. What did I expect for <$5 shipped? Probably fixable with a big safety pin. The armband did stop the device from getting scratched when it fell, though.

leather case

The leather case that came with the sansa is well-made – it has a belt clip and a magnetic clasp for the cover – but it’s difficult to press the buttons around the knob/wheel because of how the case was designed. I kinda see now why it was thrown in with the sansa.

notes

Most people wouldn’t devote so much time to reviewing a refurbished mp3 player, I suppose, but I’ve been desperately needing one for about 2 years (since my hand-me-down broken-then-fixed iPod finally died).

This post was written while listening to George Harrison’s “Dera Doon” and Shakira’s “How Do You Do.”

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Sansa e260

2008-12-15

I bought a refurbished Sandisk Sansa e260 v1 for $35 and it came yesterday. Works pretty well so far.

It has 4GiB built in, which isn’t enough for my music collection, but it also takes microSD cards, which have come down in price a great deal lately. 8GiB for about $20. So 12GiB for ~$55 and it has a color screen and a battery that lasts a while (supposedly >15h). Not bad.

I bought it with the plan to put rockbox on it (since rockbox supports microSDHC, whereas the stock firmware does not, and SDHC would be required to use an 8GiB card), but rockbox doesn’t allow charging over usb natively (you have to reboot into the stock firmware for that or for transferring files), so I might just leave it as-is for a while. The stock firmware is better than I expected it to be, but then again, I didn’t expect it to be very good a priori.

I copied 3.5GB to it and rsync said that it did 4.15MB/sec on average. Don’t forget the –no-group option if you use rsync –archive.

One complaint: It was set to the wrong usb mode out-of-the-box. There’s the usb mass storage mode (MSC) and then there’s some other mode (MTP) and for some silly reason, it’s set to the other one by default. After plugging it in to charge for a moment and then unplugging it (after checking on the computer that the drive was not mounted), the software got in a weird state where the display would update normally depending on the normal usage of the device, but immediately it would go back to display the connected-over-usb screen (even though it wasn’t) so that you couldn’t see what was going on. To fix it, I had to find a FAQ about e200 sansas that said to change it to MSC mode in the settings->usb mode thingy, which I had to do with the usb connected screen in the way, but it is still possible to navigate the menus with it like that. Then, I plugged it back in to the computer and it automatically mounted the drive. Then I ejected it and unplugged the usb cable and the sansa summarily rebooted itself (which it’s supposed to do after you disconnect it from a computer for some reason). The weird behavior went away at that point. Been fine since. I probably could have also solved the problem by just rebooting the sansa (which I didn’t know how to do at the time) or telling libmtp to let go of the device somehow, although the system log doesn’t say anything about mtp at all ever. Supposedly the MTP mode is supported in amarok rhythmbox and audacious, among other players, but I much prefer just having a storage device to drop files on as opposed to an itunes/gtkpod-like interface.

Here’s a tutorial on using a sansa on ubuntu linux for any who are interested. It basically works just like any non-linux machine – plug it in, copy files to it, unmount it, unplug it and you’re done – but there’s some good info in the tutorial anyway (updating firmware, adding album art, adding videos and pictures, install rockbox, etc).

update 2008-12-19: This is part 1 of a review of my experiences with a refurbished sandisk sansa e260. See here for part 2.