The Sansa View media player from SanDisk

The Sansa View media player from SanDiskThe Sansa View is a curious device. Looking a little like a mobile phone, its styling might not stop you reaching past it on the shelf to pick up an iPod Nano. But what’s under the hood and what it can show you are worth dallying over before you make the move towards Apple’s little baby.

A quick flick through the simple interface shows that the Sansa View has a few tricks up its sleeves.

Naturally it can play music and movies, but radio fans will be pleased to see an FM receiver and business folk trying to push the player through on an expenses form will like the sight of the voice recorder. Those two items even join together to allow you to record radio shows.

And while it can handle video on its 2.4-inch screen, it might as well use that facility to let you have a gander at your Jpegs, too.

The View handles MP3, WAV, WMA and unprotected AAC audio files; and MPEG4, WMV and H.264 videos. While that list sounds impressive it misses off one of the most popular formats: DivX.

OK, so SanDisk provides free conversion software you can download from its website. But this is an extra step we’d rather have skipped as it can take a long time to deal with a large movie-length file on a mid-range PC.

The View can be updated using Windows Media Player. Those who abhor Microsoft software can do it manually by using the device as a hard-disk and dropping the files onto it directly.

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As far as sound quality goes, the Sansa View only lacks power when it comes to bass. You’ll also want to probably want to upgrade the headphones to some that are less tiresome on the ears.

However, that’s where the moans stop. The options for playing music have to be singled out for special praise, bringing in the usual playlist support and allowing tracks to be sorted by artist, album, genre, rating, podcast, audiobook or recordings. The reception on the FM radio is also as good as listening to your regular MP3s, which shouldn’t surprise us as it was also good SanDisk’s tiny Sansa Clip player.

But it’s the super screen that gets the most glory. In most cases this offers pin-sharp playback, making films easy to watch even in the brightest light. Oddly, it does show up some pixilation of edges when displaying clouds, but all other images in the time we used it remained intact.

SanDisk has also taken a leaf out of Apple’s book by making the Sansa View very easy to use. The interface may look like something a Blue Peter presenter knocked up with its basic icons, but you could happily hand this over to your granddad and expect him to have it up and running in minutes. The only niggle is that the voice recorder and radio are hidden under the ‘More’ icon, rather than getting their own top-level spot in the main menu.

So should you buy the Sansa View? It basically comes down to what you want for your money. The View will give you 16GB of memory (a 32GB version is on the way) compared with the iPod Nano’s current 8GB. And whereas the Nano is fixed, the View has a MicroSD slot to help you get more life out of the device. At €210 including VAT (about £155), that extra space will only cost you around £25 more than Apple is charging. If you’re seriously thinking about using this for movies, the View’s double capacity is a great start even before you go down the MicroSD route. The only area the Sansa View really disappoints is in the lack of case, as you’ll want to protect that gorgeous screen in your pocket or bag.

VERDICT: 8/10

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