[Stocking stuffer?] Enjoy ?yesterday?s? MP3 player TODAY! ($25.00+free_shipping+SanDisk_quality+2GB+FM_radio = endless hours of ear candy!)
SanDisk quality/reliability. Affordability_($25.00+free shipping). Uses one cheap, user-replaceable, "AAA" battery (conventional_or_rechargeable). Everythings included. Excellent sound!
Although "2GB" (up to 64 hours of audio) is_more_than_large_enough_for_the_majority-of_consumers, it's_not_as_gigantic_as_costlier_models'_capacities. Illuminated, blue-monochrome (not multicolor) display.
The Bottom Line:
Cram up to 64 hours of music or audiobook files into this (supposedly) "obsolete" model! And youll never have to spend big bucks to have its battery inconveniently "factory-replaced"!
Prefatory note #1: As of this writing, you can still purchase this product via Amazon.com for only $25.00, which includes shipping and handling (and no sales tax). During the past several weeks, I ordered three of these units on three separate occasions. (I've filled one unit with music, and the other two units with distinct categories of audiobook files. Thus I can simply set each respective unit's playback-sequence mode to "shuffle all tracks," with consistently delightful results.) In each instance, postal delivery of the product (packed in a typical "Amazon" cardboard box) to my Kansas City locale required no more than about five postal business days. Use the URL directly below to view (or order) the product, and note the several supplementary "customer images" of the product package, accessories, etc.:
Prefatory note #2: If this MP3 player were one of the currently "in vogue" models, I might've spent considerably more time discussing its features and settings. However, my primary objective with this posting is simply to call attention to the remarkably low cost of this still perfectly "decent" little SanDisk product that was introduced about three years ago. Presumably, there are many folks who, like me, want an MP3 player specifically for music and/or audiobook (not to mention FM radio) listening during outdoor strolls, errands, workouts, etc. This product more than suffices for such purposes. If you want still more information regarding this aging, er, established model's "features and settings" (or anything else--particularly downloading music--that I don't cover below), there's a plethora of it available at various web sites. You could also check out the many Epinions.com reviews of the SanDisk m240, whose only major difference appears to be its significantly smaller (half-as-large) memory (audio-storage) capacity.
Prefatory note #3: Regarding the above photo, the ear buds (as well as their attached cord) of this Sansa model are actually entirely black.
Allow me to begin with an analogy. From about 1980 through 1986, I was a fanatical "home-videogaming" consumer. I was so avid. Not only did I subscribe to all the pertinent magazines, but also I spent way too much of my hard earned on virtually all of the then available systems, accessories, and titles.
But after several years of such unbridled buying behavior, it belatedly dawned on me that I could have just as much fun playing "yesterday's" videogames. I thereafter nabbed some excellent gear at a fraction of its original cost. And never again did I shell out for "the latest and greatest"... until at least a couple of years had passed.
The SanDisk Sansa M250 MP3 player
Fast forward into the early 21st century and the era of teensy, state-of-the-art MP3 players. I'd been biding my time, refusing to spring prematurely for one of these wee gizmos. But when I recently noticed Amazon offering brand-new (unused) specimens of SanDisk's model "Sansa m250"--whose original list price was a whopping $149.99 two or three years ago--I decided to shell out 25 bucks.
But what really persuaded me to choose this supposedly "obsolete" model was the simple fact that--unlike virtually all of today's headline-grabbing models--this product uses any ordinary (or rechargeable) "AAA" battery, which you can quickly and easily remove or insert. Having read that "today's" most popular models don't allow the user easily to replace the battery himself (and many consumers are routinely paying up to a hundred bucks to have their "dead" units resurrected at some distant facility!), I was determined not to choose one of those more recently popular units--at least not until they, in due time, have likewise become "obsolete" and cheap. Till then, this ol' Sansa m250 will suit me fine.
Now let me proceed to tell you a thing or two about its features, including how you can cram up to 480 audio tracks or 32 hours (MP3 format at 128 kbps) or, in my case, about 960 tracks or 64 hours (WMA format averaging 64 kbps) of music and/or audiobook files into its supposedly modest two gigabytes of reliable, impact-immune flash memory. [I'll discuss my experiences using WMA format (instead of the usual MP3) shortly.]
One of the first things you'll notice is the bluish, semi-monochrome LCD display. More recent models typically feature full-color displays; but do you really care, given that this model doesn't display photos or play videos anyway?
I like the satisfactorily legible, "blue" display just fine. And I appreciate that it (temporarily) illuminates whenever I press any of the unit's control buttons.
As I noted above, initially one of the things that had most motivated me to choose this supposedly "obsolete" Sansa model was the affordability of using a single AAA ("non-proprietary") battery, not to mention the ease with which the user himself can periodically remove and replace such a battery. There's a graphical "battery-power" indicator at the lower-left of the LCD display. Whenever the horizontal "bar" has diminished to about one half its maximum length, you'd best keep a "reserve" battery at the ready, for it might not be much longer before the unit will suddenly shut off without further ado.
While I've derived this unit's best performance using a conventional ("non-rechargeable") AAA alkaline battery, I've nonetheless been satisfied substituting a rechargeable AAA battery, specifically, one of the ones that was included in the Polaroid 10209 recharger kit that I bought several months ago (at modest cost) at my local Wal-Mart. While I haven't precisely timed the number of hours of "per-charge" playing time that I've averaged with this Sansa m250, my general impression is that it's at least somewhat less than the "up to 19 hours of battery life" that the manufacturer touts. At least, that's the case when using the unit in the menu-selectable "Play Music" (i.e., "MP3-playing") mode. [Perhaps using it continuously in "FM radio" mode would result in more playing time between charges.]
In any case, not only does a single battery charge provide more than a few hours of listening pleasure, but I'm confident I'll end up spending significantly less for batteries than would've been the case with one of the currently "in vogue" MP3 players with their proprietary--ostensibly "non-user-replaceable"--batteries.
By the way, one conventional AAA battery is included in the product package. [It's an "Energizer" alkaline battery.]
MP3 vs. WMA format
One question that had initially intrigued me was whether to use the usual MP3 file format (128 kbps), or to try Microsoft's less popular "WMA" ("Windows Media Audio") format that reportedly allows for virtually as good sound quality with its memory-saving "variable-rate" format, which typically averages around 64 kbps.
In other words, I was keen to cram at least twice as many hours of music or audiobook information into this smallish 2GB device.
Well, after initially testing this unit with the popular MP3 file format (128 kbps), I proceeded to try the WMA. And, to my delight, I discovered that whatever perceptible differences (if any) there were between the conventional MP3 and the "WMA variable rate" formats didn't matter to me, especially when we're talking about audio that I'd primarily be listening to during my daily outdoor jaunts around town. Accordingly, using the latest version of Windows Media Player on my MS Windows XP PC, I found it was easy to "rip" (convert) selected songs (or audiobook files) from my many conventional compact discs into the "WMA variable rate" format. The automatic on-screen prompts made the whole process almost effortless while using the ubiquitous Windows Media Player.
Automatic naming of audio files
Like it or not, the Sansa m250's file-naming system is essentially automatic. As long as you're connected to the Internet while using (for example) Windows Media Player to rip files from ordinary retail music (or audiobook) CDs, file names will be automatically assigned during the ripping process. Somewhat to my chagrin, I quickly discovered that any different file names that I myself might subsequently assign in the audio-file folders on my PC would not consistently be detected on the Sansa m250's own file-management system. Therefore, you're generally stuck with the "official," automatically designated file names. In most cases, this is quite fine. Besides, it spares the user himself having to think about, much less typing, all such data. However, in a minority of instances the automatically assigned track (and/or artist) names aren't exactly logical; and in still fewer instances a given CD won't be automatically recognized during the initial ripping process, which generally results in the artist name "Unknown Artist." I've no doubt that the savviest MP3 users know of ways to override this unit's automated file-naming/management system; but I myself am not (yet) motivated to undertake such a learning curve. Bottom line, I'm satisfied with this unit's automated file naming, given that I still do all my serious music listening at home with my conventional CD changers. By contrast, this MP3 player is (so far) used casually--strictly for my intermittent outdoor excursions, etc. Given that I generally set its playback-sequence mode to "shuffle" (i.e., "randomized-sequence" playback of tracks) anyway, I'm pretty satisfied.
Controls and ease-of-use
Although there's a total of eight buttons (one of which is actually a sliding switch), the m250's control scheme is actually remarkably simple.
On the upper edge of the unit, there are two buttons: a POWER/MENU button, and a two-way ("rocking") VOLUME button. You'll be pressing the POWER/MENU button not only for switching the unit on (or off) but also whenever you want to access the LCD screen's menu to select "Play Music," "FM (stereo) Radio," "Settings," etc.
Along the bottom edge of the unit, there's a single sliding switch: "HOLD." You'll use this whenever you want to temporarily "lock" (or unlock) the player such that accidentally pressing any button won't annoyingly interrupt the currently playing music, etc.
On the face of the unit there's a four-way cluster of "membrane" buttons that you'll use to (for example) skip or repeat the currently playing audio track, or "pause" the currently playing audio track.
In the middle of that four-way cluster of "membrane" buttons, there's also a circular "SELECT" button. You'll use this (for example) to select the currently highlighted operational mode from the LCD menu.
The included ear buds (which, unlike the above photo, are entirely black) sound plenty good enough, which is to say that you won't necessarily feel compelled to shell out for even better buds (or headphones), which, of course, are available.
I've enjoyed the sound of these ear buds for both music and audiobook listening. The entire audio spectrum (or, at least, "enough" of it)--bass through treble--sounds rather satisfyingly rich and balanced.
The ear buds cable is about 3.5 feet long--more than long enough for typical use. These buds fit my ears quite satisfactorily, albeit occasionally--during physical activity--I feel the need to press one of them more tightly back into this or that ear. Ear buds of any ilk are notorious for not pleasing every user; therefore, it's nice to know that you could substitute countless other buds (or headphones) for these.
The Sansa m250 includes an excellent FM (but no AM) stereo radio. Presumably the ear-bud cord functions as an antenna in this mode. In any case, I get excellent reception not only from stations in my local (metro Kansas City) area but also from a beloved university station located about forty miles west of here.
To find a particular station, you simply press the "Next/Fast Forward" button or the "Previous/Fast Reverse" button to traverse the FM spectrum. Press and hold either of those buttons to scan stations.
Frankly, although this feature works reliably and sounds good (and could come in handy on certain occasions), I myself seldom use it; moreover, I can't imagine the average consumer using it more than a few times (to satisfy their curiosity). Bottom line, if you regularly require a digital voice recorder, consider one that's dedicated to that function and has a control scheme that's a bit more intuitive. Nonetheless, it's nice having this feature if/when you might actually want it.
Like the voice recorder, the "stopwatch" feature is probably not one that the majority of Sansa m250 users regularly activate. Nevertheless, it works reliably, and you can easily use it while listening to audio files (MP3 or WMA) or FM radio. I actually find it more regularly useful than the voice recorder; for, if I'm not wearing my wristwatch while taking a vigorous walk outdoors, this feature provides an alternative means by which to time the duration of my saunter. Doubtless many m250 owners have similarly used this stopwatch while working out in a gym.
Short (9-inch) cable for connecting the Sansa unit to a standard USB 2.0 port on your computer. Fortunately, virtually all PC's nowadays provide at least one such port right on the front (or another easily accessible location) of the computer. But if your only available USB port isn't so accessible, you'll want to avail yourself of an extension cable (not included). When using my Compaq "mid-tower" desktop PC (running Windows XP), I've had no trouble allowing my temporarily connected (nearly featherweight) Sansa m250 to freely dangle (via the nine-inch cable) from the front USB port. Alternatively, you could temporarily place any sort of handy object (of an appropriate height) beneath the connected Sansa m250 to provide support (i.e., to remove all downward tension on the USB port).
Transparent, soft-plastic case. Although it's initially a slight hassle to insert the unit inside this rather tightly fitting, protective case, the latter does work satisfactorily to shield the unit from scratches, etc., while still allowing you to access all the aforementioned control buttons.
Black elastic band for attaching the unit to your arm. This works well enough; however, I myself often prefer keeping the unit inside a jacket (or other) pocket. When doing that, it's best to press the units "HOLD" button to prevent accidentally pressing a button and thereby interrupting audio playback.
Battery. Again, one conventional AAA ("Energizer" alkaline) battery is included.
Quick Start Guide (printed booklet)
This is a tiny booklet comprising English, French and Spanish sections, each of which comprises about eight pages of text and illustrations. It'll get you nicely started and enjoying your Sansa m250; however, for a fuller understanding of the m250's features and operation, you'll want to peruse its complete User Guide, which I'll discuss next.
User Guide (owner's manual)
This is one of several files on the included "Easy Start CD" that you'll initially need to insert in your computer's disc drive in order to read the helpful (and fairly well-written) manual, which appears on your screen as an easy-to-navigate Microsoft Word file. To find this file, you can use "My Computer" to look within an "M200" folder that, in turn, is located within a "Packages" folder. The manual comprises English, French and Spanish sections, each of which comprises about 37 pages of on-screen text.
Once you've got the User Guide on your computer screen, you can easily delete the foreign-language sections and save it as a word processor file for easier access and subsequent use.
So far, all three of my Sansa m250 units are working satisfactorily in all respects. Each plays music or audiobooks for numerous hours on one AAA battery (rechargeable or otherwise). However, my own experience suggests that you shouldn't expect to experience anything closely approaching the manufacturer-touted "19 hours" of maximum listening time when using a rechargeable battery. Thus, when using the latter for an extended period, you'd be wise to keep a freshly charged "spare" handy.
The standard "MP3" file format works splendidly with this unit; however, I found that using, instead, the equally compatible "WMA variable rate" format allows at least twice as much data to be crammed into memory. Thus this "mere" 2GB unit can hold up to 64 hours of music and/or audio books (or a maximum of about 960 audio tracks).
Personally, I have no desire to use a tiny MP3 player for any other reason than to play music and/or audiobooks. Therefore, the fact that this Sansa m250 doesn't display photos or play movies doesn't concern me. Moreover, I seldom use its digital-recording capability, which, for voice memos, does produce clear-sounding results and could provide some additional functionality for some consumers.
I have, however, fairly extensively used the built-in, digitally tunable, FM-stereo radio, which sounds excellent.
The included ear buds fit my ears comfortably and provide clear--and reasonably dynamic--sound across enough of the audio spectrum to delight the majority of fairly picky consumers. Of course, "headphone" preferences are notoriously variable from one listener to the next; in any case, if you don't end up as fully satisfied with the included ear buds as I am, it's nice to know there are countless compatible third-party substitutes available at low or reasonable cost.
Bottom line, if you don't feel it necessary to own one of the "latest-and-greatest" MP3 models; and if you'll only need to play audios (not videos) and/or listen to FM; and if you don't want to spend a penny more than $25.00, you could do worse than to "settle" for "yesterday's" technology in the form of this nonetheless delightful and reliable SanDisk model--for which many folks were routinely paying up to $149.99 only two or three years ago!