Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sandisk Sansa e250 MP3 Player

rio forge 512mb, Sandisk Sansa e250, iPod Nano 2nd gen






http://tinyurl.com/dz44x
- Picked it up from woot.com for $35 shipped. It's a refurb but it is in great condition and works just fine. New e280 8gb models run around $120 which still isn't a bad deal.
- 2gb flash based mp3 player but has a micro sd slot. Supports microsdhc (currently largest size is 6gb which is confirmed to work but 8gb is coming soon) when using rockbox. Has built in fm tuner, can record from fm or built in mic in wav or mp3 format, uses a proprietary usb cable for charging and syncing, lock button, and aproprietary but user replaceable battery (after removing 4 regular screws).
- About the same size as an ipod nano 2nd gen but about double the thickness.
- Navigation works pretty well. There is a white ring (glows blue when in use) that spins around. It clicks and feels like a gear when you move it. There is a button in the middle of the ring and then 4 additional buttons surrounding the ring. There is also a dedicated record button on the side.
- Battery life should be around 12hrs using rockbox.
- Supports MPT and UMS/MSC. I just use it in mass storage mode of course so no need for any software. You get two drive letters in file explorer (one for the internal memory and one for the microsd slot). Just drag and drop your media onto the player.
- With rockbox you can browse your media by folder or database (id3 tags). So it's great whether you like to organize all your music with folders or you properly tag everything.
- Fully supports rockbox open source firmware.
http://www.rockbox.org/
http://www.rockbox.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/SansaFAQ (faq)
http://download.rockbox.org/manual/rockbox-sansae200/rockbox-build.html (manual)
- I did a Manual Installation. It took only a few minutes and I had rockbox dual booting between the original firmware and rockbox up and running. The only thing currently not supported is the usb port. It's easy enough to boot back to the original firmware for usb duties (hold left while powering on). Also, it conveniently auto boots into original firmware if you plug in the usb cable while the player is off so you can easily charge it up.
- With rockbox you get THE BEST mp3 player software out there. I've been a user of rockbox on the archos jukebox recorder 20 for years so I'm glad to finally have the same rich and robust feature set(I can't live without their bookmarks implementation) in a smaller flash based player. With rockbox on more modern hardware they were able to add quite a few new features. There are a lot more plugin games now and b&w gameboy rom support
- mpeg 1/2 video playback at 220X177 @ 30fps
http://www.rockbox.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/PluginMpegplayer
I used mediacoder. I couldn't get the mediacoder extension to work so I just used my own settings: mpeg 2 video, 300kbps, resize to 220X177, 16:9; Audio: mp3 lame, 128kbps cbr, 44.1. I encoded the freeway scene from Matrix Reloaded and it played back just fine: nice and smooth with audio in sync. I'm not sure how enjoyable it would be to watch anything for an extended period of time on a 1.8" screen but it still looked pretty darn good for what it is.
- jpeg slideshow looked fine.
- Lots and lots of neat themes:
http://www.rockbox.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/RockboxExtras
I'm currently using iPod Vision:
http://www.rockbox-themes.org/data/176x220x16/iPod_Vision.zip

What can I say. For $35 it's an incredible bargain. I only briefly played with the original firmware. Once you go rockbox you can't go back. This is by far my favorite flash based mp3 player and just blows away my wife's 2nd gen nano in every way (IMO, well ok the nano is thinner). Even at $120 for the 8gb I think it's a good value.

Highly Recommended!

So I just tried doom on the sansa:
http://www.rockbox.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/PluginDoom

Rotate the screen 90 degrees and then remap the direction keys. Turn on sound. I'm really impressed. It actually runs at an ok speed, and it looks pretty impressive on the tiny screen.

UPDATE: 11/27/07
Refurb is the way to go since it seems the new e280's are now v2 with completely new and incompatible hardware:
http://www.rockbox.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/SansaE200v2

UPDATE: 1/23/08
So I've now bought a few more: another e250,e270, and an e280. They were all refurbs and made great Christmas Gifts. I just love this mp3 player. It's my favorite by far. I kept the e280 for myself :-)

UPDATE: 2/5/08
I picked up a sandisk 8 gb microsdhc card for $95. It works just fine in the e280 so now I have 16gb of total memory. The only caveat is you have to use the included reader to transfer files to the microsdhc card since the original firmware can't handle mircosdhc but rockbox recognizes it just fine.

UPDATE: 12/19/08
I picked up a sandisk 16 gb microsdhc for around $60 from this seller on amazon. It works great in the e280 so now I have 24gb of total memory.

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